Getting Your Board to Fundraise

IT’s the day before Christmas.  The crazy rush of the last two weeks has come to a sudden—and very quiet—halt.  It’s as if everyone has taken a deep breath and figured, “I’m done.”  And what is done is done. In the midst of the crazy last two weeks, I did a webinar for DonorPerfect  on fundraising in the one-person office.  Lots of people must be trying to figure that one out as the webinar had hundreds of attendees.  And many brought questions with them.  We got through a few during the webcast, but I’ve been answering many more since.

Top of the list is “how do I get my board to fundraise?”  A great question and one that shapes much of my consulting work.  The short answer is that despite all the words to the contrary—boards do not fundraise UNLESS the professional staff works with them and helps them to understand how to do what you want them to do.  Step one is to give them clarity about the process of fundraising.  It is not just asking your friends for money; it is about helping to create connections between their friends and colleagues with the organization.

Start small—have them say thank you via a personal letter to donors.  Then ask them if they know people on your list of donors and prospects.  Will they go to lunch or for coffee with you and that donor/prospect?  And ok, truth time here—if you wait for them to make the appointment, you might be waiting a very long time.  You will probably have to get a few dates from them when they could meet, then call the donor or prospect in the board member’s name to set that meeting up.

I loved it when my board members would be willing to invite their friends to a wine-and-cheese or coffee-and-cake gathering to learn about our organization.  And sometimes they graduated to making these house parties into solicitation events where they not just talked about the organization but asked their friends and colleagues to join with them in supporting us.

If they are reluctant to bring their friends to the table, bring them to meet with other prospects.  Ask them to join you on a cultivation call.  When that goes well, ask them who they might want to invite to a similar meeting.

You need to show them that donors and prospects are valued and treated well—and then they will be willing to share contacts with you and be a part of the process.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and energize their boards.  Learn more at or contact Janet at and talk directly with her about how she can help move your organization to the next level.