THE BLOG
11/26/2013 10:39 am ET | Updated Jan 26, 2014

Please Don't Make Me Talk About Money: 3 Tips for Getting Your Board Engaged in Fundraising

Money is not the root of all evil. Money is the mother's milk of nonprofit organizations. So why are your board members afraid to talk about milk? Try these three tips to make it easier for your board to engage in fundraising.

1. "Potential donors get thousands of requests. They often make up their minds in the first 60 seconds," according to Sam Horn, founder and CEO of the Intrigue Agency, where she writes, speaks, and consults on strategic communications.

Horn suggests: Pleasantly surprise your listeners (who have heard and seen it all before) by opening with three unexpected "Did you know?" questions pertinent to your cause. Is there some new research? Are there startling statistics that address the problem you're solving or the need you are meeting? Has there been a dramatic increase in the demographic you are serving?

Link the word "imagine" to three aspects of your program/service that is solving that problem. This helps people picture what you are proposing. Then bridge with "You don't have to imagine it, we're doing it..." and then introduce social proof so they know this isn't speculative; it's a done deal.

Jump right in. Do not bore your audience with perfunctory remarks. No, "Thank you for asking me here," Horn advises, "In this day and age of instant gratification, you will already have lost the hearts and minds of your audience if you start with ... INFObesity. Instead, introduce something startlingly relevant that gets people's eyebrows up. Reference a recent study that indicates the urgency of this situation. Cite a respected expert who testifies to your proven track record."

The single best thing you can do to make your pitch, presentation, commercial or communication win buy -- in for what you care about -- is to deliver what Horn calls a 5C pitch -- Clear. Compelling. Current. Competitive Edge. Commercially -- viable.

In this 90 second video Sam Horn explains how to POP an elevator speech about what you do.

2. Make it easy by adding the word "because." Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer found that simply adding a reason for a request increased your chances of getting a "YES" to 94 percent.

Ask your board members, "Can you imagine what might happen if we doubled our donations this year? What would that mean to the organization, specifically? What tangible benefits might it provide?"

They might list things like: Be able to serve 500 more people this year. Add 2 new staff members. Finish building the auditorium by the beginning of the school year. Etc.

Now, they are not talking about money. They are talking about the needs that would be met, which helps your board members relax. It takes the pressure off.

Asking for money requires making requests of other people. If your board members are not clear on the "because," their fear pops up ("Oh no. I can't do this.") All board members are capable of asking from the heart, but only after they are clear about what the money will mean to the organization.

3. Be sure your board members know the specific stories of some of the individuals you've helped. Who is your audience? How are their lives better because of your organization's services? Before your board members ask for money, they need to know exactly how it's going to be allocated. It's much easier to ask for money when you can tell donors how their contributions will be put to good use.

For many, the money conversation is threatening. It doesn't need to be. You can relieve the pressure by being clear about the good the money will do. If your board members present it authentically and clearly, it's a win for everyone.

Research has found that when people are faced with difficult tasks, if they talk out loud about it, they don't give up. They don't quit. Keep your board engaged and willing to try again, even if they don't succeed immediately. Read about the research and how to apply it here.

The "money milk" conversations don't have to turn sour. If you have board members who, in the past, were reluctant to ask for money, share these fresh tips. They'll take pride in representing an organization that does so much good, and they can feel comfortable asking others to financially support it. Simply put: Raise your board's confidence and enthusiasm, and they will raise more money.