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How do we get our board more engaged in our fundraising efforts?

Teisha Archer,
13 February 2020

We hear it all the time – “building a culture of philanthropy is integral to fundraising success”.

We know that when people see others give and witness the outcomes of supporting a worthwhile cause, they are more likely to give themselves. We have seen this so clearly in recent months with the bushfire disaster that has hit our country. People aren’t asking if you gave to support those affected by the fires, they are asking who you gave to. There is an expectation that you have given, that you have done your part.

Internally in for-purpose organisations we want to encourage this same culture of philanthropy, and it should start at the top.

Too often for-purpose organisations, who rely heavily on fundraising, are led by boards who are not engaged in fundraising. Sometimes this is because they are under-skilled in this space and sometimes it is because it simply scares them. Sometimes it is a bit of both and more.

When speaking of engagement in fundraising, I am not talking about the board overseeing strategic plans, checking the bottom-line or attending the annual gala dinner. Generally, I think our boards have these bases covered. I am talking about the active engagement required to secure a gift of significance.

So, what can they do and how can you bring them on your fundraising journey?


Begin with education. Educate them on the importance of their leadership in fundraising. That culture of philanthropy we want to see in the world first needs to be seen in our organisation. Our board should be speaking openly and supportively of our fundraising program and its importance to the organisation. Fundraising is not a dirty word. It is an amazing mechanism to connect people of means to projects and programs they are passionate about.


Take them on the donor journey. Demonstrate to your board that when they connect one of their peers to your organisation they will be treated with the utmost respect. You need to build the trust that encourages them to become more and more involved in your process. As that trust grows, ask them to go a step further in connecting a peer to your organisation, actively engaging with the prospect and eventually asking for their support.


Asking your board to give a leadership gift empowers them to ask others to join them in supporting the cause. Of course, every donor deserves respect and confidentiality. There is no need for the amount they have given to be disclosed, but they should always be asked to give a gift of significance. An amount that makes them feel proud of their contribution. Doing this will give them confidence in a meeting to clearly state, “join me in making this project happen”.


Making a financial gift is important, but equally so is identifying philanthropic prospects and making introductions to their peers. Our boards are often respected industry influencers and leaders with connections far and wide that include those that are able to make philanthropic gifts to causes that inspire them. We want them to open doors for us and make the introductions that will be required to secure philanthropic income.


Asking is hard. Especially when you haven’t done it before and you are sitting in front of a peer that you highly respect. Educate your board on how an ask is made. Role play how you expect the meeting to go (I hear your collective sighs… but it works!). Show them the background work you have done to prepare for the meeting and give them the tools for success. A successful first ask will give them confidence for many more to be made.

Building a culture of philanthropy is not only an external factor in fundraising. It is very much an internal one and it should be led by those at the top of the organisation. Your board and your executive. Take them on the fundraising journey – you won’t regret it.

  1. Gain their trust by being transparent in how you fundraise. Let them know their peers will be treated professionally and respectfully.
  2. Educate them on the value they can offer by simply opening a door and starting a conversation. Making an ask is not the only way they can support.
  3. Thank and steward them like you would any valued supporter of your organisation. Let them know how much value they add to your work.

About the author: Teisha Archer is an experienced major gifts and capital campaigns fundraising specialist member of The Xfactor Collective, and provides strategic consulting and coaching support to organisation leaders.

Need help in your organisation? We run the sector’s first specialist triage support service (our CONCIERGE) where we can help you find support from a range of services and solutions.


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