How to Launch a Successful Board Giving Campaign for Your Non-Profit

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Board giving is an essential component of a successful fundraising organization.  Your board should be leading your development efforts… that means that every single board member should be making a gift to your non-profit each and every year.

I have worked with many non-profits that have had trouble achieving 100% board giving.  Others have complained that they are not raising what they think they should be raising from their board of directors.  In my experience, these problems are caused by the failure to run an organized board giving campaign for the non-profit.

Why a Board Giving Campaign is Essential

One of the most common sayings in fundraising is, “People won’t give unless you ask.”  As fundraisers, we instinctively know this about our donors… if we want them to make a gift, we have to ask them to do so.  Those asks can be made in person, on the phone, through the mail, online, etc.  But in order to raise money, we need to make asks.

Yet, many non-profits forget this basic maxim when it comes to board members.  They think that because someone is on the board, they will understand not only that they need to make a gift… but also how and when they are expected to donate.  Thus, at many organizations, board donations trickle in here and there, prompted by occasional reminders at board meetings about board gifts.

If you want your board members to donate to your non-profit (and to make larger gifts), you’ll need to treat them just as you would any major donor to your organization… you’ll need to ask them to donate.  The best way to do this is through an organized board giving campaign.

What is a Board Giving Campaign?

A board giving campaign is a once per year fundraising drive that focuses on getting 100% of your board of directors to make a gift to the organization.  These gifts are “board gifts,” which are general, non-restricted donations to your non-profit that are over and above any gifts made by the board member towards your events, annual fund drives, or other fundraising solicitations.

Your board giving campaign should be run at the same time every year, so that returning board members know when to expect it and can work their board pledge into their annual philanthropic budget.

How to Run Your Board Giving Campaign

The best way to run a successful board giving campaign is to follow a simple, three-step process:

First, the board chairperson should announce the board giving campaign at a regularly scheduled board meeting.  The chairperson should go over the importance of board giving to the organization’s fundraising, and review the importance of fundraising to the overall mission of the non-profit.  The chair should also set an overall fundraising goal for the board giving campaign based on the needs of the organization and the capacity of the board.  The board should vote to approve the fundraising target to launch the board giving campaign.

Second, the board chair should send out letters to each board member asking them to make a pledge to the board giving campaign.  These letters can be sent out through snail mail, e-mail, or both.  The board members should be asked to confidentially e-mail their pledge for the board giving campaign to the board chair.  The letter can also specific a date by which payments need to be made on the pledges.

Third, the board chair should call make follow-up calls to the board members who do not respond to the letter to solicit their pledge.  The chairperson should also provide regular updates on the overall progress of the campaign to the board at large.  Ideally, the board giving campaign should last no more than 3-4 weeks and result in 100% of board members making a pledge to the organization.

The board chair is the best person to make these asks, but if necessary, this role can be filled by another member of the executive committee or by the head of the board’s development committee… or by another member.  It is best if these asks are made by a board member, rather than the executive director or development director.

Your board of directors can and should be a vital part of your non-profit’s fundraising program.  If you’re not yet running an organized board giving campaign, launch one this year.  Not only will it result in more financial support for you non-profit, but it will also help build a culture of philanthropy and fundraising leadership on your board of directors.

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Photo Credit:  Steven Depolo