Posted on

Stop Pressuring Your Board Members

Your fresh and eager new recruit arrives at one of her first board meetings. Although she was recruited to fill the “CPA slot,” one of the main agenda items for the meeting is, of course, fundraising. It just happens to be the time of year for the big annual banquet, golf tournament, or fund drive. Before she has even been oriented to the basics of being on the board, the new member is being asked to do the part she dreaded most. Yes, she did know this was coming eventually, and she did agree to help. So she takes a deep breath and scans her address book for her five closest friends or colleagues who cannot refuse her. After all, she has helped them in similar times of need.

Think for a moment about how it feels for her friends to be on the receiving end of one of those Asks. In most cases, those friends cannot say no. Their relationship with your board member, whether professional or personal, would make it very awkward to refuse. In their minds, their contribution is more akin to a business expense.

The times I have been “strong-armed” by my friends on other boards, I have had to say yes. But as soon as my friend goes off that board, I stop giving to that organization. It is not because it was a bad organization. On the contrary, they were almost certainly doing very good work. Had they taken the time to educate and cultivate me personally, I could have become a lifelong supporter in my own right. But in their minds, I was my friend’s contact so they left me alone, not wanting to intrude.

In terms of their love of fundraising, a random sample of board members will pretty much mirror the larger population. In other words, fundraising is just not everyone’s favorite activity. The same folks who may be brilliant at strategic planning, finance, or human resources may not feel they have the knack for fundraising. Remember, you did not initially recruit all of them for their fundraising expertise. That would be akin to asking all board members to be responsible for reviewing the annual audit in detail or securing the next piece of real estate for the organization.

On the other hand, there is a portion of the population that actually likes to ask others for money, especially when they are asking on behalf of an organization they truly believe in. Those are the board members you intentionally recruited to fill the fundraising slots. You put them on the development committee. At the proper point in the fundraising/cultivation cycle, these board members will be of great help in asking for money, but not until potential donors have attended a Point of Entry Event, received a Follow-Up Call, and been cultivated sufficiently to be ready to be asked.

As most of us have learned the hard way, pressuring board members to do fundraising does not work. Even if they say they will make those three calls to ask people for money, many never seem to get around to it. For some, this pressure leads to poor attendance at meetings. Eventually they withdraw or resign from the board feeling guilty, frustrated, or resentful.