PUBLISHED IN F&P MAGAZINE - 2 DECEMBER 2019
For-purpose boards everywhere are pursuing the philanthropic dollar.
No longer is fundraising an alternative stream of income. It is now a secure and reliable source of funds for many institutions.
And boards in Australia are changing too. No longer can directors meet quarterly to discuss financials and governance alone. Our CEOs and fundraisers expect much more, including active participation in fundraising activities.
Asking for money for the first time is daunting. Many feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger for philanthropic support, let alone approaching their closest peers. But this is the support we, as fundraisers, need from our boards to meet our ambitious fundraising goals.
How do we give our board members the best chance at fundraising success? Well, the same way we would give anyone the best chance of success at anything. We train them.
We are all busy, and bringing together a group of busy and influential people is difficult, but a half-day (or ideally a full-day) workshop with your board is a great investment in you and your board’s time. It could be the difference between the success and failure of your fundraising campaigns.
So here is my Introduction to Fundraising for Boards 101 to get the right conversations started and boost confidence in fundraising.
Step 1: De-mystify what it means to fundraiseMany fear fundraising because they don’t understand it. Fundraising is not begging. It is not tricking people into giving, or tricking them into giving more than they want to. There is no harassment to make a gift. You are ‘simply’ connecting someone with means with something they care deeply about and giving them the opportunity to change the world.
Based on relationship building, fundraising is strategic. It is, and should be, exciting for parties on both sides of the table. By understanding the work you do in the background, your board will feel confident that you will treat their peers and networks with the utmost respect throughout the process, regardless of the outcome.
Step 2: Walk them through the research and cultivation processStart way back at how you find a prospect, undertake research and then engage and cultivate that prospect. Work your way to the point where a board member is sitting in front of a prospective donor and explain why that moment won’t be scary.
Let them know that by the time they have reached that point, you will have undertaken extensive research and due diligence. You will have done the groundwork with your prospect and they will know that they are meeting to be asked for their support. You will know how much they are capable of giving and where they will want those funds to go.
The more your board and fundraising team understand and trust each other, the more likely you will be able to have open conversations about how board members can use their networks to obtain philanthropic support.
Step 3: Inspire themTraining your board is a great opportunity to inspire them. Some basic training on storytelling is an important key to their success.
Tell them your organisation’s story using your fundraising elevator pitch. Break it down for them. Outline your vision, mission, audacious goals and proof points (in that order). Give them an opportunity to practice telling this story with each other. I know, role playing – insert eye-roll emoji here.
Ask your board members to start a conversation with the most compelling vision of the world if your organisation has the opportunity to achieve its goals. This is the time to excite the donor. It’s the time to make the donor want to see the future you envision and need to be part of it. Then encourage your board member to move the conversation onto how you are tackling the problem at hand and making that future a reality. Make sure the story compels the donor to understand that you are the best people to do the job. Teach your board to leave the conversation about how much you need until this story has been told.
Step 4: ‘Ask’ trainingAnother amazing opportunity for role play. Insert eye-roll emoji here. Again. But seriously, the best way to get used to asking for money is asking for money! Having a couple of scripts prepared with room for improv will support the board in practising the ask. They can practice on their own at home or in the office. They should also practice replies for the variety of responses they may get. Or you can ask them to role play in pairs where one person is the ‘asker’ and the other the donor. This gives them a chance to modify the script to suit their style of language and prepare for all of the different outcomes a meeting might have.
Where possible, it is always nice if the first time a board member makes an ask, it is with someone likely to give and when success is almost guaranteed. This can really take the nerves out of future asks.
Step 5: Following upIt is no good making an ask and then not following up with the prospective donor. In some cases you will get a response on the spot. In this instance your board needs to be trained to offer appropriate levels of thanks, such as “thank you” in the room followed by a formal “thank you” in writing or by phone .
The board must also be trained for a scenario where an ask does not elicit an immediate response. You can and should provide a basic script and briefing for a follow-up call or meeting. But while you have a captive board in a training session, why not walk them through the process? Have your script developed and ‘perform’ a call or meeting in front of them, role playing a positive outcome and a negative outcome and how to respond to each. This gives the board an idea of how to handle the possible responses they may receive.
So look to the months ahead now and lock in the time to upskill and inspire your board to fundraising success! Good luck.