6 Quick Lessons on Teaching Your Board Members to Solicit Gifts

simone joyauxSimone P. Joyaux, ACFRE is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub and is described as “one of the most thoughtful, inspirational, and provocative leaders in the philanthropic sector.” She provides consulting services in fund development, strategic planning, and board development to all types and sizes of nonprofits. You can sign up for her free webinar on Tips for Teaching Your Board Members to Solicit Gifts.

Do Your Volunteers Help Solicit Gifts?

I love involving board members in solicitation. When I was a chief development officer, every year 75 volunteers helped solicit gifts from 500 individual and corporate prospects to support annual operations. Only 10 of those volunteers were board members. The rest were donors who loved my organization and wanted to help.

At the start of the campaign, I hosted an orientation evening. I shared key elements of the case for support. Volunteer partners and I shared tips for effective solicitation. Sometimes, we did a role play. And then the solicitors selected their prospects.

Face-to-face solicitation is the most powerful strategy. Why don’t more organizations use this tool – with volunteers – for annual fundraising?

Asking is Storytelling

People learn through stories. Research proves it.

So soliciting is really storytelling.

Everyone picks her or his favorite stories. Each board member, all staff – and certainly solicitors.

The best solicitors share stories with prospects. And, the best solicitors listen for the prospect’s favorite stories.

Asking is a Conversation

Sometimes solicitors – and staff training solicitors – think that asking for a gift is a presentation. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

Asking for a gift is a conversation. A conversation is back and forth, an exchange of stories and ideas between two or more people.

A conversation is as much about listening as talking. And an asking conversation is mostly about listening.

Designing Your Face-to-Face Solicitation Campaign

I chose to design my face-to-face solicitation program as a campaign. Our fiscal year was July 1st through June 30th. We started the annual face-to-face campaign in January. We ended in April. We solicited pledges that we asked to be paid before June 30.

I organized the campaign with team captains. I monitored campaign progress. I kept in touch with all solicitors. And I used my team captains to follow-up with solicitors, too.

Board Members Don’t Know How to Do This Stuff

It’s your job to teach, guide and coach volunteers to help with fundraising.

Mostly, your board members (and other volunteers, too) don’t know how to solicit gifts personally face-to-face. Sure, some of them have solicited before. But I suspect they had good staff helping. You know, good staff who know how to effectively train and coach others to succeed.

That’s your job. To train and coach and provide tools for your solicitors to use. You’ll receive some of those tools in my webinar. You’ll research samples from elsewhere. You’ll develop your own. That’s your job.

What’s the Solicitor’s Job?

I use to tell my solicitors that there job is to ask for the gift.

Wow. I was wrong.

Their job is to get the answer!

Of course, the solicitor asks for the gift. But that’s not the end. The solicitor gets the answer from the prospect. Maybe the prospect tells the solicitor the answer in that first solicitation. Maybe the prospect needs another meeting. Maybe the prospects wants to think a bit. All that requires follow-up by the solicitor.

Want more tips from Simone on increasing fundraising dollars through your board members? Be sure to register for her free webinar on December 11 at 11:30am CST:

Tips for Teaching Your Board Members to Solicit Gifts


Simone Joyaux has guided countless organizations and professionals through her consulting and coaching, teaching and writing. She speaks at conferences worldwide and is a faculty member for the Masters Program in Philanthropy and Development at Saint Mary’s University, Minnesota. In June 2013, she taught governance to the wives of UN ambassadors from African nations. Visit Simone at www.simonejoyaux.com. Check out the Free Download Library and subscribe to her regular tips through her e-news and blog.

6 Quick Lessons on Teaching Your Board Members to Solicit Gifts

Simone Joyaux

December 6, 2013

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