Many nonprofits struggle to meet their fundraising goals in normal times. To be sure, the coronavirus pandemic is going to make 2020’s efforts considerably more challenging.

But according to nonprofits coach Dennis C. Miller, too many nonprofits haven’t structured their fundraising efforts correctly. Specifically, too many ask their board members to be fundraisers and too many focus on their organization’s needs in their requests for donations.

“We have sometimes unrealistic expectations for our board members. We think they know things they don’t know,” Miller said during an NJBIA webinar yesterday. “Constantly reminding your board about their roles and responsibilities in fundraising is like reminding your kids to clean their room. It’s rarely effective.”

The fact is, many board members are uncomfortable in a fundraising role, Miller says, and because they don’t have much experience, it feels like begging, and makes many people feel uncomfortable. And the bottom line, generally speaking, is that board members aren’t good at it, he says.

That’s not to suggest the board does not have an engaged role to play beyond their responsibilities governing the nonprofit. Miller says board members should serve more as ambassadors for the nonprofit by participating in special events, writing thank-you notes, and talking about the group’s achievements.

On the fundraising end, he said their role should be to cultivate sources of contributions that the nonprofit’s CEO or development officer—the professional fundraisers—can ask for a contribution.

Miller also casts a critical eye on how nonprofits ask for donations. Communicating how the nonprofit has helped people in the community will motivate donors more than communicating how well an organization is run. Asking for donations to meet the needs of the people in the community is more effective than trying to meet the needs of the organization.

“People give to success not to stress,” Miller says. “People give to the needs of those you serve, not your organizational needs.”

Every organization has needs for staffing, programming, facilities and operations, Miller explains, but if you focus on the needs of the organization, your odds of success are lower than if you focus on the needs of the clients you serve.

To that end, Miller is a proponent of testimonials from clients, particularly video testimonials.

Additionally, talking about successes in the community can also do wonders for morale.

“It’s remarkable how board members can become engaged and motivated when they start to talk about the success you have,” Miller said.

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