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Engage the Board in Your Nonprofit Campaign

The majority of the thousands and thousands of nonprofit organizations run their annual fundraising campaign near the Christmas holiday season. Donors to these campaigns receive several appeals from several nonprofit organizations at the same time. It’s not uncommon to find a pile of correspondence from an array of nonprofits on a table or desk, or in a box near the table or desk, awaiting action by the donor. Nonprofit leaders want to move up the priority list of the prospective donors they’ve contacted.

We know that nonprofit organizations use e-mail, frequently with a management tool like Constant Contact, to reach some of their donor prospects in this more cost-effective way.  The data indicates that the donors who respond to an electronic appeal over a delivered mail appeal, trend younger (Generation X or Y) and their average gift is usually bigger than via delivered mail.

Staff and volunteers responsible for managing or overseeing the annual appeal can get a fundraiser’s edge by involving board (and other volunteer) members in the process.  Doing this effectively can bring in more donors, more dollars, and result in engaging more people in your nonprofit mission.

You may already do some or all of these things. It doesn’t hurt to do an inventory of the steps you’re taking to maximize return on your campaign investment.

Thank the donor. Set up a system that provides varying kinds of “thanks” to varying levels and kinds of donors. Ask board members to volunteer to call five-to-ten donors to give a personal thank you. Ask some board members to write thank you notes to some of your donors. If they recognize names on the donor list, it can be most meaningful for that donor to hear from a friend or acquaintance. The thank you should come two but not more than seven days following the gift. This is donor stewardship.

Follow up to non-responders. Cull through the list of people you mailed/e-mailed to. Are there non-responders who should get a follow up note, asking for a gift?  Engage the board in this process. Particularly if there’s a January, 2011 board meeting coming up. A person on staff with good organization skills ( are you using a project management tool?) should have responsibility to handle this including follow up with board members.  Pre-prepared notes, pre-addressed envelopes can be at-the-ready.  Board members scan lists of donors (for thank you duty) and non-responders for personal follow-up.  Individual board members take material with them, agree to follow up in a prescribed time line, and know there’ll be a follow up from staff to see how it’s going.

First steps up the Donor Pyramid. Engaging board members in these campaign fundamentals helps prepare them for next steps. Developing a comfort level with helping bring in dollars for the mission and practicing good stewardship are positive experiences that can open the way to personal solicitation. We know many board members who tell us they are uncomfortable asking for donations. It feels like begging. Well, when we form relationships with people who support the mission, and start to find common purpose with individuals on the board, the next steps toward asking can feel much more logical and much less threatening.

It’s not too late to get these actions in motion!

Best wishes to you and those closest to you for the holiday season.

All success in 2011!

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