Great board members are always great at asking for money, right? No! You can be a great board member even if you never ask for a penny. What’s more, you can still fulfill your fiduciary duty to help ensure the organization’s financial sustainability.
You care about your personal relationships and don’t want to treat your friends like ATMs, make cold calls, or get into a ridiculous cycle with a group of colleagues who, in turn, hit you up for all the charities that they are involved in. Your thoughtfulness makes you an even more valuable part of your board.
You may also be saying you don’t want to get rejected. I understand; I am so attached to WARM’s mission that it hurt to hear “no” at first.
So, don’t ask for money.
Instead, share from your heart. Nonprofits and the people we serve need you to tell your friends and colleagues about the mission as if you were talking about a great restaurant. Describe the experience and what it means to you. Your personal endorsement means more than a well-designed brochure or an advertisement in their favorite magazine. If it sounds good to them, they may want to try it, too!
Let me stop here and make a recommendation.
If you do not love the mission of your nonprofit more than your last great restaurant experience, you may be on the wrong board. First, try reconnecting with the mission by volunteering with one of the programs if you don’t already do that regularly. If it really doesn’t move your heart, I bet there is a cause out there that will. Find it and let it move you!
The world doesn’t need more asking. The world, your corner of the world, needs more board members inspiring others and building the reputations of life-changing organizations. The fundraising cycle includes a lot more activities than asking. We tell the story, build relationships, and appreciate our wonderful supporters. Asking is a tiny – but critical! – part. There is a lot more to do and here are some tips to help get it done:
- Don’t memorize the tagline or worry about getting the stats exactly right. The best way to talk about the mission is to speak from your own perspective.
- If they have questions you can’t answer, that’s great! A staff member can follow up with them and right away they meet another person who’s committed to the cause.
- Connect the mission to current events to insert it into everyday conversation. For example: “The cost of housing is skyrocketing in our area. Fortunately, WARM can help families stay in their home even if don’t have the resources to make costly repairs. It is a very efficient way address the affordable housing crisis.”
- Share, like, and comment on your organization’s social media posts.
- Take a current donor for coffee and learn why they give. Help them feel like a part of the family.
- Make phone calls or send handwritten cards to donors to thank them for their commitment and remind them of what a difference they make. This is especially impactful if something extraordinary has recently happened – an award, a new office, an ambitious goal reached. You are reaching out to share the great news personally.
- Go on a visit with the board/staff member who is doing the asking. Share your experience to enhance the conversation.
- Host a party or dinner in your home and invite a staff member to give a short presentation about the mission.
- Recruit a volunteer team if applicable to your organization. Encourage them to help purchase materials for the volunteer event.
- Talk to the person who handles corporate philanthropy in your company; set up a meeting with them and the director of the organization.
Your enthusiasm will be contagious and does all the asking for you! So, don’t ask for money, and see what happens!
WARM Board President Tracey Newkirk includes pictures of her volunteer experience when sharing what WARM means to her. She sums up the mission in her own words: "To ultimately help our seniors, veterans and single moms have the ability to remain in their homes by completing repairs and accessibility upgrades to ensure their homes are safer."
JC Lyle has served as WARM’s Executive Director since January 2009. Under her leadership, WARM's annual revenue and productivity have more than quadrupled. Prior to working in the nonprofit sector, Lyle worked at McKim & Creed on subdivision design, rezoning and permitting throughout coastal North Carolina. Lyle earned her Master of Business Administration from UNCW's Cameron School of Business and has presented workshops on affordable housing issues and nonprofit management at state-level conferences. Lyle serves on the Planning Commission for the City of Wilmington and the North Carolina Housing Partnership, the board that oversees the state's housing trust fund. In 2012, Lyle was named Wilma Magazine's first Woman to Watch in the Nonprofit Category. In 2014, she accepted WARM's Coastal Entrepreneur Award in the Nonprofit Category, given by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In 2018, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Cape Fear Chapter named her Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year.