Why Training Your Board Is So Important

By Brian Saber

If we think we can send board members out to fundraise without giving them tools, we might need some analysis. What are we thinking?! It’s a license for complete failure, and the proof is in the pudding. Time and again our board members fail to partner successfully with staff to develop the organization’s resources because we never show them how or provide the training.

But They’re So Successful!

Yes, we ask people to join our boards because we think highly of them. They might be successful businesspeople or impassioned community activists or enthusiastic volunteers. They might be articulate believers or prominent philanthropists. We bring them into the fold because they have a talent, track record, or other indicator of high ability or “success.” And we mistakenly translate this into an ability to fundraise.

Oftentimes board members don’t even realize what fundraising is. For most, when we say fundraising they assume it means asking everyone they know for money. That would be unpalatable to almost anyone, but more troublesome is the fact that asking is the least of where we need their help. We need them to open doors and cultivate people who can make major gifts.

So What Do They Need?

Well, what did we need?

First, we needed to understand the goals of the organization and how our fundraising helps the organization fulfill those goals.

Then we needed to understand the mechanics of fundraising. How do we figure out who might be a prospect? How do we learn about a prospect? How do we begin to cultivate a prospect? When and how do we ask for a gift?

Once we’ve got the mechanics, we need practice. Now of course we probably got that original practice on the job. Perhaps we were mentored and went on our first cultivation and solicitation calls with a seasoned professional. Or we started small and learned by trial and error. We certainly asked lots of questions, read articles and books, perhaps attended professional development programs.

Are we providing any of this to board members? I’ve worked with more than 100 boards and I can vouch that very few of them even fully understood the goals of the organization and how fundraising fit in. Perhaps they knew what the organization did, but not why it did it or what the ultimate goal was. Without this understanding, the fundraising is nothing more than an obligation.

Before engaging me, more than half those boards hadn’t had a lick of training…and they’d been pushing their board members to fundraise for years (as many as 100 years!). Obviously not a formula for success.

And virtually none – not 5% – had been given the opportunity to practice what they had learned.

But We Don’t Have the Time or Money

I spent more than 20 years working at social service and small arts organizations, so I understand the scarcity of resources. So let’s be as creative and resourceful when it comes to fundraising as we are about everything else.

Let’s start by carving out time at every board meeting to discuss mission, to give board members a chance to articulate their story, to teach the mechanics of fundraising as we know them, and to give board members the opportunity to practice.

Fifteen minutes per board meeting will make a world of difference. We can all find 15 minutes to carve out for something so important. Fifteen minutes doesn’t cost us any money.

No doubt money is helpful when it comes to training. Can you put anything in the coming year’s budget? Perhaps you can at least have your board and fundraising committee chairs take a webinar or read a book (they might fund this themselves)? Starting small is fine – you don’t have to accomplish everything right away.

Maybe the board would even be willing to underwrite having a retreat with a trainer? They understand the value of training in their lives and they want to succeed – they just don’t know how. Don’t be shy about proposing this. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll say no! And that’s good training for you as an asker!

Here’s to giving our board members the tools to be successful partners in developing our organization’s resources.

Learn more from Brian in his upcoming webinar “Get Your Board to Give Their Biggest Gifts and Help You Fundraise”

 

About The Author

Brian Saber is President of Asking Matters – a online learning platform that trains people how to ask for money and motivates them to do it! Combining the best low-expense and high quality resources in the field, he promises that Asking Matters will help countless organizations continue to do incredible work for their causes.

7 Tips to Get Your Organization to Embrace Asking

By Brian Saber

We all know that asking doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. Your organization and staff have to embrace fundraising clear across the board in order for you to develop a strong culture of asking.

Think of what it would mean if you did have a culture of asking. First and foremost, fundraising would stop being a dirty word! We all know that as soon as we mention the word fundraising most people cringe. Well, that isn’t going to get us anywhere, is it? So how do we shape a culture of asking and a strong fundraising future at our organization?

1) View capital campaigns as the standard

During a capital campaign we invest a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money to put asking front and center. Capital campaigns use strategic approaches to fundraising that engage people, create a clear focus on larger gifts and an energy that drives success.

