8 Ways to Inspire Your Board to Fundraise

Your board of directors is your hub of leadership. But as a fundraiser, you’re staring down the barrel of a difficult problem: you can’t seem to motivate your board.

The good news is that even the most difficult board can be inspired to fundraise with the right tools. Here are eight ways to get your board excited and engaged in your fundraising campaigns.

1. Set Expectations

The first step happens before your board members become board members: setting expectations for both sides.

If you expect board members to fundraise, you should communicate this expectation before they become board members. In other words, no board member should sign on without a clear understanding that they will be expected to fundraise.

This might turn away some would-be trustees, but the trustees you get will be more effective. They all enter into your board knowing they’re going to fundraise–and eager to do it.

2. Set Goals for Each Board Member

That said, every board member is different, with their own strengths and their own networks. With that in mind, each board member should have a unique set of goals matched to them.

While the board will have overarching goals for the month, quarter, and the year, each board member should have their own goals clearly delineated for those periods. This helps board members know what’s expected of them so that everyone has a clear metric of success.

3. Recognize Why They Joined Your Board

The best way to set effective goals for your board is to know each trustee. And that starts with understanding why each board member joined your board in the first place.

There are plenty of good reasons to join a nonprofit board, and every board member has their own. By understanding what those reasons are for each member, you can tap into their passions and turn them into motivation to fundraise.

4. Personalize Relationships

Keep in mind, however, that the previous technique goes hand-in-hand with making your board relationships more personal.

For board members, this should be more than just a job. It should be a passion, something that leads them to people they enjoy spending time with. The first step to getting there is knowing who each board member is as a person.

The key is to find ways (big and small) to get board members more engaged. Maybe that’s sharing a client story that connects them to the mission. Maybe that’s out-of-work parties. Whatever it is, look for opportunities to bring your board closer and recognize them as people.

5. Get Clear About Everyone’s Roles

However, recognizing board members as people also means understanding what they’re here to do. From a fundraising perspective, that means getting crystal clear on every board member’s role.

This means more than recognizing each board member’s title, though that’s a good place to start. You have to recognize and clearly delineate what each board member’s responsibilities are in connection to their role. The reality is that many board members may be disengaged because they don’t understand their role in the organization, which can be resolved with clarity.

It’s also important to give board members a say in their responsibilities as much as possible. This will help ensure that they’re doing work that engages them, which means they’re more likely to do it and deliver great results.

6. Train Your Board Members

That said, board members don’t spring out of the ground fully-formed and ready to fundraise. Many board members have never directed fundraising efforts before, which makes it harder for them to know what they’re doing if you simply drop them in the sea without direction.

With that in mind, take the time to train all of your new board members–and refresh training for established board members from time to time.

Seasoned fundraisers should teach your board members how to fundraise successfully, as well as establishing best practices and expectations within your organization. Allow ample time to answer questions, and don’t be afraid to explore what that will look like for your board members in real terms. This will make it easier to understand what their fundraising responsibilities in the wild will actually look like.

7. Have Strategic Meetings

Training sessions should not be the limit of meeting structure. In fact, they ought to be the norm. The more structured your board meetings are, the easier it is to be strategic and stay on track.

Think about all the tedious meetings you’ve sat through in your life, the ones that sapped your attention and made you want to go to sleep. Your board members are no different, and your board meetings should be structured with this fact in mind.

Keep meetings short–no more than 90 minutes at most. Have a written agenda, create a timeline, and stick to it religiously. This will help board members feel like each meeting is productive, which will help them stay engaged even in subjects that don’t interest them.

From a planning perspective, don’t hold meetings for the sake of holding meetings. Think about what you want the meeting to get across and how to do it, then structure your meeting accordingly.

8. Lead By Example, But Let Them Lead Too!

Last but not least, always lead by example–but give your board members space to be leaders in their own right.

Don’t be afraid to be pushy about involvement, but don’t irritate your board either. In the end, the board is the one who should lead. Your job is not to lead per se, but rather to model the type of behavior you want to see in your board members. Once they see your enthusiasm, that energy will be infectious.

Inspiring Your Board in Your Campaign

Your board is in many ways a microcosm of fundraising: in the end, it’s all about people. If you can leverage your people, you can fundraise successfully.

At BrightDot, we know that fundraising campaigns are all about connecting the dots–your people and your network of relationships. That’s why our method is built around people. Ready to take a smarter approach to fundraising? Get in touch today to find out how we can change your campaigns for the better.


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