The board is critical to a nonprofit's success and longevity. Board members voluntarily give their time, resources, professional insight and more to support a cause they believe in. They also serve as the public face of an organization, advocating for your work and impact.
Not only do board members participate in day-to-day operations, they're needed to pull off special fundraising events throughout the year. Are you making the most of their time and efforts?
Read on for 13 simple ways board members, with nonprofit support, can become the superheroes every fundraising event needs. (One example: Did you know donors who receive a thank-you call from board members within one day of their gift give 39% more the next time they're asked?)
1. Invite major donors and VIPs over the phone.
Ensure your charity's biggest supporters know their presence would be missed at the upcoming golf tournament, gala or auction. They're a lot less likely to reject or ignore an invitation when it's personalized, from one of the leaders of your organization.
Make this as easy as possible for busy board members. Supply a sample script they can reference in the call, with all the important details on registration, ticket sales, the night's agenda and goals.
If you're holding an auction, the invitation call is also a great time to find out what items these major donors would be most interested in bidding on: ("We're interested in offering some travel packages in our auction this year. What places or experiences are on your bucket list?")
Once you know where donors want to go and what they want to do, you can choose from over 200 Winspire Experiences that cater directly to those desires—multiplying the chance of these items selling at high bids.
Limit calling responsibilities to no more than 4 major donors per person (about an hour of their time). Then keep everyone accountable by checking in on their progress at the next board meeting.
2. Invest in success.
The golden rule of event fundraising: The big annual gala or ball is not the time to play it safe. Bringing in new and exciting revenue opportunities prevents events from growing stale and limiting revenue potential.
We often get questions from nonprofit staff on how they can get their board, well, on board with new fundraising strategies. Each of us comes to the table with different priorities and backgrounds, so it's very common to encounter friction in the planning process.
Thankfully, collaboration between event committees and the board can lead to record profits.
Check out this snippet from our conversation Jennifer Nichols, Director of Institutional Advancement at a North Carolina nonprofit. She describes the resistance she met in regards to investing in event "expenses" like Winspire travel packages...
For the annual Gala, we needed a donor event where we could do donor prospecting. Large fundraising events are a wonderful opportunity to talk about our mission and vision and give them updates so they are truly insiders.
What I really had to do was convince the board about investment. Its what we talked about from the minute I got here. These people on the board are successful professionals from companies like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, so we talked about making investments in marketing efforts to grow your business.
One of the first things I did was speak to the elephant in the room, “In order to attract the kind of donors we need to attract in this town, we will have to do a rebranding campaign.” And I gave them a figure. Then I said, “I need you to make an agreement with me”—this was before I even had an office—“and I need you to take the risk. I need you to tell me now that you are willing to do that, because if you don’t, we will not attract the donors we want.”
I suspect many of our Winspire News readers can relate to this story.
Board members understand "it takes money to make money" in their own businesses, but often don't realize the exact same principle applies to the annual fundraiser. Investing in a fundraising auctioneer and offering big-ticket auction items like Winspire trips can require a big shift in thinking—and pay huge dividends.
3. Contribute (and follow through) with donations.
Every board member should be giving regularly to your organization based on their capacity. For an upcoming fundraising auction in particular, see if members can donate auction items (like a weekend stay at their vacation home, case of wine or a professional service), or underwrite the cost of a consigned Winspire trip.
Superhero board members follow through on their pledges quickly and enthusiastically, and if they commit to an in-kind donation, they provide as much information as possible. Items that aren't as described or go unfulfilled (think: heavy restrictions on a gift certificate, too many blackout dates on travel or sudden renovations on a vacation home) leave a negative impression on winning bidders.
4. Fill a table at the gala.
The need to fill up tables at a gala can keep event chairs up at night.
Board members are among the most well-connected of your organization's supporters. To be a board superhero, invite a dozen of your contacts to the event and get one of the tables filled early. Sweeten the pot by mentioning they'll be given the VIP treatment and the chance to network with peers.
Having an entire table's support takes considerable pressure off the event chair and boosts morale.
Nonprofits should let the invitation come directly from the board member. A personal invite is more impactful—and tactful—than asking them to fork over a list of associates to solicit on your own.
5. Contact local media on your behalf.
As respected business leaders, politicians, administrators and philanthropists, board members have a unique voice in the community.
Ask your board to pen articles for a local newspaper, submit press releases or even appear alongside the Executive Director for a quick segment on your local news or radio program. Simplify this task by providing a concise description of your organization, plus key details of the upcoming event and results from last year, to mention in their article or media spot.
Superhero board members use their clout to shine a spotlight on your mission.
6. Brag about your event on social media.
It can be intimidating for board members to directly solicit business associates and friends on behalf of a charitable cause.
