Securing board buy-in for investing in fundraising initiatives and tools can be a daunting task, but it’s an essential one. Nonprofit organizations, irrespective of their size or focus area, often grapple with this challenge. The board, crucial to an organization’s success, is responsible for overseeing its strategic direction, ensuring its financial health, and supporting its fundraising efforts. However, convincing them to invest in fundraising—whether that’s in the form of advanced donor databases, professional development for the fundraising team, or innovative fundraising programs—often proves to be a hurdle.
Part of the challenge lies in the fact that results from such investments are not immediately tangible. The return on investment for fundraising tools, for instance, may take a year or more to be seen, making it difficult for board members to calculate the direct impact. Similarly, investing in fundraising capacity, such as staff development or fundraising consultants, requires an upfront financial commitment that does not pay off immediately.
Despite these challenges, the opportunities that come with increased investment in fundraising are substantial. Greater fundraising capacity can lead to more significant donor engagement, higher donor retention rates, and ultimately, increased funds for the organization’s mission. Advanced fundraising tools can streamline operations, improve data management, and facilitate more personalized and effective donor communications.
Studies demonstrate these benefits as well. As described in the recent webinar, Boosting Board Buy-in: How to Get Your Board to Invest in Fundraising, two specific reference points may be helpful:
- Across all institution types, the return on investment in 2018 was 942.9 percent. In general, higher investment yields higher returns. (CASE)
- A Giving USA study found that a dollar invested in a major gift program produces, on average, $24 in revenue. A dollar invested in a direct mail program produces $10. A dollar invested in a special event produces $3.20. (Harvard Business Review)
Given these potential benefits, the question becomes: how can nonprofit professionals effectively convince their boards to make these investments?
First and foremost, it is important to remember that we’re not able to convince anyone of something that they are completely opposed to. However, we are able to help move people to agreement if we follow proven frameworks for change management and persuasion. Drawing on insights from thought leaders like Phil M. Jones, John Kotter, and Jonah Berger, nonprofit professionals can learn effective strategies to secure board buy-in for critical fundraising investments. These strategies involve understanding the board, crafting a compelling value proposition, strategically using language, and confidently handling objections. The successful application of these methods can significantly transform your organization’s fundraising capacity and impact.
Understanding Your Board: Building a Foundation for Persuasion
Begin with understanding your board members—their motivations, their concerns, and how they think about investment in fundraising. Recognize that your board comprises individuals with diverse backgrounds, lived experiences, and unique perspectives.
Creating a Strong Value Proposition
Once you understand your board, it’s time to craft a compelling value proposition. The value proposition should align with both the organization’s mission and the board’s motivations. It’s about making the board see how investing in fundraising can deliver value, whether in terms of increasing efficiency, growing donor bases, or advancing the organization’s mission.
Magic Words and Subtle Language Shifts: Phil M. Jones and Jonah Berger’s Insights
Handling Objections with Confidence
Objections are an expected part of the decision-making process. Prepare for potential objections, and address them confidently and respectfully. Jonah Berger’s advice on speaking with confidence and using concrete language can be incredibly beneficial when addressing objections. Remember that validating the other person’s viewpoint can open up a more constructive conversation.
Case Studies and Examples: The Proof of the Pudding
Sharing case studies of successful instances of securing board buy-in can be extremely persuasive. Demonstrating proven methods and results provides tangible evidence of the potential impact of investing in fundraising.
Engaging Your Board in Fundraising: An Ongoing Conversation
Securing board buy-in is not a one-off task but an ongoing conversation. By understanding your board, crafting a strong value proposition, effectively using “magic words” and language shifts, and handling objections with confidence, you can involve your board in fundraising growth.
Author: Cherian Koshy, VP of Philanthropy at Merit America and Founder of the Nonprofit Operating System
Interested in learning more? Watch our on-demand webinar, Boosting Board Buy-in: How to Get Your Board to Invest in Fundraising featuring Cherian Koshy.
Put these tips into practice by downloading our brief, Build a Case for Change: How to Pitch Fundraising Software to Your Nonprofit Board, which includes a board memo template and a board presentation template to help you prepare a top-notch pitch!
Published: June 6, 2023