How to Make Fundraising Enjoyable for Board Members

Fundraising can be a rewarding experience for your board.

Fundraising plays an important role in every aspect of your organization. After all, it’s the whole reason you can continue working toward your mission. When board members don’t participate in fundraising, you miss out on a ton of benefits. These individuals are your brand’s most loyal ambassadors, usually have extensive networks, and can make a world of difference in your organization’s sustainability and success.

However, a joint study conducted by leaders in the mission-driven space found that around two-thirds of all organizations’ boards (68.8%) emphasize fundraising in their board development plans. While that initially seems like an impressive statistic, that actually means that approximately one-third of all mission-driven boards are not focusing on fundraising.

Too often, board members view fundraising as a chore, rather than an opportunity to support your organization. That doesn’t mean they’re bad board members; it just means they need a bit of encouragement! As a member of your organization’s leadership team, it’s up to you to find ways to make fundraising exciting and worthwhile.

Whether they aren’t inspired to fundraise or they simply don’t have the skills, there are several ways you can make the board fundraising experience enjoyable and memorable for your board members. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Board members play an important role in your organization’s fundraising and need to step up to the plate if they want your organization to succeed. When you get strategic, fundraising can actually improve their time serving on your board. Let’s get started with our first simple solution.

Pick Unique and Creative Fundraising Ideas

Asking people for donations and running the same fundraisers each year can quickly become monotonous. One of the easiest ways to make sure board members stay engaged is to change up your campaign ideas. We’ll dive into two of our favorites: t-shirt fundraising and corporate philanthropy.

T-Shirt Fundraising

T-shirt fundraising is a fantastic way to get board members into fundraising.

T-shirt fundraising is a powerful way to engage supporters and board members all in one fell swoop. When your board members leverage this type of campaign, they can generate unmatched value for the organization. Supporters will be excited to receive tangible items in exchange for their contributions, and every time they wear their t-shirts out in public, you receive the bonus of free marketing.

T-shirt fundraising is the ultimate risk-free fundraising idea for all types of organizations — regardless if they’re nonprofits, for-profits, or some other mission-driven organization. To make sure your campaign is totally risk-free for your board members, keep an eye peeled for a t-shirt fundraising platform that doesn’t require inventory or have any upfront costs.

Traditional t-shirt fundraisers require you to spend a bunch of money to buy products before selling them. In other words, every unsold t-shirt detracts from your profits. An online t-shirt fundraising platform that doesn’t charge upfront inventory costs or platform fees eliminates any risk. You simply create the design. Then, buyers select the products they want and check out online. With zero upfront fees, board members can relax knowing that they’re not wasting any of the organization’s funds.

Plus, there are t-shirt fundraising platforms designed specifically for mission-driven organizations. Some platforms offer special perks and tools for verified 501(c)(3) organizations and their chapters, such as:

  • Reduced donation processing fees
  • The ability for supporters to create peer-to-peer t-shirt fundraising campaigns and direct funds to your organization
  • The option to send thank you notes to anyone who organizes a campaign on your behalf
  • Downloadable supporter lists so you can connect with anyone who buys your t-shirts to form new relationships

With a t-shirt fundraising platform like Bonfire, your organization can easily design and sell custom apparel to your supporters, and it’s incredibly easy for board members to get in on the action. They’ll have plenty of options to get involved whether they want to design the apparel, buy a t-shirt to show off their commitment to your cause, or sell the merchandise to their friends and family members themselves.

Your board isn’t limited to just t-shirts, either. Their platform offers a range of products so your board members can get creative and expand to other apparel options and maximize your potential revenue. The platform will take care of everything from printing to shipping of orders, so all your board members need to do is promote and sell your products.

 Corporate Philanthropy

For-profit businesses often implement giving programs as part of their larger corporate social responsibility strategies. This allows them to support their employees’ interests in philanthropic causes and build a positive public perception. For mission-driven organizations, driving awareness of these opportunities is a great way to increase funding and supporters’ impact. Two options that your board members can get involved with include:

  • Matching gifts. 360MatchPro’s matching gift statistics page estimates that more than 18 million people work for companies with matching gift programs, meaning these opportunities may already be right under your nose. Put your board members in charge of a matching gift drive, where they reach out to match-eligible donors and educate everyone about matching gifts via email and social media. Board members who donate can also check their own eligibility.
  • Volunteer grants. When people volunteer their time at organizations, their employer may offer volunteer grants, meaning they’ll send a check to the organization based on the number of hours the employee contributed. Board members can reach out to volunteers to ask them to check on potential eligibility for volunteer grants from their employers. Your board members are considered volunteers too, so if their employer offers this type of program, they can easily get in on the action.

The bulk of work for corporate philanthropy comes from spreading the word, locating people who are eligible, and encouraging them to complete the process. Because these donation opportunities already exist among your volunteers and donors, board members can easily make a difference in your fundraising with just a little persistence.

