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Ask the Expert

On this page, I'll answer your questions and provide some nuggets of wisdom.

Four Steps to Take Board Members from Fear of Fundraising to Enthusiasm

If you want to get your board members fully active in fundraising, you need to approach them from a new perspective. You have to change their mind-set about fundraising and redefine it from an entirely new point of view.

Board members don't understand how powerful the act of raising money can be-it's an effort to make the world a better place. It is some of the most important work anyone can ever do-on the front lines causing change for the good.

But board members don't think of it that way. They are stuck in the "tin cup" attitude-equating fundraising with begging. Instead of the highest form of human activity-helping their fellow man-they turn it into one of the lowest.

Here are four steps to take board members from fear of fundraising to understanding and to open the door for willingness. These steps give them a whole new perspective about raising money that is far more empowering and inspirational.

Step One: Deal Directly with the Dark Side of Fundraising

Fundraising can bring out nervousness, embarrassment, or anxiety. These feelings arise when the conversation is all about money. We know that many trustees equate fundraising with "asking strangers for money."

We must deal directly with their fears. We should give them the opportunity to get over their mental blocks by having an honest, open discussion about their nervousness or anxiety about fundraising. They also need a special environment, probably a retreat, to encourage them to let go and speak freely.

Please note that I am not saying that you should talk to them-I am saying that you need to allow them to talk about how they feel.

Ask them: "How do you feel about soliciting and asking for money?" In my Easy Fundraising for Board Members retreats, I pair board members off and ask them to share with each other how they really feel about fundraising and soliciting.

I encourage them to get all their bad energy about fundraising out on the table. I encourage them to throw up if they want to. They will say they feel nervous, fear rejection, don't like prevailing on people, and think it's demeaning. They lay it on the table.

But I don't let them linger in the "yuck" of asking. I counter it immediately with a discussion of how they feel when they give.

Step Two: Tell Them Fundraising Is Not about Money

It's about changing the world.

Ask them: "How do you feel when you write a check to your favorite organization?"

Here's what they will say: I feel proud ... joyous ... glad I could do it ... wish I could do more ... happy ... giving back ... part of something important ... powerful.

Then remind them that these are the emotions other donors feel when they give money. When a donor makes a gift, he or she becomes a partner in a cause that is bigger than just one person's life. That donor's life and legacy are enhanced. To work for important purposes, to take part in solving problems of great magnitude gives deeper meaning even to daily routines. People want to be involved in something with meaning.

So instead of being embarrassed about fundraising, board members can shift their perspective and realize that donors are happy and joyful when they are giving. Here's the disconnect: they can be stuck in fear-all focused on themselves-or they can be all about the donor and their shared experience of wanting to change the world.

Board members can stand high on the mountain making the world a better place. I tell them that they need to be fired up with their passion to change the world. They can be like Martin Luther King.

I suggest that they should be going all over town saying, "I have a dream ... ," and infecting everyone they meet with their joy, passion, and urgency to help others in need.

Board members like this point of view. You can see them shift right before your eyes. Putting fundraising on this high a plane is a new idea to them. It puts them at ease and gives them fresh inspiration and energy to take action.

They are relieved when I tell them that good fundraising is never about money. It is all about the desire to improve your community or world for the better.

Americans come from a barn-raising tradition, one of neighbors working together to solve problems, rather than relying on government to solve most of them. This tradition creates deep, fertile ground for our fundraisers today.

Step Three: Seek Friends, Not Donors

Board members are stunned when I tell them that after 22 years on the front lines of fundraising, I would rather have a friend for my organization than a donor.

What will your friends do for you? They will be interested in what you are up to, they will stick with you, they will help you out, they will spread the word, and, when the going gets tough, they will be there with you.

Donors want to be drawn into the real work of the organization, anyway. They want to be treated like real people and not wallets. What better job for board members-to make current and potential donors into true friends of the organization?

The more friends our board members can make for our cause, the stronger and more successful our work will be. The larger the number of people who have been personally introduced to the work we do, the better we fare.

It is easy to assume that the real work is the direct solicitation of funds, but "the talking up" part of the job is equally important. If a nonprofit is a bright spot on its community's radar screen, so to speak, then that visibility will make the fundraising so much easier and more successful.

Community buzz is so important. As fundraisers, we really need our board members to be active in the community on behalf of our organization. Active can mean lots of things: talking up the organization; introducing new people to its work; bringing in friends and volunteers to help in different ways; and, yes, helping to acquire money and resources.

Friend raising is something all board members like to do and are proud to do-and it is a most valuable and needed fundraising function. If you set up a committee and call it the Friend Raising Committee, board members will probably be enthusiastic, and the effect of the group's efforts will be powerful and lasting.

Step Four: Tell Them They Don't Have to Solicit

Let us focus our board members on friend raising and many other jobs in the fundraising process. I say we take soliciting out of the picture and get our board members hard at work developing friendly relationships for our organization all over the community, state, region, world-wherever our mission takes us.

