THE BLOG

Terrified of Fundraising?

12/10/2012 11:07 am ET | Updated Feb 09, 2013

I do fundraising trainings with nonprofit board members, some of whom are bigwigs and have big day jobs -- who might take major risks on stocks or who put together multi-million dollar deals. Some of them literally dive off of cliffs. For fun!

But then I ask them for a one-word association with the word "fundraising."

You know what the number one answer is -- by far?

"Terrified."

Look -- I get it. It's that weird thing people have about talking to people about their own money. Maybe it feels inappropriate in some way?

But I'll be blunt -- you have to stop thinking of it this way. And with all due speed. It's the year's end! So many people do their charitable giving now. So, (doing my best Joe Biden impression) "Come on folks! You gotta get out and ask em!"

Executive directors know I am truth-telling when I say that board members always say they need that one more thing they don't have before they go out and ask. If they only had:

  1. A two page memo of talking points
  2. A list of benefits for giving at a certain level
  3. A brand new program
  4. Detailed statistics on the urgency of your work

With those items in hand, they would have everything they need.

I'll be blunt again. This is simple procrastination and fear avoidance. You're brave in so many areas of your life -- time to step up and be brave here too.

To be fair, you as board members do need something from your executive director before you can ask someone to contribute before year-end. But the list includes none of the above items.

Here's the list. It only has one item on it.

It's an email from your executive director that lands in your Inbox ASAP. That's it. Easy.

Now -- executive directors -- what should you put in this email? A few things, and you have easy access to them without doing much work at all:

  • One really great story about your work. It should be simple, concrete and emotional. Board members should not have to work hard to remember it. It should be sticky. It should be current.
  • One reason that they can share with the prospect about why the gift should be made before the year-end. This reason should relate to the work, a matching gift -- that sort of thing. It should not be about your books.
  • A reminder to your board that they are, after you and the development director, the most credible ambassadors of the organization.
  • Don't remind them that this is their responsibility. Remind them of how they felt the day they joined the board -- the passion they felt, the commitment they made to ensure that your organization was healthy and that it had an even bigger impact in some way thanks to their participation.
  • You know your board better than I do -- can you make the year-end asking fun in some way? Can you use humor? "For every new dollar raised between now and year-end by the board, I will (insert something heartwarming, personal, silly, funny.)" If you think it will add any pressure, forget this item.
  • Tell them nothing bad will happen if they ask. I'm not kidding.

Really. I am not kidding. Remember the word in the title? "Terrified." Clearly, people who are terrified are terrified of something.

So here's the real question worth talking about with board and volunteers: