All development officers know how important it is to engage their Board members and other key volunteers in the fundraising process. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to get a solid rhythm going with Board members to energize the solicitation process. Here are six suggestions for ways to move solicitations to a faster track.
1. FOCUS ON NEW BOARD MEMBERS WHO ARE CONFIDENT AND COMFORTABLE WITH NEW CHALLENGES
Concentrate on key Board members who have the highest potential to succeed. Then make a special effort to engage them. Suggest a one-on-one meeting, separate from a more formal Board setting, at their office, club or favorite restaurant for breakfast. This setting will allow a broad discussion of the need to accelerate solicitation activity and to express the need for partnerships between development officers and Board members.
2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Your Board members will appreciate your thorough research on your suggested prospects and should come away with a feeling that the solicitation amount proposed is well within the prospect’s capacity. Integrate suggestions for creative gift packages, which include real property and planned giving vehicles as appropriate. Anything you can do to build the confidence of your Board member that the solicitation will succeed will enhance your relationship.
3. LOOK FOR POSSIBLE EARLY SUCCESSES
Board members and other major gift volunteers tend to be very success oriented. Help them succeed in their fundraising by matching them up with prospects who seem ready to make a significant gift and who appear to be a good match with the Board solicitor. Early success in any development initiative builds confidence and often leads to even greater and more significant support.
4. PROPOSE THAT “EXPERT WITNESSES” JOIN KEY SOLICITATIONS
Board solicitors often need and appreciate the added expertise of the President, senior financial officer, department head, senior physician or the appropriate development officer on a solicitation call. These individuals can effectively make the case for the project or program under discussion and can show the potential donor first hand the vision and commitment of the leadership team to the initiative under discussion.
5. ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES
Sometimes solicitations do not turn out the way everyone expected. Be there for your Board member when this happens. Review the way the solicitation played out and develop a plan to get the process back on track. Sometimes it is best to temporarily suspend the solicitation and move on to better prospects. Your candor, realism and focus on the future will win the respect of the Board member and will cement your partnership.
6. CELEBRATE SOLICITATION SUCCESS
Show your Board solicitor how pleased you are with this successful achievement on his or her part... be sure to see that all key Board members and staff know about this success. Follow up with appropriate communications and see that this gift support leads to new Board solicitations with similarly positive results. Utilize this accomplishment to further build partnerships with your Board.