Overcoming Fundraising Reluctance: Tips for Board Members

Woman chipping away at brick wall with sledgehammer

A common refrain among executive directors is that board members aren’t involved enough in fundraising. Fundraising, however, is one of the fundamental responsibilities of a board member. Raising support for the organization is a key measure of the board’s commitment to the group’s mission and is one of the most tangible ways to ensure its sustainability.

With this in mind, board coach Michael Davidson led a workshop at Foundation Center New York on April 2 on "Overcoming Board Resistance to Fundraising". He led the group in examining why boards need to be engaged in fundraising, why they may not get involved enough, and how they can be encouraged to fundraise more. Here are a few ideas for board members to get more comfortable with fundraising, based on Michael’s discussion with participants.

Where have you given in the past, and what incited you to give?

Getting into the mindset of potential donors is a little easier when you remember that you have also been a donor once upon a time. Think about the organizations that have received your gifts. What was it that provoked your donation? Were there specific stories that won you over? Did the person who asked for your contribution have an asking style that made a compelling case? Consider what worked for you, and try it on some potential donors of your own.

How do friends react to the mission and its impact when you are not asking for money?

Another tactic to alleviate the pressure is to consider how your conversation would progress if you removed the “ask” for a moment. If you talked to your personal connections about the organization, what it does, its impact, and why you chose to serve on its board, would they be interested? Would they have follow-up questions? Would the story you tell remind them of any stories from their own lives? This technique can help you determine the strength of the case you’re making, and which people you know who might actually be good prospects.

Build a habit of talking about the organization during ordinary conversations

You’re part of the team that governs a nonprofit,, so it’s time to get comfortable talking about it! Not every conversation has to involve a formal ask. With your friends and colleagues, try to gradually get into the habit of talking about the organization, what it’s working on, new goals it has reached, events it might be planning, etc. Eventually, talking about the organization will become second nature, whether you’re talking to an old friend or a potential major donor. Also, the more you mention it to people you know, the more you’re able to subtly gauge people’s interest level over time and develop a better idea of who could become a donor.

This is just a small sampling of the advice offered during Michael's session. For more help with board-related issues, check out some of Michael Davidson’s other resources, workshops, and newsletter

-- Tracy Kaufman
Program Associate
Foundation Center New York