CoronaVirus and Fundraising – Cultivating Board Members

CoronaVirus and Fundraising – Cultivating Board Members


2 June 2020


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


I am not a gardener.

We live in an urban home on just shy of an acre, and we are busily converting anything that is now grass into something else – trees, flowers, vegetables, and so on – that we won’t need to keep mowed. But Kate is the gardener – the designer, planner, digger, divider, mover, waterer, and so on. She’s the cultivator.

I’m more of a mower-type.


About five years ago, I got interested in native lupine. (I can’t explain why – I think it had something to do with memories of bluebonnet fields from my childhood.)

I bought a packet of seeds and scattered them on the snow one winter’s morning above a small plot I had cleared of grass and weeds. The snow carried the seeds down into the soil when it melted.

And I was rewarded with a handful of plants that next summer that I dutifully kept watered. And then stunning lupine blooms the following year from second year plants.

But lupines don’t last winter after winter in Wisconsin. So the third year, I was back to seeds that had fallen onto the soil.

And I had this fanciful vision of a much larger garden bed with a mixture of seedlings, first-year plants, and second-year blooms. After all, native lupine are designed to self-propagate, no?

And I set about trying to make that happen – designing, planning, digging, moving, watering, and so on.


And last week, an interesting question occurred to me – who was cultivating whom?


If there was ever a time in your organization’s history when Board members’ involvement in fundraising was important, surely this must be the time.

I have been promoting the idea that your donors will appreciate hearing from you – by phone, email, notecards, letters, and so on. The key is NOT the media. It’s the personalization.

And it helps organizations build strength and resiliency.

It’s time to bring Board members into this work. Reach out and touch someone. Call just to express concern and ask how they are doing. Write personal notes or email.

  • Clearly identify yourself as being from the land trust – as a Board member
  • Lead by asking how they are doing
  • Listen for their stories – how have they been touched by what’s going on?
  • Thank them for their stalwart support
  • Be honest – don’t pretend things are normal
  • Find the humor
  • Stay upbeat – we’ll get through this (but be prepared to hear stories that are emotionally difficult)


You’ll need some preparation. At a Board meeting, share a list of current donors, and ask Board members to select ten each. The idea would be that they call each of the ten between then and the following Board meeting and actually speak with three or four.

Scatter seeds on the snow.

Prepare a script to be used when leaving a voicemail. And have two or three things to say if they do answer the phone. Like places they can go to get outside, planned changes to organizational events, current organizational news, and so on.


Ask your Board members to drop you a note about what happened – things they learned, questions they were asked, recommended follow-up, and so on.

And ask them to stay in touch, follow-up, and take responsibility for building the relationship.


And we’re back to that interesting question – who will be cultivating whom?


This summer, there is lupine all over the place. Just a couple of stunning bloomers, but that’s enough to keep me going. Next year I should have a dozen or so from this year’s first-year plants.

And hundreds of seedlings.

I am not a gardener.

Just like your Board members are not fundraisers.


Cheers, and have a great week!




Photo by Gellinger courtesy Pixabay



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  • Charlotte Carter
    Posted at 12:13h, 02 June

    David, you have outdone yourself once again. I love and admire the sustained metaphor we need to discuss composting some fine day.

    We are really looking forward to introducing you to our new Admin Director!

    • David Allen
      Posted at 13:06h, 02 June

      Thank you Charlotte! And I am looking forward to meeting her.

  • David Lillard
    Posted at 09:06h, 02 June

    Wonderful. You captured where I am right now in my own foray into gardening and getting rid of lawn. A fine lesson for cultivating a diverse garden of supporters. Thanks!