Question #2: How Do I Engage My Board in Fundraising?

By Rachel Cyrulnik

[Eight Burning Fundraising Questions for Eight Nights of Hanukah continues.]

Many organizations find it challenging to identify board members who are comfortable with fundraising and therefore will make allowances for board members who won’t raise money. This puts the organization at a disadvantage because it is often board members who have the influence and network to close gifts.

So what is a nonprofit to do?

Don’t fret if you don’t have board members who were born to fundraise – they can be made!

  1. Set Goals – Set aspirational but realistic development goals when your board member starts her term. Let her know that you’ll be expecting her help in the fundraising process – if she is not ready for solicitations, she can make introductions, engage peers or accompany you on a donor meeting.
  2. Train Them – Aversion to fundraising is common, but not insurmountable. Enabling the sacred work of an organization with a noble mission is one of the most meaningful and empowering experiences one can have. As the professional, your job to share this perspective with your leadership through one-on-one conversations and group trainings.
  3. Take Them With You on a Journey – You need your board members’ help – but you need to motivate them to give it. Whenever I present to a board on their roles and the nonprofit’s expectations of them, I first connect it to the bigger challenge: As an organization, how will you get from where you are to where you need to be to realize your mission? Usually, the answer involves resource development. Making this connection for your board members creates ownership, making them more likely to care about the organization’s fundraising success.
  4. Define Roles – When I discuss board member roles, I also share the roles of all other relevant parties including Executive Director, Director of Development, and Development Committee. This helps the board member to see where they fit into the bigger picture and why their contribution to the team effort is needed.

Rachel Cyrulnik is founder and principal of RAISE Nonprofit Advisors (, a strategic development firm servicing nonprofits. Contact Rachel at