Capacity Building Series: Learning About Your Board & Growing Board Fundraising Engagement 

When it comes to getting your board engaged in fundraising, it’s important to consider who is on your board and why they’ve joined. Understanding more about your board members, such as why they are inspired to serve on your board, could indicate how they can support your organization’s fundraising strategies. Learning what inspires people, especially board members, can lead to higher engagement and enthusiasm from your board and cultivate stronger partnerships between staff and board members.

Who is in the seat? How to prepare your board to make impactful and meaningful decisions. 

First, let’s think about who is on your board. Boards are unique and have different dynamics—they vary in size, service term requirements, qualifications needed to serve on a board, communication styles, giving and receiving feedback, emotional intelligence, etc. Consider the diversity of your board when it comes to race, ethnicity, gender, age, geography, personal and professional backgrounds, etc. Does the diversity of your board reflect the community your organization serves? How can the diverse perspectives of board members be utilized to further your organizational mission? Could your board be more diverse? If so, how? These can all be helpful questions to reflect on. Diversity can bring a lot of benefit to the table through knowledge, different perspectives, lived and living experiences, connections, and more.

Every organization has different expectations of board members. For example, boards may have policies regarding minimum financial contributions (100% board giving, for example) or not have any policies at all about fundraising. Be up front about your expectations as your organization continues to recruit for new board members. When new board members join your organization’s board, prepare them for success. This could entail providing your board bylaws (if you have them), implementing a service agreement, and most importantly, providing trainings to board members about their roles and duties, fiduciary responsibilities, fundraising expectations, etc. When conducting the trainings, provide as much clarity and consistency as possible to get everyone on the same page. When it comes to fundraising, also keep in mind that board members who come from corporate backgrounds might need a general education about how nonprofits work and how they are different from for-profits. 

It can also be helpful to think about committees on your board. What are the committees, if any? Does your board have a fundraising/development committee? Having committees can help drive focus, action, and progress toward your objectives.

Why do they care? Aligning with your organization’s board 

Devote time and connect with individual board members to understand why they joined the board. Their passion for the organizational mission is what they have in common with you, your staff and other board members; lean into this shared connection. Board members are natural advocates of the organization and its mission, which organically leads them to engage in fundraising efforts. When board members are having conversations with people about something they care about (your organization), it can feel a lot less like work or a hassle, and more like speaking from the heart.

Creating the Foundation

Once you’ve connected with your board members and built strong relationships, it’s time to lay the foundation for your board’s engagement in fundraising. 

Here are some steps you can follow to build that foundation:

  1. Make sure that all members are clear on the board’s fundraising
  2. Develop a fundraising plan for your organization with input from both board and staff. 
  3. Dispel early on any myths or concerns your board members may have about fundraising.
  4. Be clear that asking for money is not the only fundraising task that board members can be involved in. 
  5. Make the fundraising ask easy by thoroughly preparing your board members and providing them with relevant information they can communicate to prospective donors.
  6. Provide your board members with fundraising training/assistance.
  7. Set up a board development committee with orientation & training about board members’ duties, fiduciary responsibilities, fundraising, etc.
  8. Provide each board member with a concrete opportunity to contribute to the organization’s fundraising efforts.

Check out the board vs. staff responsibility checklist in this resource below from Community Change! It could help your organization gain more role clarity between board and staff members. Sources: and Community Change

You might also want to consider what your policies for board members are when it comes to board member donations/contributions. There are at least two common issues with this type of policy because it can:

  1. Exclude people with fewer financial resources, who might not be able to meet that minimum, from serving on the board.
    1. Limit the amount given by board members who are affluent and may interpret that minimum as the maximum. A board member who may have been prepared to give $10,000 might see a $1,000 minimum and only make the minimum required donation. Source:

Remember: your board members are fundraisers, advocates, supporters, and advisors that champion your mission. Given that there is a natural partnership that boards and nonprofit staff can maximize, fundraising is simply an extension of that partnership. Getting your board engaged in fundraising might not always be easy, but it can be as simple as starting there.