Guest blogger - Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, author of numerous nonprofit & fundraising works, speaker at the upcoming DSAIA 2019 Leadership Conference
I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to asking board members for their financial commitment. So, when and how should the ask be made? Let’s talk about some options.
I’ve always stressed that you need to raise the issue of board giving during the recruitment process. So, is this the time to ask for the gift? No. It’s too soon. Board members are just hearing about the expectations in many areas such as attending meetings and events, the fiduciary responsibility, and their financial obligations. In fact, they may say no to serving on the board so it’s really too soon to ask for a board gift! Or you may decide they aren’t good board material. Even if there is mutual agreement that board service is the right move for this prospective board member, you don’t want to whip out a pledge card and expect them to sign it on the spot. Let them know, instead, how and when they will be approached for a gift.
So, let’s wait and ask them at orientation. That’s a good plan, right? Wrong! During orientation, board members should be focused on absorbing information from the various briefings they received—programs, the budget, the strategic plan, etc. The chief development officer should also provide a briefing on the development plan and how fundraising works in your organization and should touch on the importance of board giving. But giving is an individual thing and they don’t want to be asked as a group. So, please don’t do it here.
Should We Send a Letter from Our Board Chair?
Another mistake. It’s better than being asked in a group, or is it? Think about how you typically use direct mail—to acquire new donors, to reach out to those who typically give a small gift to your organization, to send news about your organization. None of these are what you’re trying to accomplish with your board giving. They are not new to your organization, they are not being asked for a low-level gift, and they receive the news through board meetings and other interaction with staff. So, why would you approach them through the mail?
At the First Meeting of the Year?
Okay, Linda, you always say we should ask them early, so this idea makes sense, doesn’t it? Sorry, wrong answer! The “Here’s your pledge card, fill it out” approach doesn’t work with major donors and it won’t work with the board.
A colleague called me shortly after accepting a new development position. He sought advice about how to handle his organization’s approach to board giving. He had just come from his first board meeting in his new position, and he said the board chair started the meeting by saying that board members were expected to contribute to the organization, handed out pledge cards, and said, “Fill out your pledge card and hand it to me before you leave the meeting tonight.” Not exactly a well-planned, thoughtful approach to board giving!
See part two of this blog coming up next week! And don't miss Linda's 3-hour workshop "Building a 5 Star Board" at DSAIA 2019 in St. Louis!