It’s no surprise that these campaigns are often successful. We can’t always operate at this level, but we can apply some standards from these campaigns to our organization.

2) Asking can’t only be about money

We’re never going to have a culture of asking if the only clear reason for asking is the “need” for money. We first have to make sure we have shared values and can articulate them. That comes about when our board and staff experience programs and report back at meetings.

3) Get the leaders involved

Our leaders must set the example by asking. Are your executive director and board chair asking? If the leaders aren’t asking, why would anyone else? Even if you have full-time development staff, it’s important for the executive director to be out front fundraising.

Oftentimes board members don’t even realize what fundraising is. For most, when we say fundraising they assume it means asking everyone they know for money. We need our board to fundraise by opening doors and cultivating people who can make major gifts.

4) Train everyone to ask

Most people have little or no fundraising training and that’s a recipe for disaster. Any task can only be done well if one is taught how to do it and then given the opportunity to practice what they learned. Asking people to do something they don’t think they can do well will cause them to resist helping.

5) Create an asking plan

Develop an annual fundraising plan that quantifies how many cultivation and solicitation meetings you plan to conduct. Board and staff need to work together to create the plan if everyone is going to commit to it.

Outline clear goals and objectives for the plan, and then assign people the roles they agree to take. Have a set completion date for the plan. This way everyone has a date to stick to and tasks will get done one time. Be sure to review the plan regularly and report on progress.

6) Don’t twist any arms

Everyone has to willingly accept their assignments – going out there under duress will not be helpful. And don’t assign more than 4 prospects at a time to board members – this will be overwhelming and cause less work to get done.

7) Be realistic

And perhaps most importantly, be realistic; we can’t go from 0-60 overnight. It’s much better to celebrate many small successes than it is to set the bar too high. Never forget to celebrate every one’s large and small asking successes; they deserve it. And since the New Year is here, it’s the perfect time to evaluate what’s realistic and what you can do more of this year.

So the next time you get frustrated about the lack of asking at your organization, take a good hard look at whether you’re creating a culture that supports it.

Learn more from Brian in his upcoming webinars.

About The Author

Brian Saber is President of Asking Matters – a online learning platform that trains people how to ask for money and motivates them to do it! Combining the best low-expense and high quality resources in the field, he promises that Asking Matters will help countless organizations continue to do incredible work for their causes.

Improve the Odds – Ask Face to Face

Most fundraisers would prefer do just about anything than ask someone for money face-to-face. Even for those, experienced or not, who find it somewhat “easy,” it can be awkward and anxiety-inducing. Yet we do it – or we aim to do it – because deep down we know it will end up making a huge impact… and the facts back that up.

face-to-face

Asking in-person is proven to have the highest rate of success among all methods.

Kent Dove of the Indiana University Foundation analyzed different ways of giving. Unsurprisingly, direct mail has the lowest success rate of the traditional fundraising methods –just 1-2%. Phone calls – not cold calls but calls from one’s Alma mater or place of worship – have a 25% success rate.

Face-to-face asks however – 75%! That means three out of four face-to-face meetings result in a charitable gift of some kind. Those are great odds.

The largest gifts from donors always come from asking in-person.

How many of the big donations you read about came from direct mail, special events, or a phonathon? Next to none! Large gifts come about by cultivating donors over time and getting to know them in person, and then finally asking them face-to-face to make a gift.

But why is face-to-face soliciting so successful?

Well, first of all, if someone agrees to even meet with you, that shows a very high interest in donating of some sort. Generally your donors won’t want to meet if they aren’t inclined to give you a gift.

Second, meeting in-person is proven to build the relationship. It causes a deeper level of empathy to develop between you and your donor, which would not be reached otherwise. Being with each other physically and being eye-to-eye creates an immediate bond – a direct desire to come through and be seen as good in the other’s eyes. This solicitation is much more powerful than connecting over the phone or through email.

Brian Saber is President of Asking Matters – a online learning platform that trains people how to ask for money and motivates them to do it! Combining the best low-expense and high quality resources in the field, he promises that Asking Matters will help countless organizations continue to do incredible work for their causes.

View & register for Brian’s upcoming webinars.

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