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Category Archives: How to get your board to introduce major donors

If you can’t get your Board to introduce major donors then you’re not alone. The vast majority of charities don’t or can’t get their Board members fundraising. There are three main reasons: they do not see it as their role; they don’t know how to; and/or they are not connected to the right people.

So, what do the charities that have cracked this do differently?

1. Recruitment

When recruiting a Board, most charities choose people with professional expertise: knowledge in your service area, accounting, law etc. Whilst these people are essential; one set of expertise that is often overlooked is being well connected and willing to use networks to further the cause. An individual with this skillset will drive your board to participate in fundraising. It is usually the case that someone in your existing networks can take on this role. Talk to your board about who they know who may be willing to lead on major donor fundraising for your charity and look at who you may be able to engage from within your donor pool.

Top tip:
Recruit someone to your Board who is willing and able to drive major donor fundraising.

2. Create a sub-board

Once you have your major donor fundraising Board member in place, work with them to recruit 5-10 other well-connected individuals who care about your cause and are willing to take on a fundraising target. They will chair this board and report to the trustees. As managing an additional board will increase the workload, it is essential that you lay out clear expectations during recruitment. Fundraising board members should be willing to open their personal and professional contacts, explore whether their company would support you and become donors themselves. You may take some time to ask them to become donors, but if you get the relationship right, there are two reasons why you must ask them: they should be some of the very warmest proponents of your cause and they will take up a significant percentage of your team’s time.

Top tip:
Make sure your fundraising Board members are open to becoming donors.

3. Training
The thought of asking someone for a gift is fairly intimidating to most people, even those with huge business experience. This is for two reasons: the fear of rejection and that, if done wrong, it feels like begging or asking an outrageous favour. This cringing discomfort is the key reason that volunteers resist approaching people they know. It only takes a small mind shift and some practice to completely turn this around. With some good training, volunteers and senior staff can use their commitment to the cause to pitch it as a great opportunity to invest in making an important difference.

Top tip:
Get your Board members to articulate why they support your cause and to practise asking someone for a gift.

4. Make it easy
All the most successful charities make it as easy as possible for Board members to fundraise. What you want them to do is open new doors: making introductions and endorsing your approach. It is your role to work with them on their list of prospects, draft their e-mails/letters and provide soundbites and proposals for them to share. It is very doable for a busy person to review and send an e-mail from their inbox introducing you and your cause, then you do the legwork, keeping them informed and pulling them back in at critical moments.

Top tip:
Make it easy and rewarding for Board members to fundraise and they will do more.

5. Target resources
There is no magic list of people who want to give to your cause, however there is an easy way to prioritise the new names your Board members suggest and those who already give to your cause and/or volunteer. Most charities prioritise by wealth alone, which is only one of the three key metrics that indicate whether someone will support your cause. The others are propensity and closeness. Propensity can be demonstrated by an affinity to your cause, general philanthropy or previous gifts. Closeness is whether anyone connected to your organisation can get them to take a meeting or a call. By reorganising your efforts across all three metrics you will focus your energies on the right people.

Top tip:
Consider propensity, closeness AND capacity.

6. Provide the tools
Board members won’t fundraise without a strong case for support, broken down into coherent packages that they can sell. It needs to articulate the need and how donors can be part of the solution.

Top tip:
Show your Board what their fundraising will make possible.

7. Ask the Board to become donors
As well as asking your fundraising board to become donors, you should also be talking to your Board of Trustees. Many charities are far too afraid to broach this. This is a mistake! Obviously they give up lots of their time, but they can all at least make a small monthly gift. And they should all consider a legacy. In order to talk with gravitas about your cause, it is important that they feel a real bought in part of delivering the mission. Also, understanding the experience of being a donor will provide valuable feedback and give them confidence that it’s a good experience when they ask others.

Top tip:
Start a giving club amongst your Board where there are updates every meeting on what their collective donation has achieved.

8. Earn Board Members’ trust
One of the reasons that your Board may not want to hand over contacts is because they don’t trust you with their valuable social capital. You will be judged on the professionalism of your communications, the speed with which you thank and respond and the quality and regularity of your updates.

Top tip:
Thanking people properly and telling them the difference they have made is the best way to get more of what you want.

What you can do next
It takes just a couple of days to review your case for support and advise you what steps to take or to implement training to show your board/volunteers how to ask and get them practising. To find out more email: or call 0844 324 6010.

This article was written by Ilana Jackman, Senior Consultant, TheGivingLab. Ilana has first hand experience of working with Board members to turn even the most reluctant supporters into confident and successful fundraisers. It often only requires a couple of days to put an action plan in place. Ilana has worked with the NSPCC Helpline Fundraising Board to raise £3 million per annum to reach their £15 million target, personally raising over £5 million of this total; trained fundraising boards’ to ask for £100,000 + gifts and asked them each to give at/above this level; and led a project across the NSPCC’s 30 major donor fundraisers to drive up £250k+ gifts that resulted in more than £9 million of income, £5 million of which she delivered.