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Encouraging Your Board to Fund and Friend Raise

By: Ericka Harney, GPC
Published: June 23, 2015

Some of us take it for granted that we are more at ease with asking for money than the average person. We should empathize with board members who express their anxiety toward “The Ask.” I've seen everything from someone who is physically shaking nervously while in a meeting, to someone who absolutely refuses and would rather go to the dentist. But when we do have board members who are “all in,” we should do a small dance!


Why are we so apprehensive to ask for money or help for our organization?


Even skilled fundraisers still have that small pit in their stomach when asking for funds, similar to the feeling we sometimes get when sending off that multi-million dollar grant application. There are many reasons why people just do not like asking for money. On the whole, people just don't like the feeling of asking for something, even if it is not for them. Money is a fickle topic in our country. It is often taboo because we have made it personal or we know how much others work for the money they do have. Asking for money can feel like we are taking advantage or like we are pulling one over on a person, even though the organization's mission is well carried out.


When it comes to developing relationships for the organization, people can be apprehensive about this aspect as well. “I don't know anyone” or “my network just can't handle any more demands for their time” are common responses to being asked for introductions. This may be the go-to response by board members because they don't know an individual's passion or where their contacts currently may be spending their time.


How to make board members at ease


Board members can be THE group to move your organization ahead with relationships that lead to donations or further connections in the community. Letting them know how will certainly ease their anxiety. Some ways include:

  1. Making sure they understand the expectation: The average board member-to-be knows there will be some sort of outreach on their part into their network. But never assume this. Put the expectation in recruitment materials. Make sure a board member knows to make a personal gift that is significant to them as well as assist the organization in relationship building that will lead to financial gifts and other support for the organization in one way or another.

  1. People are just as important as the money: While it doesn't directly help with day to day fundraising, challenge the board members to find their replacement when they are at the end of their term. In doing so, this frees up the executive director and board president's time to do more fundraising rather than look for new board members.

  2. Just bring the connection: If a board member is REALLY apprehensive about asking a colleague or friend for money to support your mission, assure them they don't have to make the ask. If they can come to an initial meeting – where no ask is made – to introduce the organization and its leaders, that goes a long way. An executive director or development professional can then take the lead and keep the board member in the loop about the relationship.

  1. Provide them with all the information they need: If a board member is going to accompany the executive or development director to an ask to show that the board is behind the mission, make sure the board member is well informed. Provide a brief with basic information about the donor, their history with the organization if there is one, any previous giving, common objections they have to gifts, other organizations they support, any wealth knowledge or information, and potential connections this donor has with others. Make sure the board member knows their role in the meeting or ask so they can be easily directed if needed or interject at the appropriate time.

  2. Offer to role play: Some board members, and even many of us, hate the idea of role playing. But it comes in very handy when it comes to fundraising and friend-raising. If a board member is going to meet with a potential partner or funder, ask them to act out potential objections this person may have and the responses they and you need to be prepared with.

  1. Start out small: Not all board members have to start out right away making an ask or finding other volunteers. Ask them to call a few donors or sponsors to just say thank you and update them on the organization's progress. If possible, have them visit a donor or take them to coffee just for a quick chat. This gets them acclimated to being around donors and supporting the organization.


Offering board members alternative ways to fund and friend raise will make them feel more at ease with making asks for your organization. Make each board member's approach tailored to their ability or connections as well as thinking of them in broad terms. In doing so, you'll find board members may be jumping at the opportunity!