Get creative for board fundraising engagement

For those of us who have served on arts boards, or have been staff in an organization with a board, we all know the typical responses to the idea of fundraising: fear, rejection, refusal, discomfort… Yet your board’s primary responsibilities to the organization are fiscal oversight and making deeper connections into the community that include contacts with deep pockets.

So how do you get your board engaged in fundraising without running up against a wall of refusal, or worse yet, setting up for failure?

One creative way is to tap their contacts without them feeling pushed to cold call for donations. Consider creating a list of businesses in your area that are currently NOT supporters of the organization.  Group them into business categories and put them on big paper sheets that you can tape around the room.  At the board meeting, put up the lists and give each board member a sheet of colored dots, recording who got what color.  Then ask your board to take 10 minutes and put a colored dot next to every business that they have any association with… a contact, have done business there, family connection, etc.  At some point, have them detail for you the specific contact name and title for you to write to.  Once done, you’ll have a list of board contacts at these businesses.

Now, have your staff prepare introductory letters written from the board member to the contact at the business that they know, explaining that they are on the board of this arts organization and how they value the work it does and its contribution to the local economy, education and more.  When completed, contact the board member to stop by the office and sign the letters, adding a short personal note if they wish.  Then send the letters.

About a week later, the board member should call those contacts to verify they received the letter and invite them to come see a show at your venue.  Give them a couple comp tickets and the board member should followup after to see if they’d be interested in supporting the organization, as they do, through a sponsorship, a donation, a company volunteer program or other possibilities.

So, during this process, you have helped that board member through the beginnings of making connections with potential donor businesses and made in roads with personal connections.  Hopefully the result will be increased business contributions and support.

This is just one idea for board fundraising engagement.  Obviously the possibilities are endless.  Build on this idea for other possible ways to utilize their support.  And remember, every board member should be a donor as well.  They should be giving at a level that is significant to them and their budget.  No one can comfortably explain their investment in your organization if they aren’t actually investing in it themselves.

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