Train Them on Fundraising Best Practices

The art of fundraising can be tricky to master, especially for those who are brand new to the sector. Remember, your board members come from all walks of life, and many don’t have any prior fundraising experience. Luckily, you have access to a whole team of professional fundraisers to help out and provide insider tips.

With help from your development team, bake fundraising into your onboarding process so you can establish a culture of fundraising from the very beginning. Then, you can provide ongoing support to continue transforming your board members into champion fundraisers. Here are a few different ways to train your board:

  • Highlight different areas where board members can be valuable, and explain how staff members will support their efforts.
  • Communicate how fundraising relates to the mission by bringing in various leaders and clients to share testimonials.
  • Bring a new perspective into the mix by offering digital courses and other external resources for board members to use.
  • Invite board members from other organizations to speak to your board about their experiences and strategies that they use to successfully fundraise.
  • Set aside a portion of each meeting so that board members can practice their fundraising conversations with one another.
  • Host a board retreat where you focus specifically on fundraising and combine several of these strategies.

Overall, your main goal should be to set expectations from the very beginning and provide the board with the resources they need to successfully fundraise. They should always know what’s expected of them, and your leadership team can answer their questions and provide all the support they need. After all, it’s much easier to enjoy something when you have some semblance of what you’re doing, rather than stumbling through it.

Find Other Ways to Get Them Involved Beyond Solicitation

Not every board member will be enthusiastic or even effective at asking for donations. The last thing you want is to turn them away from fundraising by forcing them to do something they don’t want to. Even worse, forcing fundraising could ruin their board experience with your organization altogether.

Leave solicitation to those who are effective at requesting donations and excited to do so, and find different opportunities for everyone else to get involved. Everyone will feel happier and much more useful when they can leverage their skills and participate in ways that interest them.

Design Merchandise

If you’ve decided that a product fundraiser is the way to go, there’s a ton more your board members can do outside of asking people to buy the merch, including getting in on the design process. Whether they want to show off their artistic abilities or they just want a say in the design, here are a few ways your board can help:

  • Board members can compete by designing their own t-shirts. Their fellow board members, your supporters, and the organization’s staff can vote on their favorite designs. One (or a few) will be dubbed the winners and their designs will be put on sale.
  • They pick their favorites from supporters. If they’re not confident in their own artistic abilities, encourage board members to host a design competition amongst supporters. Everyone will submit their designs to your board. Then, board members will work together and vote on their favorite ones.
  • Everyone creates their own design. A t-shirt fundraising platform with peer-to-peer functionality makes it incredibly easy for everyone (including board members and supporters) to design their own apparel and sell it to the public. This is a great way to put personal touches on your organization’s t-shirts.

Getting board members involved in the design process is a great way to ignite their passion for the cause. Even if they don’t want to design the apparel themselves, there are several ways to go about it.

Cultivate Relationships

While you might want to save the initial outreach for your professional fundraising team, board members can play a helpful role in deepening relationships along the way. Remember, your board members all got involved with your organization, because they have a passion for your cause. They can tap into this passion and ignite the same affinity in others. For instance, they can:

  • Show up to public events. Events offer a natural opportunity to interact with donors and other funders. Board members can easily approach attendees, answer any questions about the organization, and spread their passion for the cause.
  • Thank donors for their contributions. Expressing gratitude is an important task and an easy job for your board to tackle. Board members can send a personalized thank-you letter when someone buys a t-shirt from your cause, or let supporters know when their employer sends a volunteer grant on their behalf.
  • Hold one-on-one meetings. A lot of work goes into securing major donations and sponsorships. Some of your most knowledgeable board members may excel with conducting one on-one meetings with major funders where they answer questions and tell them about your organization’s work.

No matter how you get board members involved in your cultivation efforts, developing relationships is an important part of the fundraising process. Even though they won’t necessarily ask for donations, spending time connecting with funders is what will ultimately encourage them to give and stick around.

The most successful organizations recognize that board members play a vital part in fundraising. Unfortunately, some boards resist this responsibility, because they either want to spend time focusing on other aspects of the mission, feel awkward about the task, or just don’t understand how to be the most helpful.

Effectively engaging board members in fundraising begins with setting clear expectations and ensuring that they understand why fundraising is so important to the mission. It’s up to your development team and board leadership to set this tone, pick fundraising ideas they actually want to participate in, and make sure members are able to get involved in ways that interest them.

If you intentionally establish a culture of fundraising among your board, not only will you help your main fundraising team, but you’ll also help board members recognize their tangible impact, deepening their engagement all-around. Happy fundraising!

Author:  Kevin Penney, CMO & Co-Founder of Bonfire

Kevin Penney has been working in digital media for over ten years. He’s the CMO and co-founder of Bonfire, an online platform that’s reinventing the way people create, sell and purchase custom apparel. He enjoys strategizing, working closely with his team, and hockey, exactly in that order.


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