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May 15, 2020

Something for Everyone: Board Fundraising During COVID-19

Last evening we were part of a virtual Happy Hour with AFP Colorado and had a blast reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Thank you to those who joined us!

The topic of discussion was how to turn your board into a top-notch fundraising team. The basics haven’t changed, but COVID-19 is certainly requiring that we adapt.

We fundraisers tend to get a bit frustrated with our boards when they don’t get involved in fundraising in the ways we’d like them to. The truth is that fundraising is scary for a lot of people and our expectations can be a little bit high. During a time of anxiety, our tendency may be to pressure our board to do more and do it now, but we have to move strategically if we want them to engage effectively.

Here at Front Range Source, we have long been proponents of the Board Fundraising Menu. You can find a full copy in our Toolbox. It breaks down fundraising into three courses so that no matter where each board member is in their fundraising experience or level of comfort, there’s a place for them to enter and a path for them to follow.

Appetizers are like Ambassadorship 101.

Board members can do things like learn how to talk about your organization, make thank you calls to donors, bring friends to events (virtual or in-person), or connect their friends to you through social media.

The Main Course is where board members start to become fundraisers.

They can sign appeal letters, be featured as donor “testimonials” in your newsletter or social media, tour their friends (socially distant, of course!) through your facility, or ask for gifts to the organization for a birthday or holiday.

And Dessert is where we often wish they would start, but it is truly the icing on the cake.

This is where board members can host a house party or virtual event, connect you directly to philanthropic contacts, join you on major gift solicitations, recruit sponsors, and so on.

All of this can still happen with COVID-19, but as with everything, you may need to adapt. Here are FIVE TIPS for board fundraising during the pandemic:

ONE: Be sensitive to what your board is going through. Things are changing rapidly, so if they’re overwhelmed right now, be ready to engage them in fundraising in another week or so when things have settled a bit more. Focus on the ones who are most ready and activate them one at a time.

TWO: Educate them about what’s happening with fundraising. Per Leslie’s recent blog, reassure them that you have a plan and give them the facts. Identify the bright spots and opportunities ahead of you. Make sure you’re all moving forward with the same assumptions and expectations.

THREE: Focus on a few key things they can do to help. Instead of the full fundraising menu, pick four or five things that you need most. Here’s a short menu Leslie created for her board:

  • Write thank you notes and make thank you calls
  • Provide testimonials about the organization (video or written)
  • Host small gatherings of friends to talk about the organization (Zoom Happy Hours!)
  • Share what we’re up to through social media

FOUR: Support them in their fundraising work. Teach them how to use the Zoom platform, provide them outstanding content for social media, give them a good script for thank you calls, check in with them regularly. We find this is best done one-by-one, rather than trying to get everyone to march in the same direction at the same time!

FIVE: Most importantly, celebrate their fundraising efforts. Call their good work out at board meetings and let their peers know how effective it is.

When you manage your own expectations and create a clear path for your board, you truly can turn them into an amazing group of fundraisers. After all, you need them now more than ever!

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