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Building a Fundraising Board: Recruiting and On-Boarding New Board Members

Filed in General Fundraising — June 12, 2019

In our blog we’ve pulled back the veil on our approach and methodologies through a largely ‘plug and play’ resources and Masterclasses so you can skillfully engage the funding partners your mission deserves.

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by Natalie Rekstad, Founder & CEO of Black Fox Philanthropy, LLC, B Corp

One of the ways Black Fox Philanthropy serves the social sector is to be an open-source on much of the content we’ve developed. We recognize that less-resourced NGOs can’t afford to engage our fundraising services. We regularly release this content via our blog, and today is one of those days! While we develop and deliver custom day-long board fundraising retreats—ranging in cost from $8,000 to $10,000 depending upon the locale of the retreat—because we are open source, we’ve included some of our content in this blog to help you support your board members in becoming more effective fundraisers. Read on!



When it comes to their boards, nonprofits are faced with a double-sided sword. Among the various leadership qualities of a successful board, fundraising is critical. For an organization to achieve its full impact, it’s vitally important that every board member is committed to fundraising. On the other side, board members may feel pressured to constantly fundraise. Volunteer boards are often filled with people who have a passion for the organization’s mission but are put off by the idea of fundraising. These board members might not have the right skills, understanding, and mindset. Often, the executive director is left to be the primary fundraiser. The Executive Director may be stretched too thinly to be fully effective on their own, leading to burnout and failure.

How do you then save your nonprofit and board from this quagmire? By creating a culture of success by recruiting members who can be effective, then giving them the tools to be successful. Nonprofits need to create a board culture of leadership with clear expectations and objectives around their role in achieving sustained success, especially when it comes to raising funds. These people understand that the stakes are high for the nonprofit’s ability to meet its mission, thrive and, in some cases, survive. 

Set the expectation that fundraising is a priority, and let board members know they will be supported in their success. The chair should be leading by example, as well. Make fundraising a part of the formal responsibilities of the board and include it in an annual orientation, ideally with some skills-building training. Have them agree to a “give or get or get off” practice. The amount shouldn’t be dictated by the staff, but the board members should have a clear understanding upon taking their position that they’ll either be donating themselves (give) or raising an equivalent amount (get or ideally both giving and getting for maximum contribution.

Do this by establishing a board donation policy that shows a high level of compliance and by asking passive members to resign or opt into an advisory role. Have the board draft the contract and sign it every year so the expectations are clearly understood and stay in the top of their minds. In the contract, the board can specify allowances for members who can contribute professional resources like political connections or legal or communication services. If you have members who don’t comply, discreetly ask them about any special circumstance that prevents them from contributing. 

It is important to also understand that many board members don’t identify as fundraisers, and prefer to hide under the table when fundraising conversations begin. Black Fox Philanthropy has developed the Board Self-ID  to help board members ask the right question at the outset:  Not “Am I a fundraiser?” but instead “HOW am I a fundraiser? Am I a Nurturer, Asker, or Connector?” This enables the board member to identify as a fundraiser and then take in the training with a more open mind.

For example, the Nurturer personality has a powerful role to play in fundraising because there is gold in loving your existing funders. Use the Board Self-ID tool to determine how to support your respective board members in a way that is optimal for each member. Quarterback these valuable board members in a way that is unique to their skills and personality type but don’t be afraid to ask them to stretch. A great example of how important Nurturers are as fundraisers are shown in Donor-Centered Fundraising. Penelope Burk reported that survey participants were asked how a thank you call from a board member would impact their future giving. She found that:

  • 93% said they would definitely or probably give again when they were next asked;
  • 84% would give a larger gift;
  • 74% would give indefinitely.

When asking board members to stretch a bit outside of their comfort zones, they must first recognize that board service is a calling. Callings call for us to grow into them. At the outset, we don’t have everything we need to fulfill the calling — the calling asks of us to expand, to stretch, to challenge our comfort zones to be as effective as possible.  And when it comes to fundraising, many board members feel uncomfortable asking their networks to join them in a journey toward impact. But the “North Star” question every board member should ask themselves is “What does the organization need?” Then they should do what is required to fulfill that need, which can mean going into uncomfortable territory around fundraising. 

To help support board members in their sacred duty as fundraisers, we’ve developed a companion guide to the Board Self-ID called “The Art of Engaging Your Networks.” It is downloadable in Word format so that you can tailor it to your organization; my ask is that you cite the source.

At his 2014 San Francisco conference, “The Nonprofit Boot Camp,” Schaffer & Combs Managing Partner James Lee spoke about the culture of a high-performing board, including their involvement in fundraising. He shares, “Expectations can be a murky pool regarding board involvement, and the sooner members know what is expected of them, the better. This serves both to avoid misalignment as well as ideally enhance loyalty and performance. So creating clear expectations in key areas such as the time members are expected to commit, the money they should contribute – which doesn’t have to be straight giving, but can be through a give-or-get policy – and what defines their successful participation is important. Board contracts or job descriptions are one method for avoiding awkward conversations. But either way, don’t be scared to be clear with members; they will appreciate not having to deal in guesswork.”

