Part 1- If only my Board would help

by Marcy Heim on March 23, 2018

I get an earful about Boards.

You may feel it’s going pretty well with your Board or you may not even be a part of the Board meetings (sigh).

You may be pleased with the contributions they are making – of time and dollars – or be ready to “pass the hat” and go for $5 bucks just to get to “100% Participation” for your grant application.(sigh)

I’ll take the stage to talk about this topic twice next month at AFP ICON and NAYDO. Both are in New Orleans so I’ll be there 10 days! WoHOO – Bourbon Street and Music here I come!

So let’s talk about Boards – Marcy Style and in 4 Parts.

Today – Building Trust to Begin 

Next Time – Board Bonanza – Creating a Joyful Giver

Next Time – Giving themselves and helping Make the Ask

And Finally – The Power of a Genuine Board Thank you and other shows of appreciation

You can’t do this alone. 

Raise enough money for your mission, that is.  And even if you are doing a pretty good job of it now, it’s a fraction of what COULD be raised if you had help.

And right on the top of the list to help is your Board.  After all, isn’t raising money part of each board members’ responsibilities? Yet it often feels like pulling teeth for them to give you names, get you in the door, or ask for the gift.

The thing is, our Board members and other volunteers, too for that fact, have to be INSPIRED TO INVEST!  Ideally, they are on the board because they believe in your mission, but sometimes they just want to add that line to their “community service” accolades, or their buddy sort of conned them into it saying it would be an easy tour of duty.  Or perhaps, you very strategically got them on your board because they have MAJOR CAPACITY but you are not as clear about how they align with your work.

Frankly, none of these folks are going to be much help until you foster a deep understanding of the impact you create and the role giving plays in you getting the job done.  Then you need to help them understand just how we artfully create, foster and maintain major giving relationships.

You see to even get into the Cycle you must have ‘Shared values and interests.’

So no wonder most board members find requests to open their electronic “rolodex” offensive.  Do the people they know share their values and interests in your mission?  Well, they might, or they might not. And is your Board member even engaged enough to know if THEY share the values and interests of the organization?

Step one is to find out. This may involve having a private conversation between you, the Board president and each board member to find out the level of knowledge in what you do and how interested they really are.  As you gain clarity with your board members, it is an easier next step to suggest that their friends may well share their values and interests.  After all…people like people like themselves. The best relationships grow from people who have things ‘in common.’

Now sometimes we don’t really know.  If we can help our board member understand that this can be grown over time, they will be more likely to start the conversation with you.

All judgment – real or perceived – on their friends must be removed. These beginning conversations are simply to see it there is a fit beyond, “She’s got money!”  Board members can feel pressured to bring “good names” to the table. It may be embarrassing if their friend is not interested. Yet if you never have a conversation, how do you know?

So, “Who do you think might share your values and interests in the work we do so we can sit down with and see if it’s a fit?” is the place to start. It could be the beginning of a genuine connection to you that leads to a wonderful gift. If the conversation produces a “not really my passion” answer, that is fine – no judgment on the board member or prospective giver. Leave the door open for this to change in the future, but for now, move on to the next idea.

It is all about trust….do they trust what you will do with the names you give them? If they hear you talk about “getting others to give” how does that make them feel? Even the “old boys club” is growing tired of “Let’s get into their wallet.”  All this sort of talk makes them wonder what you say about them behind their backs.

When we use language that is respectful and genuine we grow trust and confidence in the noble mission of raising money to do our good work.  The focus is on the donor and what will bring them joy – not on your organization and how the Board member can help you “hit them up.” Take a hard listen in your next few conversations with your board members – what is the language used?

This whole process also helps board members understand why Bill Gates and Oprah may not be on the list.  Just saying.

Genuinely respect your board, even if their beliefs are not yours. Be transparent with them about how you will artfully approach someone they suggest. Report back how the conversation went and celebrate those who are interested in deepening the relationship with you.

Now you are on to Creating a Joyful Giver! Thank you for taking your board on this journey with me.

Invest in JOY®



Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at


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