Asking for donations can be intimidating. That’s one of the reasons that having your board members ask each other is a nonprofit best practice.

I would never ask anyone for a donation without making my own donation first. I want to put my mouth where my money is, and I’d rather ask people to “join me” in making a gift.

Most nonprofit board members that I’ve met can agree with this, in theory. When reminded that they should be making their own gift to the organization, a gift that is personally meaningful to them, they will step up and make a donation. But will they ask others to donate?

As I have shared in a previous blog post, there are some board members who simply will not make the ask. There are other ways that they can contribute to the fiscal health of the organization. However, I do think that every board member should at least TRY to ask for a donation. It’s sort of like what I always say to my daughter: It’s fine for you to decide you don’t like something. But in order to make that decision, you at least have to give it a try.

In suggesting that every board member try to ask someone for a donation, I’m not talking about a mass email or a social media post. I’m talking about a one-on-one, face-to-face conversation.

Scary, right?

Asking someone for money should be approached with reverence and respect. It also can be approached with a sense of friendship, shared values, and (believe it or not) fun! I understand that it can be a terrifying idea for those who have never done it before. Which is why I like to suggest that board members practice by asking one another for donations.

Here’s why board members asking one another is a best practice:

If every board member is making a gift to the organization, that’s fantastic! However, if board members are “self-soliciting”, or just making whatever gift they feel like making, your organization could be missing an opportunity; a board member with $5,000 giving capacity might be making a $500 gift.

Asking for gifts can be scary, especially if you’ve never done it before. If a board member needs to practice this skill, why not practice it with a friendly audience? If a board member asks another board member for a gift, it won’t matter if they stumble over their words, forget to say something, or stutter and giggle out of nervousness. The two board members can bond over the experience! And they can offer each other friendly pointers and tips.

How do you orchestrate the process?

Ideally, you would set up board members of similar giving capacities to solicit one another (in other words, you wouldn’t have someone who will likely give $100 soliciting someone who will likely give $10,000). Or, you have people from similar backgrounds, social circles, or paths to the organization solicit one another. However, this isn’t a deal breaker. If you don’t have those kinds of matches available, just pair people up who you think would be compatible.

It might not necessarily be a “two-way ask.” There might be a board member who has already made their annual gift asking another board member who has not done so yet. Or, after the first ask happens, the board member who was just asked for a gift can say “OK, now let’s talk about your gift to the organization! Would you consider increasing your gift this year?” This probably would not happen in a “real life” scenario, with board members out in the community asking for donations from people in their networks, but in this situation where board members are asking one another, it’s just part of the process.

Just Do It

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The thing about doing this is: you just have to do it. Board members should have an opportunity to practice this skill – the process of asking for donations – with a friendly and understanding partner. Who better than a fellow board member?

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