Instead, try posting about the event on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. A social post is a great way to engage social and professional networks without having to make a direct ask, plus serves as a natural conversation starter: "Did you see my LinkedIn post about the annual gala? I'm on the board with that nonprofit, and they have an incredible night planned..."
7. Write an article for your newsletter, annual report or blog.
Offering an "outsider" perspective in your nonprofit communications brings credibility and a fresh lens to the organization.
Why not have a board member contribute to an upcoming email newsletter, publication or blog post marketing the event? They could describe how the funds raised in last year's raffle were used to build a dozen new homes or add to your full-time operations staff. They could interview someone who's benefited from your programs or facilitate a podcast with someone in leadership.
Board members need not have a degree in journalism; the idea is simply to provide a fuller picture of what you do and why the event is needed.
8. Get to know nonprofit staff and volunteers on all levels.
Your nonprofit staff, volunteers and interns may know the names of your board members by heart but never met face to face. The event planning stage is the perfect opportunity to familiarize board members with other nonprofit staff besides the Executive Director or CEO, and vice versa.
Organize a joint endeavor between the staff, volunteers and board members in preparation for your event. Great options include a kickoff party, volunteer training session, afterparty and more. Keep the atmosphere light-hearted and social.
Everyone at your nonprofit is striving toward the same goal. No matter how large or small your organization, you can foster a tightknit community and culture where everyone feels like they're part of a team effort.
9. Be punctual.
Being punctual is a basic professional courtesy, but as leaders in the organization, superhero board members can set the pace with timely attendance and participation.
Encourage board members to quickly and diligently handle all responsibilities that come with board member privileges, like arriving to meetings on time and responding to messages and phone calls within 24 hours.
10. Pitch in to achieve new ideas.
We mentioned that new revenue opportunities and fresh strategies keep your event from falling stale. On the other side of the fence, sometimes board members can overwhelm staff with creative ideas.
We love that the whole team is thinking outside the box! It's the only way to keep surprising and delighting donors.
Superhero board members keep in mind that staff have a lot on their plates with already established events. If you think a new golf tournament, online auction or crowdfunding campaign could benefit the nonprofit, by all means present those ideas, then pitch in to make those ideas a reality.
For brand-new fundraising ideas, tips and tricks, we recommend all nonprofits try out our "charity auction organizer in a box," Checklist Builder. This simple but powerful tool allows you to assign and monitor tasks for board members, volunteers, staff and more, plus contains a wealth of resources on auction best practices and time-saving templates. Signing up is 100% free!
11. Ask tough questions and offer constructive criticism.
Nonprofits rely on board members' outside perspective to point out concerns.
As a board member, go ahead and speak up if you have concerns about major aspects of the event. Don't like the venue? Think a different date would work better? Want to allocate funds differently? Your observations could save your organization from going down the wrong path and losing revenue.
Even better: After giving a critique, a super board member participates in brainstorming solutions together. Keep in mind it's difficult to suddenly change direction when planning an event. Practical remedies from the board are more than welcome to make those changes a reality.
12. Call donors to thank them after the event.
A personalized, timely and sincere gesture of thanks goes a long way for donor retention. Show supporters they are truly appreciated by having a board member reach out with gratitude.
In one study by Penelope Burk, donors that received a thank-you call from a board member within 24 hours of their gift gave 39 percent more than donors that didn't receive a call, the next time they were solicited. Fourteen months later, those donors were giving 42 percent more, with a 70 percent retention rate.
Like the invitation, make this easy by supplying a sample thank-you script they can refer to in the call. If applicable also pass along some background on the donor, the gift amount and/or designated area of your organization, and a few questions to learn more about their reasons for giving.
13. Be enthusiastic about the mission, vision and values.
Having a board member that's passionate (believes in what you're doing) and informed (cares enough to learn the organization's work and programs) is priceless. Why?
Enthusiasm is contagious!
When was the last time you offered a refresher course on the state of your nonprofit? Have staff train board members on crafting their own "elevator speech": an elegant 1 minute overview sharing exactly what you do and why you do it. Then, practice and review.
Bottom line: Board members set the tone for the whole organization. How can you help them take ownership of the event?
If you're part of the board, why not choose a few of these ideas to implement? Doing so can bring tangible, positive change.
And if you're a nonprofit staff member or volunteer, help your board become even bigger heroes. Some ideas may be new and out of their comfort zone. It's up to you to provide the training, support and gratitude they need to reach their full potential.
Finally... Superhero board members are subscribed to Winspire News! They educate themselves on fundraising best practices and get new ideas weekly, plus give their charity one more chance to WIN a 5-night getaway (worth $1,500) in their next auction. Click above or share this link with your board members, supporters and colleagues to maximize your nonprofit's odds!
Before you go, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are your superhero board members doing to improve your fundraising events and enrich the nonprofit? Let us know in the comments below!