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Ideas that work: Engaging board members in stewardship first

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Susan U. McLaughlin

Susan U. McLaughlin

Susan U. McLaughlin

When recruiting members to serve on your board, it’s a best practice to provide a job description that states the duties, qualifications and responsibilities of board membership.

In addition to attending meetings, articulating the organization’s mission, providing governance and fiduciary oversight and making a gift, board members must be an active  participant in raising money.

And that is where you might find the most reluctance and resistance from your board.

Your annual goals are set and board members are receptive to your Fundraising 101 pitch and how they can support your organization’s efforts.

But repeated requests to board members for names of prospective donors or for them to arrange for a personal visit with the prospect garner no results. How can you help your board members get past the fear of asking for money?

Instead of pushing your reluctant board members into cultivating and soliciting donors, ease them into fundraising at the stewardship phase of the donor lifecycle. Engage your board members in a simple thank you or stewardship program.

The impact of a board member’s thanks

Author Penelope Burk provided study results in “Donor-Centered Fundraising,” which suggests that 95 percent of study donors would be very appreciative if a member of the board of directors called just to say thank you within a day or two of receiving their gifts.

Additionally, 85 percent of individual donors and 100 percent of corporate donors said this would influence them to give again to the organizations that made this gesture.

Engage your board members and put these statistics to the test by creating your own donor thank-you program.

Use the power of your constituent relationship management database to identify donors to involve in the program.

Be sure to code the constituent record so you can track donors and their responses to future solicitations.

You want to be able to compare average gift levels between donor thank-you participants and non-participants as well as their rate of response, promptness of response and long-term giving.

The board member’s role in the program

The intention of the donor thank-you program call is for the board member to only offer thanks for the donor’s most recent gift.

Prepare a call sheet that provides the donor name, phone number, gift date and whether it’s the donor’s first gift.

Include information you want to track in your database like checkboxes for “spoke to donor” or “left message;” for the board member to gauge the donor’s response to the call; and for other donor comments.

Include a simple script: “Hello, Ms. Donor. This is Jack Green. I’m a member of the board of directors at Community Hospital. I’m calling to thank you for your support of our hospital. We received your recent gift, and I wanted to let you know personally how much we appreciate it.”

Finally, solicit feedback on the program from your board members. You and your board members may find that they enjoyed this fundraising experience.


Susan U. McLaughlin, CFRE, is Blackbaud Principal Consultant for Healthcare & Human Services.

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