Updated: Sep 27, 2021
It’s not uncommon for a nonprofit board to include members who don’t feel comfortable asking for money. I get it. Donor solicitation is a specialized skill set just like any other. Some don’t want to climb that learning curve and some misguidedly view it as “hitting up their friends.”
However, everyone who serves on a board should be willing to be ambassadors for the nonprofit organization, establishing and nurturing key relationships that result in financial stability. This is a key part of the governance commitment that every board member has made (explicitly or implicitly) when joining a nonprofit board.
So how does a board member ignite donor generosity without the “ask”?
Here are my Top 10:
Educate: Spread the word among friends that you’re part of a nonprofit board and why you are so excited about its mission.
Invite: Notice I put this second on the list, rather than first. Invite friends and colleagues to a donor event once you’ve established that this organization really means something to you personally. (See #1) This ensures that your invitees come to the table mission-focused too.
Miss: Sometimes event timing doesn’t work out for new potential donor when you invite them the first time. Be sure to tell them they will be missed and you will be sure to include them the next time. Persistence pays.
Engage: Send potential donors information about the nonprofit’s impact. Update them on the issues. Take them on a tour. Ask if they want to get more deeply involved.
Thank: Personally and authentically thank your donor immediately after making their donation (especially the first time) so that they know how much it means to you as a board member. Phone, email, or handwritten note all work here….paired with the acknowledgement form letter that is generated by your database.
Follow Up: If your potential donor has questions about your organization that you can’t answer, make sure to follow up with answers or a personal introduction to the Executive Director or Program Director who can give them more information. Then follow up again to make sure that the connection was successful.
Delight: Call up your donor and invite them out for coffee. Be interested in their interest in your nonprofit. Inquire about their motivations for giving and their personal connection to the mission. Ask their opinion. Your donor will be delighted by the personal attention.
Recognize: In social circles and among friends, make mention of the fact that your donor friend has been an incredible supporter of the organization that means so much to you. This is as appreciated if not more than recognition in the annual report.
Acknowledge loyalty: Let them know that you know how many years they’ve supported the organization, how much financial support they’ve given over the years (they may not even know that number themselves until you share it), or how critical they were to meeting the annual campaign’s goal.
Connect: Introducing nonprofit staff to potential business sponsors and political allies that may unlock corporate sponsorships or access to a government grant.
What do all of these actions have in common? They build relationships -- relationships that motivate donors to renew their support, increase their commitment, and inspire donors to become ambassadors for your organization as well. Even if the 'ask' comes from the organization, rather than from a board member, this relationship will dramatically influence how your donor feels when they respond to it with their support.