How to Train Your Un-trainable Board to Raise More Money

I’m a fan of Andrea Kihlstedt. I continue to use her book, Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work, when teaching graduate “Advanced Fund Development” at Drexel University. So, I was naturally quite interested when Emerson & Church Publishers released her latest book, co-authored with Andy Robinson: Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money.

Cover of Train Your BoardKihlstedt and Robinson have put together a book that’s different from any other fundraising book on the market. Really. As they put it, it’s “A cookbook of easy-to-use fundraising exercises” to help your board members, volunteers, and staff more fully engage in the development process.

Each of the 53 “exercises has a brief introduction, a list of ingredients, instructions for facilitating the activity, and a training tip to help improve your skills.” The authors draw the exercises from some of the best trainers in the field.

Here’s a list of just some of the “Suggested Menus”:

  • Give Confidence to the Fundraising Phobic
  • Get Everyone Involved in Fundraising
  • New Board Member Training
  • Agenda for a Full-Day Retreat
  • Train Your Program Staff about Fundraising
  • Prepare for Your Major Gifts Campaign
  • Quick and Easy: 20 Minutes or Less

Each “suggested menu” lists at least five relevant “recipes,” training exercises.

This book represents a powerful resource for any nonprofit organization. Here are just some of the benefits you’ll get from the book:

  • Without studying to be a trainer, you’ll be able to facilitate high impact, effective training sessions.
  • You’ll help your board members develop more confidence and greater fundraising skills.
  • You’ll get your board more engaged in the fundraising process.
  • You’ll gain greater insights that will help you be a more successful fundraising professional.

As Simone Joyaux, ACFRE, the internationally recognized fundraising consultant, says, “This book can help you — a lot!”

This week, I’ve invited Kihlstedt to share some of her wisdom with us. In addition, she shares a free copy of one the exercises from the book:


Are your board members chomping at the bit to go and ask their friends for money?

If your answer is a resounding “Yes,” then you must have found some magic potion or concocted a special courage drink. And the nonprofit world will be beating down your door for the recipe.

Most board members shrink at the very thought of asking their friends for money. My colleagues and I have asked them why they hesitate and here are some of the reasons they state:

  • I don’t know anyone with money.
  • I don’t want to “hit up” my friends.
  • It makes me feel uncomfortable.

But most often, board members say they don’t feel prepared. They don’t know what to say or how to say it or what to ask for.

Imagine for a minute what it would feel like if your board members were excited about asking their friends for money.

Imagine if they started calling you for the names of donors they’d like to contact.

What if — without your prodding — each of them contacted several donors a month, asked them for gifts, and were successful much of the time.

I’ll bet your job would be quite different. Not only would you be raising more money, but your board meetings would be buzzing with a sense of commitment and energy.

So, it’s worth doing everything you can to get your board members to be comfortable with and excited about helping to raise money.

There are a number of reasons why your board members don’t learn, but you can teach them.

It’s entirely possible to teach your board members to be great fundraisers, but here’s the catch:

Adults seldom learn by being told what to do and how to do it. And your board members are no exception.

The realities of training your board members (or any other adult) are these:

  • They already know a great deal from experience.
  • They are skeptical of information that doesn’t conform to what they already believe.
  • They prefer appearing smart to stupid.
  • They have limited energy and time for learning new things.
  • They generally resent being told what to do.

So, if you want to train your board to raise money, you’ve got to use a better approach than simply telling them what to do. You’ve got to be far more clever and thoughtful than that.

Rather than telling your board members what they don’t know, you’ll have to find ways to engage them in figuring it out!  Here are five strategies that work and will actually get your board excited about raising money:

  1. Get board members to share fundraising stories (both good and bad) at every board meeting. Encourage discussion about what worked and what didn’t.
  2. Once or twice a year, invite a philanthropist to a board meeting to talk about why they give and how they like to be asked.
  3. Report regularly at board meetings on how much money your board has helped raise. The old adage — what you measure is what you get — proves true for board participation in fundraising. Start measuring and reporting on fundraising results and people will do more of it.
  4. Pair board members who are less comfortable asking with those who are likely to be successful. Participating in a successful fundraising visit is a great teaching tool. Then, get the less experienced board member to report on their solicitation experience at the next board meeting.
  5. Take a bit of time (10 to 30 minutes) at every board meeting to get your board members more comfortable with asking. Give them engaging exercises to try out some of the skills they need for fundraising.

To get you started training your board, I’m including a training exercise you can use at your next meeting.

This exercise is guaranteed to get your board members to start talking constructively about fundraising.

Download “How High Will You Goand share it with your board chair or governance chair. Use it at a board meeting. Then, incorporate fundraising training into every board meeting.

If you’re interested in learning more about training your board, sign up here for Train Your Board, a blog on training. You will get two more great exercises for free when you sign up.


That’s what Andrea Kihlstedt and Michael Rosen say… What do you say?

[Publisher’s Note: From time-to-time, I will invite an outstanding, published book author to write a guest post. If you’d like to learn about how to be a guest blogger, click on the “Authors” tab above.]

One Comment to “How to Train Your Un-trainable Board to Raise More Money”

  1. Reblogged this on Flourish Fundraising and commented:
    Interesting resource!

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