Part III – If Only My Board Would Help! Invite them to Invest!

by Marcy Heim on April 25, 2018

“Ambassadors ALL!” At my talk at the AFP International Conference in New Orleans, I kicked off with a TEST! “Stand up if you think it’s true, “Board members should not be pressured into giving or helping raise money.” I’d say it was about 50/50. Answer? True. More on that in a bit.
Reconnecting with my coaching clients, MORE Major Gifts alumni and ALL of my Artful Asker “family” at the conference was a delight! Meeting tons of new friends doing great work is energizing!

Carlos, Marcy & LoriMarcy Heim's book image in spanishA major surprise – the translation of my book into Spanish was announced in the opening session. Maravilloso! Muchas gracias Lori Gusdorf, Exec VP of the AFP Foundations for Philanthropy (Canada, Mexico and the US) and Carlos Madrid Varela, Mexico City, MX, AFP Mexico Foundation Board for this wonderful recognition. I am thrilled to serve scores of our Mexico colleagues with my book! WoHOO!

Now back to “pressuring” board members…let’s look at the ole “give it, get it or get off” description of board service. In a word, “Yuck!”

invite board to invest quote

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

Today – PART III – Invite them to Invest! Giving their gift and helping make an Artful Ask

Last time – PART II – Board Bonanza – Creating a Joyful Giver See it HERE

Before that – PART I – Building Trust to Begin See it HERE

And Finally – Next time PART IV – The Power of a Genuine Board Thank you and other shows of appreciation


Leadership and development professionals want their boards to step up and help raise money. On the other side, when I interview board members as part of my work with Board Engagement Training or Campaign-Readiness Studies, I hear this A LOT, “Cut off my right hand, but don’t make me ask for money!”

Here are FOUR key problems we must solve to do our best work with our board members in Making an Artful Ask!

Problem #1: Board members only hear “asking for money” when they hear “fundraising” (the F word).

SOLUTION: When you recruit board members, take asking for money off the table immediately – when/if they are comfortable they can engage. In my experience, THIS IS KEY to having board members relax enough to be open to learning and growing with you.

  • “Asking for money” either terrifies them or generates this brash, “I’m not afraid to ask for money. Let me at ‘em.” Neither is helpful. State this to them.
  • Tell stories about other board members and their successful donor engagement.
  • Assure members you will partner with them and have quality educational experiences (many board members say you “train” a dog…so I try to use a different word.) Often with some real skill building (not “Here’s your packet – make your calls.”) they are happy to be part of asks eventually. But more important, with this “hitting up my friends” asking business off the table they are much more help with donor engagement and appreciation from the start. And that helps YOU.
  • Share my Cycle of Successful Relationships so they see the ENTIRE relationship-building process and the key roles they play around the cycle. This is not their life work – the fundraiser is the expert.

Problem #2: Board members have experienced pressure to give in the past

SOLUTION: We must engage and invite our Board members, personally and artfully, to experience the Joy of giving themselves and to see it as a worthwhile investment.

hands holding give

  • Do YOU feel JOY when you give? Start there, friends, because if you feel obligated you will never be successful. YOU must fully take in the power and joy of generosity and ignite this in your current Board members. You must lead them on their own personal journey to the BEST gift they have ever given with your organization. You must empower and encourage current donors to hone their own JOY STORY! “Board members are expected to give” is just not inspirational.
  • “A gift that is meaningful and significant for you” are good words to use when asked by board members or prospective board members what is expected. Add that respects how long they have been involved with you, their personal capacity, other giving plans they have and their financial situation (which they may or may not share with you).
  • How are we asking current or prospective donors to be on the board? Are we “going after” those with “deep pockets?” The words we use and the authenticity of our approach will make this effort strong. I was once recruited to be on a local Theater Board. Oh yeah, it was crystal clear what they wanted me to do, but it was way too much too soon about my personal giving and expectations to ask. (And I am an expert with skill and no fear at this!) I turned them down even though it was one of my favorite organizations. I also stopped giving.

Problem #3: Board members are not development professionals.

SOLUTION: Board members must be given tools – like my 3-sentence ask – to be comfortable asking.

  • Board members are lawyers, doctors, business owners, school teachers, etc etc. They are generally NOT other development professionals. Some board members may have “been through” a fundraising effort or served on other boards, but like one very major donor/board member said at my training, “Marcy, I’ve never heard it explained like this before!”
  • My 3 sentence ask is simple and clear. “You have, You understand, Would you consider.” When YOU are clear with what YOU are asking for, your board member will be more willing to go along and help you on the call. When you help them or do some board training with me perhaps, this leads to them being comfortable doing their own asks down the road. Making an Artful Ask handout

Problem #4: We have a big training then nothing happens.

SOLUTION: Board meetings must include time for members to share their experiences – what you focus on grows!

  • Board engagement must be a part of each and every board meeting. I am fully aware that for some, there is NO development on the agenda; perhaps the development professional is not even at the meeting (yikes!). Let me get this straight – raising money is critical to your organization but not important enough to be part of the board meetings? With successful fundraising boards, a few board members share a brief note at each board meeting. I see board meetings including mission moments – great! But this is AS important, perhaps more. Updates can be, “Had this conversation” “thought about this possibility” “went with the DOD to meet with X.” They don’t need to be detailed – updates.

I have a story to tell image

  • The Board Chair takes the lead in encouraging Board giving. She shares her own giving story and encourages others. BUT an Ask by the Chair at a board meeting with no personal follow up is NOT good development work – you know this! Board giving requires the same relationship-building as every other major donor – at least 3 times a year, one-on-one meetings with each board member. In these meetings one of my clients discovered that a Board member had offered a MAJOR gift in kind to a staff member and nothing ever happened. Turned out the staff member didn’t know what to do with it. The board member didn’t want to get the staff member “in trouble.” Time went by. Luckily the regular face-to-face board member personal visit was “safe” to talk about it – high six-figure gift-in-kind resulted!

Board member giving is critical to your success. Leadership must partner with development staff (or the Board Chair if no development staff) for these key, regular, individual conversations. They deepen your understanding of what each Board member really KNOWS and FEELS about what you do. Grow their passion, invite them to invest and they will become your best partners in making an Artful Ask!

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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