How do you recruit the right board members with fundraising in mind? Eliza Huleatt, Vice President of CCS, suggested having potential board members volunteer within your organization first. They’ll have an insider view of your philanthropy and you can get to know them and see how they work. 

Volunteers who already support your nonprofit and attend events regularly are prime candidates. This way, you can also find members who are comfortable with fundraising. Seek them out by offering fundraising orientation and education among your volunteer activities. This will also help train your board members to ensure they’re delivering the right message and building their confidence in seeking funds.

Joe Garecht, the founder of “The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest,” also insists that fundraising is key for an effective board, but acknowledges that board members are often stymied by the pressure of fundraising. He offers five ways for members to help in fundraising that isn’t asking for money. They include hosting non-ask events; making thank you calls to donors; asking prospective donors for advice; teaching them how to be an ambassador for your organization and putting them in charge of overseeing your nonprofit’s development program.

Relieve the awkwardness and stress of asking for donations by investing in orientation and on-boarding. The training should give them the proper language and etiquette to use, not only for asking for funds but how to field questions and objections they’ll encounter. Scripts, role-playing, and games acting out various scenarios can be of great assistance. Also ensure your members have tools like a volunteer handbook, contacts sheets, frequently asked questions, brochures, etc. These practices will also give your members the confidence in their fundraising tasks and ensure they feel supported by the organization.

Other factors to consider in building a healthy board is understanding that the culture and processes of the board itself are as important as what it does. The Bridgespan Group cites that oversight isn’t as necessary as leadership activities and improving performance is more challenging than strengthening various areas. Clarity about the role of the board can help with that. 

The Council of Non-Profits has a list of links for self-assessment tools that can assist boards for measuring their own effectiveness. Also helpful in examining your board is BoardSource’s “Five Things Your Board Can Do to Lead with Accountability and Transparency,” including the necessity of board members to personally donate to your nonprofit as an example of leading with authenticity.

By giving board members the tools they need to be effective fundraisers, you’ll help them contribute in meaningful ways that translates into vital funding for your mission.


Lee, James. (2014). Key Elements To A High Performing Board. Retrieved from

Huleatt, Eliza. (2018). It Starts At The Top – Best Practices for Maximizing Your Fundraising Board. Retrieved from

Becoming a More Effective Nonprofit Board. Retrieved from

BoardSource. (2013). Five Things Your Board Can Do to Lead with Accountability and Transparency. Retrieved from

Self-Assessments for Nonprofit Boards. Retrieved from

Garecht, Joe. 5 Different Ways Your Board Can Help with Fundraising Without Making Asks. Retrieved from

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Natalie Rekstad
Founder & CEO of Black Fox Philanthropy

[/fusion_text][fusion_button link=”” text_transform=”” title=”” target=”_self” link_attributes=”” alignment=”center” modal=”natalierekstad” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” color=”default” button_gradient_top_color=”” button_gradient_bottom_color=”” button_gradient_top_color_hover=”” button_gradient_bottom_color_hover=”” accent_color=”” accent_hover_color=”” type=”” bevel_color=”” border_width=”” size=”” stretch=”default” icon=”” icon_position=”left” icon_divider=”no” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” border_radius=””]View Bio[/fusion_button][fusion_modal name=”natalierekstad” title=”About Natalie” size=”large” background=”” border_color=”” show_footer=”yes” class=”” id=””]
Natalie Rekstad leads a purpose-driven life as the Founder and CEO of Black Fox Philanthropy, a leading fundraising strategy firm serving global NGOs that exists to accelerate the social sector’s effectiveness in solving complex problems on a global scale. As a B Corp, Black Fox Philanthropy measures the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. 
She is a sought after panelist, speaker, and resource for a variety of organizations and universities on the topic of philanthropy, the social sector, and fundraising. She has been featured in dozens of local and national media outlets including CBS, NBC, Sirius XM “Dollars & Change”, Huffington Post, Denver Woman Magazine (Cover Story), and is being profiled in the international project “200 Women” (who will change the way you see the world), and the book “America’s Leading Ladies” profiling fifty women leaders and features Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, among others. She also convenes global change-makers on topics such as leveraging the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and helps build fundraising capacity for NGOs through a series of trainings held around the world, including as a delegate and contributor to the ecosystems of the Skoll World Forum and Opportunity Collaboration. 
Natalie’s core belief is that the future hinges upon a more just and gender balanced world.  To that end, she is a former trustee of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado and is investing significant resources to advance their mission of accelerating economic opportunities for women and girls. Her firm funds a Girls, Inc. scholarship entitled “Black Fox Scholars,” rewarding high school girls for excellence in philanthropy.  Natalie is a Women Moving Millions member and an MCE Social Capital Guarantor; a delegate of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, is a delegate and speaker at Opportunity Collaboration.  She is a gender lens angel investor, and serves on the Global Advisory Board of World Pulse.  Further, she is a newly minted member of Founders Pledge.