A Simple Exercise to Help Board Members Engage in Fundraising

A Simple Exercise to Help Board Members Engage in Fundraising


14 June 2022


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


Two core fundraising ideas come together in this post. The first is that we raise money from people who already give us money. Marketing efforts to bring in new people frequently cost more money than they raise.

The second is that people (donors) have their own reasons for giving money. Our job is not about selling them our reasons. Our job is to get to know them well enough that we know what their reasons are. And one of the largest handicaps we have in fundraising is that we don’t know them.

Instead we assume that the reasons they might want to give are the same as the ones we have.


This is a simple exercise to help us quantify who we DO know.

Start with a list of current donors. You can choose them using any methodology you wish up to a practical maximum of about 500. (There is NO minimum.) Many organizations may wish to screen their entire membership list.

MY priorities would look something like this:

  • ANYONE who has made a gift of $1,000 or more for any purpose in the past 60 months (5 years)
  • ANYONE who has notified the organization that they have left it in their estate plans
  • ANYONE who gave $250 or more last year and left their gift unrestricted
  • ANY current donor who has been identified through research as a major gift prospect
  • ANY current donor brought forward by a Board member, staff, or volunteer as a major gift prospect


Alphabetize the list on a spreadsheet and include columns for

  • I know them well
  • I know them
  • I know OF them


I know them well means that we are related, that our families get together frequently, that they live next door, that we respect and like each other, and or that we are close in some other way.

I know them means that when I call or email or write, they will know who is calling, emailing, or writing and that they are likely to respond. It means that I have “access” to them.

I know OF them means that I know who they are, but that they might not know who I am.


Now print the list using a size that is easily read by most people and ask your Board members to scan it, checking off the column cells as appropriate. You could also engage former Board members, staff, and/or other volunteers. You will want to aggregate, analyze, and record the results.

The result is a list of organizational donors that the organization knows or knows well, knows OF, or doesn’t know at all.

Let’s think about that:

  • The people we know and/or know well: How much did they give collectively last year? Why did they give? Could we ask them to give more? To help support a specific activity or project? To join or start a giving circle? Why would they say yes?
  • The people we know OF: What do they have in common, if anything? Age? Geography? Affinity for a specific activity (birding, eg)? What could Board members do to help the organization get to know them better? How much did they give collectively last year? Could we ask them to give more? Why would they say yes?
  • The people we don’t know at all: Look at the percentage here. What percent of our current donor base is completely unknown to anyone in the organization? What can we do to reduce that percentage? What can Board members do to help?
  • Donors known to just one Board member or staff: These are people likely to leave the organization when the person they know does. We need to prioritize introducing them to other Board members, and this should be job #1 for the person who knows them now. The important long-term relationship is between the donor and the organization. It can’t be carried by just one person.
  • Board members who know donors: First of all, would they be willing to help – to use their relationship at all? If so, under what circumstances? Would they be willing to introduce their friends to other people? Other Board members or staff? Would be willing to sign a letter asking for renewal? Prepare and support invitations to organizational events? Or possibly just help by providing background information?
  • Board members who don’t know any donors at all: We need to systematically put them in positions to meet people – at events, on field trips, making thank you calls, as part of a welcome team for new members, and so on.


The point is that the aggregated information you collect from the exercise will tell you what to do next. Consider that this is an exercise you may wish to make into an annual event. Hopefully the percentage of donors you know and/or know well goes up, and the percentage you don’t know at all goes down.


Love to hear of your experience. Are you doing something like this now? Anything I can share?


Cheers, and Have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by JosepMonter courtesy of Pixabay.



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