The summer months are 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.
Why hire a facilitator? You can definitely do it on your own by following the tips below. Still, I find often board members are more open when an outsider is brought in. They listen more. They believe more. They are more open and receptive.
Sorry, but it’s just the nature of the beast. And, since you’re going to be raising major gifts, it will be money well spent!
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 ‘fundraising’ as ‘storytelling’ moving forward? Could they maybe move from ‘fighting’ (e.g., “It’s time for me to hit your up” or “twist your arm”) to ‘inviting’ (e.g., “I’ve got a great opportunity for you” or “Would you like to join us?”)
II. PHILANTHROPY, NOT FUNDRAISING
A. Discuss why you do fundraising. To create happy endings! Make this another opportunity to frame what you’re doing 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. Talk about the need people have to enact their values and be part of something larger than themselves.
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 they’ll gain a boatload of satisfaction by helping others 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.