Boards and Fundraising: Addressing Resistance

For almost every nonprofit, engaging the board in fundraising is a continual challenge. Given this reality, I have found it helpful to address the dynamics that underlie this virtually universal phenomenon.

The starting point must be accepting that it is not because some boards are “good” and others are “bad”, but rather that there is an inherent contradiction in expecting well meaning and committed volunteers to engage in an activity for which they have not been prepared, trained or are comfortable with.

For me, the first step is to provide board members with an opportunity to talk about the reasons why they are reluctant to engage in fundraising.

The reasons are generally some variant of the following:

  • It will damage a relationship because I will be making people uncomfortable
  • People will stop liking me because they will see me as “begging”
  • I am afraid of being rejected
  • I don’t know enough about the organization to be able to answer the questions that they might ask
  • If they contribute to my cause, I will be expected to contribute to theirs.

Board members have found the following helpful:

  1. Acknowledging that the expectation of reciprocity is real but also acknowledging that we live our lives in networks of reciprocal help, connections and support. In actuality, only a small percentage of those we ask will ask for contributions in return.
  2. Remembering that when friends or colleagues have asked us for contributions for causes to which they are committed, it actually raised, rather than diminished them in our estimation.
  3. Making sure that the ask is not the first time that their friend or colleague hears about their involvement with the organization.

This last point leads to a discussion (and role play exercises) about how to have a cultivation conversation.

  • Learn how to introduce the organization by first asking questions that help you to understand the interests and concerns of your friends and colleagues (the basic skill of sales-you can’t sell a product until you identify a need for it).
  • Make sure that board members have real life stories to tell about the personal impact of the organization.

This can lead to a conversation about board management topics such as:

  • How to bring those stories into board meetings
  • How to insure that all board members have direct contact with programs
  • The role of the Resource Development Committee
  • The data management, material and social media support that board members will need
  • The cultivation opportunities that might be made available
  • The trainings that might be helpful


With the right support, board members can come to see fundraising as an opportunity to engage others in a cause that is important to them and to develop new skills.

“Resistance is futile!”

A website that provides resources to help board members with asking. It has a free test that for board members to determine their” asking styles”

Beyond Selling Tables: Moving your Board to a Year-Round Fundraising Model.