There are so many activities related to fundraising (outside of soliciting) in which we need their help. For those on a board who are not ready to take on solicitation, we can ask them to do everything else in the fundraising cycle: help create new friends and supporters, help thank and involve current donors.

Our fundraising cycle starts with identifying potential donors, then cultivating, engaging, and involving them. When they are ready, we ask for their support, and finally we thank, thank, and thank them again so they will join our bandwagon and be our friends for the long run.

Smart staff members can show board members all the other ways they can contribute in fundraising without "asking." They will begin to see just how little time is spent in the "asking" phase of the cycle, compared with all the many other activities we undertake with our donors.

They need to understand that fundraising is very much more than simply soliciting. Developing a relationship with a donor, particularly for a major gift, is a lengthy process with many delicate steps.

Board members can help in the other myriad activities of the process, when we are simply making friends and building relationships, which of course leads to giving, and long-term giving, at that. Board members can host tours, throw parties for their friends, create community buzz, ask everyone they know for help, and personally thank donors.

As experienced fundraisers, we know that the more emphasis we put on cultivating, thanking, and informing donors, the easier, and more natural, the "asking" will be.

Of course we know that if board members are actually involved in developing a relationship with a donor, then they will be much more willing to help with a request. There are many vital tasks that they can perform, without having to solicit. They can serve at all levels and get as close to or as far away from the actual moment of solicitation as they want-and still make a huge difference.

This is really an eye-opener for many board members. When I present these suggestions in retreats and trainings, I see amazed and interested expressions, as if an entirely new idea is dawning upon them. This is the way to take your reluctant board members and fire them up with new energy and enthusiasm for the cause-and put them to work.

This is an article I prepared for the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta:

 Perpetuating Important Values

The YMCA is one of the things that has lasted in this world where so much comes and goes so quickly.  It is stable, values-based, professionally managed, in touch with public sentiment, and capable of meeting the changing conditions and needs of the future.

The YMCA is a gift that we have received - that was already here when we were born.  It is a gift that we should give to those still unborn to perpetuate values that really matter.

Many friends of the YMCA are helping to extend its influence beyond their own lifetimes with gifts of a part of the assets they have accumulated to the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta.  Such gifts can be directed to support the overall work of the YMCA, or can be designated to support a specific YMCA branch or program.

The nation's tax laws provide incentives that encourage philanthropy, in recognition of the singular role charitable organizations (including the YMCA) play in meeting important needs in our society.  Depending on the specific arrangement, you can expect some or all of the following benefits of a well-designed gift to the YMCA:

  • Income tax saving through the charitable deduction for the value of the gift;
  • Avoidance of the capital-gains tax on contributions of certain kinds of property that have increased in value over time;
  • Income for life, for a donor and/or other beneficiaries;
  • The possibility of increased spendable income with certain arrangements;
  • Elimination of federal estate tax on the value of a gift passing to the YMCA upon the donor's death;
  • Reduced estate settlement costs.

When the YMCA is aware of your financial as well as philanthropic objectives, we can help formulate a plan that takes full advantage of the available tax benefits, while at the same time fulfilling your desire to benefit future generations of children and families through the YMCA.

We welcome the opportunity to confidentially discuss how one or more of these plans might work for you!

 

 

How can one board member make a difference?

Many board members feel that they "ought" to be raising money, or more money.  It's frustrating to be one board member who wants the board to do more to raise money when others on the board are reluctant or even antagonistic about the idea.  The board as a whole needs to ensure that there is an overall plan for raising or earning the money the organization needs to do its work.  Below suggests what each of us, as just ONE board member, can do!

  1. Make a personal contribution.  Hand write a short note to the board chair explaining why you are making the gift and give the check and note to him/her as you leave the meeting.
  2. Host a dessert party in your home or business and invite a dozen people.  On the invitation say that they will learn about the organization, presented with the opportunity to make a gift and enjoy a great dessert.  Plan the party on a weeknight around 7 p.m.  Invite two or three other board members so they can learn and observe how it is done.  Make or buy finger desserts, such as cookies or petits fours (cakes don't lend themselves to parties).  Bake some cupcakes but do not serve them.  At the party have a child or program beneficiary speak for 2 - 3 minutes about what the organization means to them.  Next, have a staff person speak about the impact their program has in the community.  Then YOU explain to the group why this organization is important to you and the impact you have witnessed.  Ask the group if there are any questions and then either you or the staff person encourage the guests to make a contribution.  As a bonus, and to relieve the pressure, offer anyone who makes a gift or pledge before leaving the reward of two cupcakes to take home!
  3. Invite a friend or colleague to the organization's annual dinner or other special event.  Be sure to introduce them to key staff, other board members, and contributors.
  4. Invite a friend or colleague to tour a facility or to see a program in action.
  5. Invite the organization's executive or development officer to speak at community member organizations you belong to or ask them to join.
These are just some ways that you as an individual board member can impact the organization without seemingly "begging" for money.  Develop the relationships and the funding will follow.

The Hooson Group * PO Box 1058 * Covington, GA * USA * 30015-1058 email: bill@hoosongroup.com Phone: 404.401.6857

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