12 common mistakes fundraisers make working with board members

To get started building a partnership of the willing, here are 12 things to avoid:

1. Taking board members for granted as givers or getters. Remember these volunteers still want and need to be appreciated, supported, cultivated, recognized, and celebrated – all the things you do for other donors and volunteers. Find out what each board member cares about, what motivates them, what they are willing or not willing to do.

2. Assuming group decisions or the job description will motivate individual action. Group agreements are unreliable predictors of individual action. Nodding yes is easier than sharing what scares you or saying NO. And just because a commitment is on paper doesn’t mean it’s a go.

3. Using scolding to produce action. Did that lecture work the first time? Personally, we’re not fans of public shaming. Better to encourage more of what is working than staying stuck on the negative.

4. Assuming high levels of commitment or understanding of your mission. Unfortunately, not every nominating process produces passionate advocates. Even true believers may not have enough understanding to confidently talk about your work.  Try a personal action plan to raise the commitment of each board member (see #9 below).

5. Thinking your needs are the highest priority. Family and work usually trump board responsibilities. Set realistic timelines for action and remember to follow up regularly. Do whatever you can to simplify the tasks for your over-committed volunteer.

6. Overestimating understanding or commitment to the case for support. Too many of us have insufficiently compelling cases for giving. Board members want to feel confident — especially when asking for operating funds, aka annual giving. It’s so much easier to ask when you understand how outcomes and the money line up.

7. Forgetting to share a detailed action plan, broken into baby steps. Many of us aren’t very good at project management. While the steps might seem obvious to you, most board members don’t know what to do first when it comes to fundraising. Holding their hand at every step.

8. Treating each person the same, with the same level of expectation. There are many ways board members can support fundraising, shy of solicitation. Customize activities for that unique person you’ve come to know (see #1).

9. Forgetting to create a plan for the development of each board member. Maybe that reluctant board member hasn’t had a transforming engagement with your mission. As you would for a donor, craft a development, touch point or moves management strategy for each board member. What experiences will move someone up the ladder of giving or participation in fundraising?

10. Forgetting to follow up. See #5. And #7.

11. Ignoring board roles and protocols. Be strategic. Would assistance from board leadership move a reluctant member forward?  A peer coach? And no matter their participation, every board member is due the respect of the position. Bad mouthing one board member to another is a sure way to undercut the good will you’ll need to work together.

And finally,

12. Recruiting board members for their connections without asking if they are willing to use those connections for your organization. State your desires during the recruitment process. Get the new recruit’s consent for your expectations of their service. Failure to ask just leads to disappointment.

And by the way, if you need help undoing your own bad habits, we’re just a phone call or email away.

Related articles:

Board members as fundraisers? It’s okay to have just a few.

If fundraising is a profession, why are we so angry with our amateur board members?

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