August is a great time to plan to hold an “inspiring philanthropy” (aka board fundraising training) session; then provide volunteers with assignments so they can hit the ground running! These are best held in September/October – in time to fire folks up for year-end major gift asks. Consider inviting a facilitator to run the session. Since you’re going to be raising major gifts, it will be money well spent! Your agenda might look something like this:
This would be a good place for a green box where they can click to read the “meat” of the TIP.
I’m going to show you how to conduct a terrific board inspiration session on your own. I still encourage you to hire a facilitator, however. Why? Board members are more open when an outsider is brought in. They listen more. They believe more. The are more open and receptive. Sorry, but it’s just the nature of the beast. If you do hire a facilitator, I suggest you tell them this is the type of agenda you’d like to follow.
A. Ask folks to describe why they became involved with your organization, and what continues to keep them passionate and inspired (go around the room if you have a small board; otherwise, pair folks up and have them break into new pairings several times). Your objectives are to (1) get folks comfortable telling their own story, and (2) fire folks up from listening to other people’s stories.
Usually folks will have a personal connection to the cause. Or they’ll have an outcome story to tell – something they remember from having been involved with you over a period of time.
B. When storytelling has concluded, ask the group for feedback. How did it feel? What did they learn? Did telling their story feel at all scary? Did it feel less scary than asking for a gift? Do they think they could consider reframing asking as storytelling moving forward?
II. PHILANTHROPY, NOT FUNDRAISING
A. Discuss why you do fundraising. To create happy endings! Make this another opportunity to frame soliciting as storytelling. As helping prospective donors visualize the story of your cause. The people, places or things you’re trying to help, restore or heal.
B. Discuss the fact that donors are your heroes. They give the stories you tell happy endings. Your job is simply to facilitate their philanthropy. This is a noble, rather than an evil, pursuit. Asking isn’t begging. Asking isn’t taking something away. Asking is giving folks an opportunity to join in something wonderful.
III. OVERCOME FEAR OF FUNDRAISING
A. Discuss what folks are afraid of. Usually it boils down to two things: (1) fear of rejection, and (2) fear of looking dumb/unprepared. Begin by asking folks what words they associate with fundraising. Then ask them what words they associate with philanthropy. You may be surprised with the results. Talk about how to overcome their fears.
B. Destroy the money taboo. People think fundraising is about money, and they hate to talk about it. Persuade them it’s not about money. It’s about outcomes. Money is just a symbol of what it can accomplish.
C. Help board stop wallowing in negativity about fundraising. Consider asking them the following questions:
1. What are you telling yourself that keeps you focused on the negativity?
2. What will you have to give up to leave the painful associations behind?
3. What will you gain from leaving the pain behind?
4. Who benefits from you staying in pain and self-pity?
Usually what folks are telling themselves is that fundraising is begging. Overcome that argument this way. What they think they’ll have to give up is freedom from an onerous chore. Overcome that argument this way. What they need help understanding is that they’ll gain a boatload of satisfaction by helping others to enact their values. You can help them become inspired this way. In the end, it should become abundantly clear to everyone that when board members don’t engage enthusiastically in fundraising, no one benefits. It’s a lose/lose. But it’s so easy to turn it into a win/win once board members understand the very special role they play
IV. DISCUSS THE BOARD’S LEADERSHIP ROLE
A. If they weren’t recruited to do fundraising, you must spend time apologizing and letting folks know that times have changed. All boards have a fundraising responsibility, and you can discuss the numbers of ways in which they can fulfill this role. I’d love to see them all become askers at some point, but you can begin with ambassadors and advocates.
B. Make it fun! Talk about the games board members must play. Maybe even play a couple of them – get creative!
V. GIVE THEM TOOLS TO BOOST CONFIDENCE
A. Have a sample script.
B. Discuss ways to overcome common objections.
C. Clarify what to do to follow up.
D. Role play. You can have staff do a mock solicitation, ask for volunteers to role play a solicitation, or ask folks to pair up and solicit each other. Then ask folks to comment on what worked; what didn’t. Ask them what they learned.
VI. DISTRIBUTE ASSIGNMENTS
Strike while the iron is hot! Now that you’ve inspired your board, you want them to move forward immediately and inspire others to join them. So, in advance of your session, be sure you’ve prepared some Donor Assignment Cards (usually your computer database will have a program for this) you can distribute to your volunteer solicitors. Give them a folder that has:
- Donor Assignment Cards (be clear about the amount they should ask for, and the purpose of the gift; also assure there is no confidential information on the card).
- Sample Script/talking points
- Quick Facts At a Glance
- Note paper/envelopes so they can send a personal thank you if they get a commitment
- Instructions: What to do next/how to report back to staff.
Now… schedule your board “inspiration” session. Get it on the calendar!