Jumpstart Board Fundraising Engagement

By Miquette Thompson, MNA, CFRE  As the new year begins, fundraising professionals will be compiling reports for their organization’s Board of Directors that recap and reflect upon the development efforts in the prior year, and the performance of year-end campaigns.

Year-end reporting can serve as the perfect segue in helping board members ease into the important work of donor engagement. Successful engagement and stewardship will lead to successful fundraising.

Jumpstart conversations with board members about their involvement in donor engagement and stewardship with some of these reporting tactics:

  • Calculate, present and discuss donor retention rate. One of the most motivating numbers board members can see is your organization’s donor retention rate, especially when paired with the reminder that it is always more expensive to acquire donors than to retain them. The discussion on donor retention can very naturally lead to a conversation on the importance of stewardship, in which board members are able to play a very direct role.
  • Report on campaign return on investment. Reporting on the cost and return of specific fundraising campaigns is a great way to “myth-bust” ideas that your board may have about what’s driving fundraising success, and also help them refocus on the importance of building relationships with donors, especially major donors. If you feel that your organization puts too many resources and too much energy into certain campaigns or appeals, this is a great context in which to have that discussion. It is also a perfect time to reinforce that sustained major giving is rarely something an organization acquires through expensive appeals and collateral, but rather through strategic engagement, which the board can help with.
  • Call out a story of great stewardship and/or lapsed donor re-engagement. One of the best ways to help board members see the tangible value of donor engagement and stewardship is by providing actual examples of how engaging donors beyond solicitation can lead to increased giving or re-engaging a donor. In your fundraising reporting, tell a story from last year in which stewardship has had a positive impact on a donor’s relationship with your organization, and explain how board members have a key role to play in stewarding donors.
  • Verify relationship tracking and reinforce the importance of relationships. After trying your best to personalize your year-end appeal, are you still unclear on which of your organization’s board members have existing relationships with certain donors? As part of your year-end report, pass around a list of all those who were sent an appeal letter, and have board members indicate the people with whom they have relationships. One of the first steps toward better donor stewardship is determining appropriate relationship management by identifying existing relationships between board members and donors.
  • Introduce self-assessment to identify training needs. Many boards hold retreats, planning sessions or set collective goals in the first quarter of a new calendar year. This timing provides an opportunity for development staff to introduce the concept of board self-assessment if it is not already taking place. If it has been challenging to get a sense of what training might be needed to increase participation in fundraising activities, inviting the board to include a fundraising-focused self-assessment in their board retreat or goal setting is a good way to gain greater clarity.

By using these strategies and truly embracing stewardship, board members will begin to build meaningful donor relationships that are key to an organization’s fundraising success. Contact us, we're here to help.