How to Engage Board Members as Fundraising Ambassadors

Board members are some of the greatest assets to a nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. They are natural storytellers and advocates, engage their personal and professional networks, and provide generous financial support. How can we leverage board members’ diverse skills, stories and experiences to advance fundraising activity? 

First, you need to understand the role of the board in elevating an organization’s fundraising program. A nonprofit board has three primary responsibilities: 

  1. To support an organization’s strategic direction and ensure activity reflects its mission and values.
  2. To provide financial oversight and accountability.
  3. To oversee whether an organization has the philanthropic resources required for its important work. 

Notably, board members are meaningful annual fund donors and often an organization’s largest major donors. Their collective support signals to the broader community that leadership is personally invested in the organization’s success. Some organizations have a minimum board giving requirement; others have a “give or get” policy. Regardless, board members serve as role models in their giving practices and their philanthropic leadership inspires others to set their sights high in their own charitable commitments. 

There are many ways for board members to advance fundraising activity; however, not every opportunity will resonate with every board member. Some board members will thrive in peer-to-peer solicitations; others may be uncomfortable asking for financial investments. Some board members may enjoy speaking on behalf of the organization at a gala or public event; others might prefer to support fundraising activity behind the scenes. 

Beyond providing generous financial support, board members can act as fundraising ambassadors by leveraging their diverse strengths and areas of interest to advance fundraising activity. Offering board members a variety of ways to engage with fundraising sets everyone up for success. Here are five opportunities for board members to contribute to their nonprofits’ fundraising efforts.

1. Share Their Personal Stories

Board members are respected community leaders and strong communicators who are passionate about the organization’s mission and have an inspiring personal story to illustrate their involvement. Provide platforms for them to share these stories and offer insights into their leadership and generosity. 

This can include speaking at annual programs, a gala or other special events, or by featuring them in community newsletters or major donor reports. By sharing their authentic stories, board members will generate enthusiasm around the organization within the broader community. Often, this initial enthusiasm plants the seeds for future engagement and giving. 

2. Introduce New Potential Donors

Board members have robust professional and personal networks. Leveraging those networks will support fundraising efforts and build a larger audience. Board members can achieve this by facilitating introductions for professional leadership with potential funders, and helping with follow-up, inviting prospective donors to meet to learn more about the organization and assisting in the development of donor engagement strategies. 

3. Host a Parlor Meeting or Event

Parlor meetings and special events are valuable ways to expand an organization’s audience by bringing leaders and prospective major donors together to learn more about or support an organization. Board members can be fantastic hosts. By opening their home or business and inviting members of their own network, they provide a platform for executive directors or CEOs to share a compelling vision for the future and engage new potential donors in the organization’s work. 

4. Lead Peer-to-Peer Solicitations

One of the most powerful ways board members can support fundraising is by leading peer-to-peer solicitations, where they personally invite a potential donor to “join me” in making a gift to the organization. This signals to the potential donor that they are not alone in making a meaningful gift; rather, they are part of a larger community of funders who, together, are making an impact. 

Board members can also offer guidance on the right gift strategies or materials to present to a donor if they are not comfortable making the ask themselves. 

5. Support Stewardship Activity

Finally, one of the easiest ways for board members to support fundraising activity is through stewardship. This includes making personal thank-you calls to donors and sending thank-you emails or handwritten cards to share the impact of a donor’s gift. 

When development teams are faced with ambitious revenue goals and competing institutional priorities, stewardship is often bumped to the bottom of the to-do list. Creating stewardship roles for board members supports the organization’s development activities and makes donors feel appreciated, valued and motivated to give again. 

For board members to be effective fundraising ambassadors, organizations need to provide them with the fundraising knowledge and practical tools for success. This includes educational opportunities, such as board retreats, storytelling workshops and solicitation trainings, to build community as a board and offer a comfortable space for leaders to practice essential fundraising skills. Nonprofits may also offer a fundraising toolkit that includes marketing materials, suggested talking points, an events calendar, information on giving societies and benefits, and prospect list assignments and next steps.

By now we know that board members are champions of an organization’s fundraising efforts and are some of the most loyal and generous donors. Always remember to thank board members for their time, energy, leadership and generosity. 

The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.