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It's Time to Ask Your Board for a Gift

Lisa Tarshis
March 9, 2021

Board members are some of the most valuable relationships a nonprofit organization has. These are the people who are all-in on your mission and step up when you ask them for a favor. They commit to meetings and responsibilities each year to better your organization, and in many cases, they do all of this in addition to their day job. That’s some serious love, if you ask me.

Many organizations expect that their board members make a financial commitment to the cause. When I ask nonprofits how they solicit their board members, I often hear something along the lines of…

  • My board members know that we need to raise money and will make their gift when they’re ready.
  • Most of my board members give through the gala and will give when they get the invitation.
  • Our board members do so much for us, I don’t want to seem greedy or unappreciative by asking them for their gift.

Board members prove time and time again that they want to help, support, and invest in your organization, so why is it so difficult to ask them for their gift?

I’m going to say something controversial, but if you follow this blog, you know I say it like it is… The truth is that not sitting down with a board member to discuss their commitment shows a lack of appreciation and respect.

Think about your largest donors. They give so much to your organization and you rely on their support to meet your fundraising goals. And every year you ask them for their gift without feeling guilty or like you’re asking too much of them. You know that these major donors believe in your mission and want to be given the opportunity to support your work. Why should we think about board members any differently?

Board members deserve the opportunity to invest in your mission by making a gift.

They deserve the opportunity to discuss how they can have an impact.

And they deserve the appreciation and respect that comes from having a conversation with someone you value.

Plus, asking board members for a gift allows you to:

  • Get face time to further build a relationship
  • Practice your pitch and get in the rhythm of asking
  • Model the stewardship and solicitation process so that board members feel equipped to follow through with their own contacts

It’s time to say goodbye to the blanket statement at your board meeting that calls for all members to make a meaningful commitment. We’re in the big leagues, friends, and you owe it to your board members to have a personal conversation about their gift.

When it comes to these conversations, here’s my best advice:

Ask early

Board members are (hopefully!) some of your best fundraising partners. We know gift solicitations are most successful when the solicitor has already invested in the organization. It’s hard to make the case that a gift is critical when you don’t have any skin in the game. The beginning of your fiscal year is a great time to ask your board members, and other key solicitors, for their annual commitment so that they can be genuine in sharing why giving is so important.

Asking early also allows you to gain an understanding of certain parts of your revenue for the year. If you know the board has committed $50,000 collectively, you can count on that money coming in. This is great for cash flow, planning, and goal setting.

Have an individual conversation

Board members not only give money to your organization, but they also devote time and energy to ensuring it succeeds. Show them the respect you would any major donor by sitting down for an individual conversation with them and their family. Use this as an opportunity to understand why they give, their current passions, and share the impact they have made through their commitments (both financial and otherwise). These individual conversations will deepen your relationship, expand your knowledge and provide the board member the individualized attention they deserve.

Going through the process also provides an opportunity for you to model the way you hope they cultivate the donors they work with. Consider it an investment in your development program!

Make a specific ask

Board giving conversations allow you to make a specific ask of each board member, no matter what their giving level is. You would never go into a meeting with a major donor without a prepared ask, so don’t do that for your board members either. Think about what’s important to the board member and how a gift at a certain level can impact your organization. I always recommend tying their passion into the ask so they know how their dollars will be used and the difference they are making.

When you begin the process of asking board members for their annual gifts, it is so important to be prepared. I’ve put together some talking points in this week’s freebie to walk you through these conversations. I have always found that taking the time to prepare makes you more comfortable and more successful when sitting down to make the ask.