As professionals in the advancement field, we are regularly asked the best ways to train board members to solicit donations. The most rewarding experiences for volunteers, staff and donors occur when all parties work together and communicate openly to reach a common goal.
Here are some tips that I and others at JGA have shared with board members to help them be more comfortable with soliciting support:
Demonstrating 100% board commitment is a very powerful thing for an organization. Many donors and foundations you approach will consider the board’s level of support when deciding on their own commitment. When a board member sits down with a donor, it is much easier to ask the donor for support of the organization if the one soliciting has shown their own support first.
In fact, lean into the idea of allowing the donor to have the control. This meeting is all about the donor. Meet where they are most comfortable and make sure they know why you’re there before the meeting (no ambushes!).
A solicitor’s knowledge and connection to the donor is crucial to establishing trust and rapport with the donor. Staff should have background info for the board member, along with information on the key messages so they can walk in with confidence and a sense of purpose.
Board members should articulate to the donor why they are visiting with them. Most people want clarity. Board members should share that they are there to talk about the donor’s support for the organization. When someone is honest, it allows for their passion and emotion for the organization to come through.
The golden fundraising rule of, “if they aren’t asked, they won’t give” is said repeatedly for a reason! Once you’ve asked, be quiet and let the donor think and then respond, even if it’s a long silence.
It is critical for volunteers to follow up with staff after their visits. Volunteers should feel comfortable asking questions and relying on staff for help and in turn, share the visit experience and information gleaned from the donor.
Providing support for a mission you believe in is a truly rewarding experience and asking others to join you in that experience can be rewarding as well. With a little guidance, we can help our board members enjoy the experience rather than dread it.