The responsibility of a non-profit board of directors to engage in fundraising is a frequent source of tension between non-profit staff members and boards of directors. The staff often thinks the board members should do a better job of raising money for the organization and board members resist. Why? Here are some possible reasons for board resistance to raising money and some suggestions to help overcome the board’s reluctance to ask for money.

Reciprocal Giving
Board members are often asked to go through their address books and create a list of people who they are willing to ask for a contribution. While this seems like an excellent technique, it puts the board members into a position of the reciprocal ask. In other words, if you send a letter to John Smith asking for donation, the chances are high that John Smith will soon be asking you for a gift to his organization.

Although this is not a problem for board members who give to many organizations, it may be problem for people on a limited budget. Keep this in mind when asking your board members to solicit their friends.

Fear and Embarrassment
Money is a sensitive subject. Asking other people for money, even for a well-deserving organization, is a difficult task. Although it is far from “begging,” many people feel embarrassed to ask others for money.

Don’t try to try sweep this factor under the rug. If possible, arrange for a board training session where this issue can be put on the table and discussed.

Engage the board in the organization’s fundraising planning. Just don’t show up at a board meeting and tell people it’s time to raise money. The more that board members know about the reasons for raising money, the better they will be able to do it.

“I Don’t Know What to Do.”
Board members are volunteers. Like all volunteers, they will perform better if they are given clear instructions and goals. It’s the job of staff or lead volunteers to make sure board members have the information and training they need to be effective fundraisers. Be supportive, provide plans and materials, and create realistic targets and goals.

“I Didn’t Know I Was Expected to Raise Money.”
If you hear this statement from one of your board members, you have no one to blame but yourself. This is why a good orientation program for new members is important. Be sure that your expectations for fundraising are clearly stated when you recruit a new person to your board.

Should Every Board Member Raise Money?
Every board member should participate in fundraising to the extent of his or her ability. Everyone on your board of directors will not be wealthy and well connected and, in fact, they shouldn’t be. It’s important to have a board that represents your community and the stakeholders in your agency.

Although every board member will not be equally involved in fundraising, it is important that every board member make an annual personal gift to the organization. One-hundred percent participation in a board fundraising drive will signal to funders that your board cares about your organization.

Adapted from
The Management Assistance Program for Non-profits from Non-profit Fundraising and Grantwriting