Supporting Board Members in Nurturing Donor Relationships

By Susan Rostkoski, Principal ConsultantExecutive leadership, fundraising & development 

Every new fundraiser has the jitters. That’s a given—especially when those new fundraisers are board members who would rather be doing anything else than asking for money. But there are some tried-and-true methods that work and that you, as the professional fundraiser for your organization, can ensure are in place.

Passion - It’s important to reassure Board member Ellen that she has within her all that she needs to be successful and smooth at fundraising. Talk her through questions such as, “What is the passion that got you to join the Board in the first place?” “What story do you have to tell about why the mission of our organization is important to you and to our community of donors?” 

Prepare - As with anything, preparing for the “big event” (i.e., actually sitting down with a prospect), eases nerves and provides tools to help ensure a successful meeting. Work with Board member Jerry to identify a few details to help him personalize meeting and connecting with a potential donor. What is the donor’s giving history with your organization? What might impact the donor’s interest or ability to make a gift (i.e. having two kids in college)? Might Jerry and the donor know anyone in common?

Practice - Many people aren’t comfortable with role playing, but it can elicit a real breakthrough for Board member Jana. First, you play the “asker” and have her play the donor. Then reverse the roles. Awkward? Probably! Fun? Sometimes! Effective? Always! And make sure Jana knows when to stay silent, to listen, and to respond to what the donor’s concerns are, not just what she wants to say.

Performance - Assure Board member Jamiel that the meeting itself is judged less by the immediate outcome and more by strengthening the relationship between the potential donor and your organization. Of course, a gift is always a nice outcome, but assure Jamiel that getting to the right gift at the right time is more important, because then your donor feels engaged and helpful.

Pat on the back - This critical step is sometimes missed. Board member Asha will, of course, send a thank you note to the prospect. But you should also send an expression of your appreciation for Asha’s willingness to step up. Reinforcing Asha’s feeling of accomplishment will encourage her to do it again.

Planning - What are next steps? Did Board member Paul make any commitments to the donor to provide information? Is there an action step that needs to be taken now? If something needs to be done later, put it on your calendar and on Paul’s. There’s nothing more important than following up on the donor’s expectations.

Patience - Let the visit “marinate” for a while. What’s “a while”? That will depend on your relationship with the donor. But patience with the donor’s process, not your internal deadline, can reap rewards, both financial and personal. Growth of your Board member and of the relationship with the donor mustn’t be rushed, but rather nurtured, and that requires time. Each donor is different in this regard so it will be important to carefully assess this final step.

Try these with your Board members and let me know how it works.

If you’d like to chat with Susan, feel free to email her at:

UncategorizedSusan Rostkoski