3 Ways to Engage Your Nonprofit Board

Follow these tips to turn your Board into effective fundraisers! 

By Matt Rayburn, Account Strategist

One thing I hear from almost every nonprofit I work with is a feeling that their Board is just not engaged, effective – or excited – about fundraising. And it’s not just the organizations I work alongside at BDI. In their 2021 survey of executive directors and Board members, BoardSource found that Boards rated themselves 1.64 out of 4 in this area, the lowest score out of any Board responsibility. 

Clearly the way in which Boards work needs to change! Here are 3 ways to engage your nonprofit Board starting today – and as a result, create more impact at your nonprofit.

Create a Consent Agenda

The first way to engage your nonprofit Board is to rethink the focus of your Board meetings. Many Boards get stuck talking about smaller issues instead of focusing on the vision and mission of your organization. 

Free up your time and engage your Board members in meetings by creating a Consent Agenda. Routine and procedural items like last meeting’s minutes, the ED monthly report, financial reports, etc., can all be included and should be sent out to members to read before the meeting. 

Then at the beginning of the meeting, a quick approval vote can take care of these items, so the Board can move on to more important topics. Of course, a Board member can always request to take an item out of the Consent Agenda for discussion. However… ask them to request this before the meeting. Avoid the trap of allowing Board members to remove items from the Consent Agenda simply because they didn’t read them before the meeting!    

Identify Spheres of Influence

Now that you have all this time, focus on engaging your Board members to become ambassadors and fundraisers for your organization. Schedule time at each of your meetings to discuss how they can do this. 

Start with asking them to identify their Spheres of Influence: Who do they know in the community that would make a good donor? 

At first, this question might be a little intimidating. The key here is to think of people your Board members can easily connect to your organization. Maybe they’re not comfortable asking their boss to make a gift, but they’d be happy to introduce their boss to the ED or to invite them to an event. 

Use your meeting time to help the members come up with a list of certain people in their spheres that they can connect to your organization. Many Board members will think of people at work or at their church. 

Encourage them to think beyond these spheres to include:

  • Family members
  • Friends and neighbors
  • Community groups they belong to (not just obvious community groups like the Rotary or Kiwanis groups, but other groups they might be a part of like a running club, their PTA, alumni groups or other social groups)

Lastly, follow up with your members. If you never use it, your list of potential donors is useless. 

Practice Your Elevator Pitch

Many Board members may be uncomfortable asking for a gift for your organization. This makes a lot of sense – most Board members have never been trained to do this. Schedule time in each meeting to train your Board members on how to make a short ask for a gift. This is often referred to as an “elevator pitch” because it should take no longer than an elevator ride. 

The pitch should follow a simple, logical form with three parts:

  1. Present the need.  
  2. Explain how your organization can solve the need. 
  3. Explain why the listener’s gift is needed to make that happen. 

To help your Board members be effective in their elevator pitch, you need to make sure they have everything they need, including stories of actual program participants and the latest stats, costs, etc., of your programs.

Make the elevator pitch a regular agenda item. Have Board members practice with each other, encourage each other and make suggestions on how to improve each other’s pitches. Your Board serves as a backbone to your ministry, offering strength and support in countless ways. Follow these steps to strengthen your Board and start raising more money today! For additional tips on how BDI can help your organization develop a stronger, more engaged Board, please feel free to reach out to me.

  • Matthew Rayburn

    Matthew Rayburn, Strategist/Senior Account Director

    For 20 years, Matthew’s work on both the agency and nonprofit side to bring faith-based solutions to issues of homelessness, poverty and addiction. Prior to joining BDI, he was an Account Manager at an agency serving nonprofits and provided leadership at Christian nonprofits, including as Executive Director of Family Promise of San Gabriel Valley, Director of People Assisting the Homeless and Development Director at The Jonah Project. In these roles, Matthew spearheaded fundraising efforts to increase housing, as well as coordinated a highly-successful shelter network of faith communities in the greater Los Angeles area.

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