5 Fundraising Mistakes We Make With Our Boards

Are you making fundraising mistakes with board members?

Is fundraising something your board members avoid?

Hope not! But this IS a perennial challenge for fundraisers and CEOs, too.

But board members often are scared to death of fundraising.

I don’t blame them, because they are not trained or educated about fundraising like we are.

Here’s a quick video about some of the fundraising mistakes we make: 

My Survey about Board Members and Fundraising

My survey about board members and fundraising is yielding some fascinating info – (have you responded to it yet? – it will take you only 3 minutes.)

You probably know that I’m developing an on-demand course for board members about fundraising. So I am asking people what needs to be covered?

In the survey, I’m asking about the top fundraising mistakes we make with board members.

So far, by a hair, the winner is:

#1: We don’t educate board members about fundraising and how it works.

Many fundraisers feel their board members have no idea of what we do and how we do it.

“They think it is easy. When we attempt to explain the complexity, restrictions or length of time it takes, they tune out. 

My experience is this: if board members don’t understand fundraising and how it works, how can they possibly be helpful?

This seems like the first place to start, if you ask me! (that’s why I’m creating this course!)

When board members don’t understand how fundraising works, they may make mistakes with donors. I’ve seen well-meaning board members rush a donor and be too aggressive.

Or they might make unwise wise decisions about your fundraising budget.  As one responded said in the survey:

“Every time we are in a financial crisis, they cut the areas that make money for them.

If they don’t understand that different fundraising strategies bring in different returns, how can they really understand or approve a budget?

Mistake #2: We don’t discuss expectations well in advance.

Ah, the Board Member Expectations Form!

Board members usually sign the form cheerfully. But then what happens to it?

It sits quietly sleeping in the corner. Never discussed. Never brought out into the light.

But when it is not discussed or made public, it can disappear. It’s easy to ignore something that is forgotten.

Then when we ask them to help in fundraising, they say, “Eeeek! We didn’t sign up for this!”

And alas. The poor fundraiser is sitting there, hoping, just hoping, for a board member to help open doors to her wealthy philanthropic friends.

Mistake #3: We don’t give them enough structure and support in their fundraising activities.

We often expect our trustees to perform with too little preparation and backup.

We tend to forget that they are volunteers. They are not the pros that we are.

They really do need structure and support. We can’t expect them to host coffees in their homes, sell tables for our gala or even make thank you calls to donors – without training, and a formal structure.

It’s up to the pros (that’s us!) to lead them.

Share with them the context of what they are doing, so they understand exactly what they are doing, how to do it well, and why they are doing it.

They deserve first-rate support from staff, clear goals, training and inspiration. They’ll appreciate your help!

Mistake #4: Thinking that fundraising is all about “asking for money.”

Many board members are really confused about fundraising. Over and over, they think fundraising = “asking for money.”

They have so much fear about – the money part and the asking part.

But we all know that fundraising is not like that in the 21st century – it’s all about the long-term relationship.

Board members don’t understand that fundraising is much more than “asking.”

They often don’t know that it’s a process with multiple activities – things we do every, single day, over and over:

  • Identify potential donors,
  • Cultivate and involve them in our cause,
  • Find ways to thank them and foster a long term relationship.

Board members like to imagine the worst, don’t they?

They focus on the most awkward (to them) part of the fundraising cycle – the asking stuff.

  • Don’t let your good-hearted board members get away with equating the entire process of fundraising with soliciting.
  • Do help them understand that fundraising is much, much more than “asking for money.” It’s really “building and keeping friends.”

Mistake #5: Emergency fundraising, not long-term relationships.

I am all for a sense of urgency when raising funds.

But all too often it takes a crisis to mobilize our board members. Suddenly fundraising is something important – something we need to focus on.

In a crisis, often the conversation becomes all about money rather than about the great work our organization is doing for community good.

Be careful, don’t set your board members up for unpleasant fundraising experiences with hasty asks.

Bottom line: Don’t make these fundraising mistakes with board members.

What’s your experience with YOUR board? And do respond to my quick, short survey about what training YOUR board members need.

I’d so appreciate it!