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Nonprofit Board Fundraising: Getting Help from the Top

Author: Sayana Izmailova
March 15, 2021
🕑 7 min read

Your nonprofit’s board is one of the most powerful fundraising assets you have.

But often our board members go untapped: either because you don’t think they’d be willing to participate in fundraising, or because it seems like they wouldn’t be able to help.

However, your board members can be a great fundraising resource when you show them how they can help and equip them to be an effective part of your fundraising strategy.

If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry!

We’ve broken it down into simple steps that you can follow to activate your board for fundraising.

Assessing Your Board For Fundraising Potential

While common wisdom says that part of being on a nonprofit board comes with some fundraising responsibilities, in reality there are many reasons why someone may be on your board.

That means that the first step when you want your board to fundraise is to take a hard look at their actual fundraising potential. If you have a board with very few potential fundraisers, it may be time to recruit a few new board members. But if you have folks with a lot of potential who haven’t quite made it happen yet, all you have to do is unlock it.

Start by taking the time to reflect on the qualities of each individual board member:

  • Who do they know/do they have contacts that may donate?
  • How comfortable do they feel reaching out to those contacts?
  • Have they done fundraising before? How often? Are their contacts tapped out?
  • Are they involved with your organization in other ways?
  • Are they self-motivated or do they always need encouragement?
  • What are their comfort levels with using technology? (This will come into play later)

Each of these questions will help you identify a couple of key traits of good fundraisers.

If you aren’t sure about how to answer some of these questions yourself, take the time to reach out and meet with your board members as well and ask them about their comfort levels and willingness to participate.

The strongest fundraisers on your board will have a wide variety of contacts with histories of donations (even if not to your organization). They feel comfortable asking someone for money. They know about your organization or have a personal connection. And they’re willing to get started on their own.

It’s unlikely that your board will be made up of folks with all of these traits. But if you can identify the strengths of each board member, you can help them rely on those strengths when they begin fundraising.

For example, if someone has been a volunteer for your organization for a long time and they are now on the board, you can ask them to share their experiences and why they volunteered. Or, you can ask them to reach out to other volunteers to fundraise. Each strength comes with resources, and it’s your job to identify those resources.

Once you know the strengths of your board, you can decide what type of fundraising you’d like to ask them to do. There are three main ways: peer-to-peer fundraising, donations/matching gifts, and donor engagement calls. Let’s take a look at each of these.

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Board Fundraising Through Peer-to-Peer

peer-to-peer fundraising

For those board members who are somewhat comfortable using technology (ie: they have a Facebook account) and are willing to reach out to their contacts, they’re ripe for peer-to-peer fundraising.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is any fundraising effort that relies on peers reaching out to each other on behalf of a cause.

Your board members are the ideal place to start when you’re trying to recruit peer-to-peer fundraisers, especially if you’re trying it out for the first time. Here’s why:

  • They are already connected to your organization and have a story to tell as to why they’re on your board.
  • You can schedule some time at your next board meeting to show them how to get their page set up, increasing their likeness to participate and feel confident.
  • This style of fundraising makes it easy for them to share your organization to their contacts across multiple digital channels and encourages donations.
  • When you activate multiple board members to fundraise, it increases social proof and encourages friendly fundraising competition.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the most powerful ways to utilize your board because it multiplies impact. If you have board members who can’t make significant donations on their own, they can use the power of community to still make an impact.


Ask your board members to set up a fundraising page, choose a goal, and reach out to their professional contacts, friends, and family to ask for donations. This could be in conjunction with a virtual event, an in-person event (when we can have them again) or as a standalone campaign.

To take it a step further, if any board members have close ties to a business or large corporation, you can also ask them to activate the company to partner with you and participate in the peer-to-peer fundraiser as well.

sos children's villages

Board Fundraising: Matching Gifts

If your board members are less comfortable asking for money from others and have the financial means to do so, it’s common to ask them to make a sizable donation.

And to help their donation go even further, you can ask them to jointly contribute to a match for your next fundraising initiative.

According to Techsoup, there’s a 51% increase in average donation amount when a match is in place, and donors are 84% more likely to donate when they feel that their dollars will go even further.

Whether you’re gearing up for an event, year-end fundraiser, simple email fundraising campaign, or have another fundraising idea, asking your board to commit to a match up to a certain dollar amount will help you significantly increase your donations and drive urgency for your fundraising initiative.

schoolyard farms

Your board will be able to see how their commitment helped inspire others and creates a much bigger impact than just the donation amount itself. Plus, this also gives you the opportunity to do a special public thank-you to your board members for participating in the match.

Here’s how Keuka College acknowledged their matching donors in their fundraising appeal:

Keuka College

Of course, you can’t use your board members as ATMs, so use this technique sparingly for special days of giving like Giving Tuesday or other large, time-sensitive campaigns.

Board-led Donor-Engagement Calls

If your board has plenty of time and motivation but doesn’t necessarily have deep pockets or wide networks, donor-engagement calls are the best way to capitalize on their strengths.

Donors love to feel special and noticed. Getting a personal call from a board member that thanks them for their donation, asks about their interests, and shares more about the organization creates that connection.

These calls are especially effective if you target donors who you would like to give more, lapsed donors, or first time donors.

Provide your board with a list of names, how much each person donated, to which campaign, and any other pertinent information. Board members can make calls on their own time, at home, as it suits them. Just be sure to help them prepare for these calls by giving them an outline for the objectives for the call and a rough script for them to follow.

Aside from saving you a lot of time and increasing donor retention, board-led engagement calls with donors help to encourage each other: they can both share why they connected to your mission.

How To Ask Your Board Members To Get Involved

The name of the game here is personalization. When a board member feels needed and wanted, they’re much more likely to agree to help fundraise.

You can make this happen by noting a few things about each board member: how do they prefer to be contacted? What are their strengths? How have they been involved in the past?

It’s also important to provide all of the information: what do you want your board member to do? What’s the time frame? Who else will be working on it? What’s the end goal? What tools will you provide them along the way?

Having a solid board training program will help you ensure that your board members know the answers as well as you do, and you can incorporate each of these answers into the ask you make to each board member as well.

The final important element of asking your board members to fundraise is to provide them with plenty of support and tools. To best equip your board members to be effective fundraisers, include a fundraising toolkit with information about the campaign, logos and graphics, pre-written fundraising email templates, a promotion calendar, and more. This will best help them stay on track to meet their fundraising goals.

You may also want to schedule a meeting to train them on fundraising strategies and ensure all of their questions are answered, and have additional 1-1 support from a designated staff member.

The important part is that your board members feel confident when they’re helping you fundraise. When your board members are asked to participate in fundraising the way that best suits their strengths and are equipped to succeed, you’ll be on your way to grow your fundraising through board engagement!


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