When we think of Boards and fundraising, we always think about giving and asking. While it is great to have wealthy, well-heeled, and fearless Board members prepared to give and ask, that is not the easiest way to involve them. By leading with thanking and stewardship, not only will you be able to start to engage your Board in fundraising, you will be able to improve your fundraising success today and build the on-ramp for increased engagement.
Research by both Gail Perry and Penelope Burke has consistently found that engaging Board in thanking and stewarding donors can have important, and lasting impact on donor retention as well as increasing gift size. Here are three easy ways to get started. To be clear, the backbone of this idea is that it is easy for Board members - not necessarily easy for you.
The impact on donors is great so it is worth the effort. Why not suggest all three to your Board and let them choose one to test?
Thank you calls every month
This is a great way to have Board participate regularly. Take the number of Board members who have volunteered and find out the number of calls they are willing to make each month. Aim low - it is better to have 2 completed calls than 20 calls that never get done.
Each month send your Board member volunteers their list of donors who have made a gift over a certain amount. This might be $500, this might be $1000, it might be $100. Choose a relevant amount for you.
Send them the donor name, phone number and a very short script. Stress that the point of the call is to have it last only 2 minutes as it is a thank you. Be sure to remind them to introduce themselves as a Board member.
If you don't have a long list in a given month, your Board members can call monthly donors or known bequesters. By calling a few donors each month, the Board members will have a good experience and the donors will appreciate the call.
Adopt a donor
This is a straight-forward way to ensure your largest donors get regular stewardship. Take the number of Board members who have volunteered and assign them each 5 donors. So, if you have 5 Board members who volunteer, you choose your 25 top donors.
Every 3-4 months, prepare a card for each Board member to send to each of their donors. You address and stamp the envelope, you include a card for them to sign. You can include some sample language for them to write on the card. If there is a relevant news article about your organization or your cause, copy that for your Board to include in their note.
Remind them that the note is very short - literally just "Thank you for your support of [charity] Your caring support makes a big difference. Yours, [Board member name]"
I learned this strategy from a conference where the lead speaker was from Planned Parenthood of Oakland, California.
The BIG thank
This takes logistics but can be a great once a year effort - this would be particularly effective for Philanthropy Day, Thanksgiving, or Giving Tuesday. Run off 100 letters for your 100 top donors. As above, you may define this as single gift, monthly, bequesters or some combination. Then you circulate the letters to all the Board. Getting a letter signed by 10 or 20 people is a really impactful experience for a donor. Definitely work for you but also impactful.
Ann Rosenfield is a working fundraiser who has done all three approaches. She finds that the impact of Board participation is remarkable.