Givers, Openers, Askers and Thankers

Although all of your board members signed on because they believe in your organization and its mission, some are less comfortable asking others for financial support. The good news is that, with some strategic coaching and confidence-building aligned to their individual skills, all of your board members can play essential – if varying — roles in fundraising.

While not every board member will be willing to ask for donations, some will gain confidence in doing so through training. We’ll call those folks ‘askers.’ Other board members may be good at introducing potential funders to the organization’s mission and staff. We’ll call those people ‘openers.’ And all board members can be ‘thankers’ deployed frequently to express gratitude on behalf of the organization, lightening the load on staff while providing a personal touch that makes a lasting impact on donors.

Askers, openers, and thankers are all a part of a successful development process. And of course, all board members should first be generous ‘givers’ who financially support your organization.

Here are some tips for helping board members succeed at becoming effective participants in your organization’s quest for sustainability and growth:

1)         Assure your askers that you will collaborate with them to give them the skills, knowledge and tools to ensure successful interactions with potential donors.

  • Teach them the tricks of the trade, including how to secure the meeting and make the ask. Arm them with talking points and written materials. If you use scripts, be sure each one is tailored for a specific prospect. Your board should fully understand the needs, programs, mission, and success stories of your nonprofit, as well as understanding your fundraising strategy.
  • Help the askers consider who in their networks might be converted to a donor. Encourage them to create a list of colleagues, relatives, and friends who might have an interest in your nonprofit or event. They also should review your organization’s list of donors to see who they know. Go over this information with them so decisions about who to ask and how much to ask for are made in close consultation with the fundraising staff.
  • Remind your board members that both small and large donations are important. Asking someone to buy a $50 or $100 event ticket is a lighter lift than pursuing a $10,000 sponsorship. (Although certainly keep the sponsorship option on the table!)
  • Assure your board members you will not send them out solo to seek support for a large or complex donation, such as a planned gift or support for a capital campaign. Instead, have them go along to shadow/observe with a fundraising team member. Even if they are taking a secondary role, be sure the board member is fully informed on the solicitation strategy so they understand your approach should they be asked to engage.

2)         Openers can introduce potential donors who they know to the askers on the board and connect them to the fundraising staff. In addition to introductions, openers can help raise funds by sharing your organization’s story, including promotion on social media, speaking engagements, and hosting small fundraising events. Let them choose which avenues are most comfortable to them, which also will help lead to success. Feeling successful leads to interest in doing more.

3)         Thankers should call donors to thank them personally for their generosity, with guidance from the fundraising staff. Studies have shown such personal contact boosts contributions and donor retention. These interactions also can help provide you with important information to gauge the level of your donor’s interest in your organization. Be sure you have a process in place for thankers to report back to you. Record this information.

Board involvement is essential for a successful nonprofit. Encouraging your board members to be thankers, askers, and openers can create engagement and help you fulfill your mission.