In the previous post in this series, I talked about the role your board can play in inviting people to your fundraising events. Of course, it isn’t just about the invitation. It is also about your board members showing up on the day.
In this week’s post, I’m sharing my top 5 reasons why board members should also attend your fundraising events.
1: It looks good with your donors and volunteers
Board member attendance isn’t just about tactics. It’s also about optics. I’ve lost count of the number of fundraising events I’ve been to where there are no board members to be found. I’ve also spoken with friends, colleagues and other donors who have expressed their disappointment when they understand there are no board members at events for charities that they support. This can be particularly disappointing when the donor or volunteer has put an incredible amount of effort into volunteering to make the event a success.
Of course, larger organizations might be running several events in a number of locations around the country, which can make it challenging to have board representation at all of them. At larger flagship events in particular, however, donors often expect to have the opportunity to meet board members there. When they don’t attend, there is the risk that the charity is sending a message to their donors that the board is not really behind the organization’s fundraising efforts, and that they don’t really care about the organization’s success.
On the other hand, when donors get to meet board members at events it lets donors know that fundraising is important to them and, by extension, to the organization. It also helps donors to feel more valued and to have the chance to create a stronger sense of trust when they are able to connect with those in leadership positions in the organizations that they support.
2: It increases your networking and donor cultivation capacities
At your fundraising events, one your goals should be to meet, connect with and engage with as many guests as possible (at much larger events, you might want to handpick a selection of people that you will endeavour to connect with on the night).
As a result, you can identify those are most supportive of your work who you would want to thank personally for their past support. You may also recognise those who might become your major donors, planned giving donors, volunteers, and advocates in the future. Through these important conversations, you can begin to cultivate much better relationships and create a much stronger donor cultivation program. However, achieving this can be challenging when you have only a handful of staff, so this is where your board members come in.
With board members in attendance who are trained to talk with confidence with your donors about their connection with the cause and your case for support, you can significantly increase your capacity and ability to connect with most, if not all, your attendees. You may also learn more about them individually. Altogether, this will increase the effectiveness of your donor stewardship and cultivation efforts.
3: It will build your board’s sense of engagement with the cause
The other impact of having board members at your events is that it also helps you to cultivate your relationships with them. Your board members are volunteers and, ideally, donors too, yet so often they can be missed out of the donor cultivation process. Particularly, this happens if board meetings tend to focus heavily on governance and logistics. The connect to the cause can be lost, and as a result, their passion for the cause can diminish.
Your events give your board members the opportunity to re-connect with your cause and for them to learn more about what you do. They will more easily recognise and play out their role as figureheads of your organization, as well as meet staff and other volunteers who help to make the organization thrive.
Depending upon the nature of your event, they might hear stories about the impact of your work as well as perhaps meet those who have benefitted from your work. If done effectively, you can also use the event to recognise their input as donors, volunteers and leaders, therefore stewarding your relationships with them.
4: It will increase your board’s willingness to fundraise
I’ll never forget my first ever fundraising event. While I wasn’t a board member, I was quite nervous about meeting donors and venturing out into the world of fundraising. The reality was a wonderful, pleasant surprise, and was extremely gratifying. I was there to thank donors, but what I experienced was how often they were thanking me for the work I was doing with this organization!
What I realised was that donors saw me as a cog in the wheel of a charity that helped them to achieve their philanthropic goals. They truly cared about the people we helped, and the opportunity to make a difference in an issue that they cared about. From then on, I appreciated the level of partnership between donors and organizations and it was one that was gratifying to everyone.
By giving board members the opportunity to steward donors at your events, you also give them the opportunity to say thank you to help donors feel good and, in turn, to feel good themselves. In addition, when board members have a specific role to play, such as stewarding donors, they will also feel that they are having a greater impact and importance in terms of your organization’s success.
These are all things that help your board members to feel valuable and valued, therefore cementing their place in your organization and their own connection to it. As a result, there is a much higher chance of them feeling enthused to do more to ensure that the organization will succeed. Also, by giving board members a chance to meet happy donors at a fun event, they will also see that donors are not scary people, which can help them to feel more comfortable with getting more involved in your donor stewardship efforts moving forward.
5: It helps your staff to feel supported
In my experience, charity workers, from your fundraisers to your program staff, are passionate people who care deeply about their organizations’ success. As a result, they tend to work over and above in their organizations to help it succeed. Yet, charity work can be such a thankless task at times. Your board members can play a major role in turning this around.
At a recent professional development event for fundraisers, I was chatting with a fundraiser from an organization that I knew. I told her that I knew one of her board members. As soon as I mentioned the board member’s name, the fundraiser’s face lit up and she said “Yes! I met her at one of our events recently! She made a point of going to every staff member and volunteer, shook their hand, and thanked them for all their work.”
She went on to say that the board member worked as hard as everyone else, and was one of the last to leave. She said that will never forget that as well as how rare it was to even meet board members, let alone see one that is as actively engaged.
At a time when staff retention in fundraising is pretty low, board members that show this kind of approach helps your fundraisers to know that they are valued and supported in their role right from the very top leaders in the organization.
Need help with developing your stewardship strategy? Click here for my FREE stewardship checklist!
Fundraising events aren’t the holy grail in fundraising, but they can certainly play a part in an organization’s fundraising success. When it comes to engaging your board members in fundraising, their value can be significant. When used effectively, however, they can also help to contribute towards creating a much stronger culture of philanthropy not just amongst your board members, but your organization as a whole.