What Are Your Board Members Going Through?


I’ve had 3 conversations this week where we’ve ended up moaning about charity Board Members and Trustees. Now I’m a big fan of moaning…as you know…and I think it’s a healthy and fulfilling past-time that helps us bond. But coming out the other side of a good moan we need to take positive action to make change.

So how do we get Board Members on-side with fundraising? How to we get them to be more supportive? And how do we get them to do our bidding?

It starts with putting ourselves in the shoes of these volunteers and asking ourselves what are they actually going through?

Let’s start by remembering that they are actually humans. They have the same insecurities, thirst to be liked and are afraid of making a d!ck of themselves. They don’t necessarily know how they have ended up on this Board – they were probably doing a favour for someone, trying to build their experience, get out and meet people, and want to add something to their personalities that they can be proud of. Oh…and they care about the cause…but since joining a Board isn’t always the best way to help it’s safe to say there is more to their story.

Whatever the reason they are now caught in the midst of a sh*t storm of e-mails, governing documents, and meetings and requests that go way beyond that ‘few hours every couple of months’.

They can’t be paid for this (another handicap on the sector) and so it’s natural that your request gets pushed to the bottom of their to-do list, after earning money and spending time with loved ones and just trying to get through life.

So is it any surprise they don’t rush to your stupid Harry Potter Quiz fundraiser?

Fundraising is not why they got in to this…so they’re almost certainly not going to be the dream fundraiser you wish for. But fundraising is their responsibility…so let’s manage them successfully and do everything we can to get them to support key parts of your role.

How do we do this?

  1. Ask one person for only one thing, at the right time.
    If you send an e-mail to more than one Board member they’ll assume the other members are going to do it. So send individual and personalised e-mails (that’s good fundraising, right?). And only ask them to do one thing at a time…hold their hand through the journey. Give them sample text to copy and paste, give them scripts, share sample recordings and writings, give them specific names…whatever you’re asking them to do: be specific and simple.
  2. Market to them – don’t just ask.
    They’re a segment of your database…so treat them as such. Consider and plot the ‘journey’ you want them to go on and actually implement it. And don’t just get in touch when you need something…still work through the ‘ask / thank / report’ cycle.
  3. Meet them individually.
    People respond better to you when you treat them like individuals. Take them out for coffee on a regular basis and get to know them. Let them get to know you. People are easier to figure out and motivate when it’s just you and them. They’ll be more likely to help you and your more likely to figure out the unwritten dynamics of the board.
  4. Work with their strengths.
    Don’t try to get them to do something they’ll hate. They’ll just resent you for it. Instead, work with their strengths and make the most of them. That might be fundraising. Or more likely it’s an aspect of fundraising: introductions, networking, writing testimonials, speaking at events, interviewing volunteers, writing thank you cards…whatever.
  5. Reconnect them to their passion.
    Board meetings suck…they’re in your free time, they’re generally pretty boring, and there’s rarely any decent biscuits. So try and add some spark to their Board-lives and introduce them to beneficiaries and donors, share testimonials, make them feel like VIPs…figure out why they care about the cause and remind them continually.
  6. Join A Board.
    The best way for us to change the sector is from the inside…so consider joining the Board of another organisation. It’s great experience, gives you a new angle on fundraising, and is good for networking. Boards are desperate for members who know anything about fundraising…so go and lead by example. I promise you you will unlock a new level of understanding and empathy for your employer’s Board and massively improve the way you ‘manage up’.

Looking for other ways to motivate your Board and ‘educate’ your Board members? Talk to me about my Fundraising Workshops for Boards or get them in to one of my team-building Fundraising Escape Rooms.

Leave your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.