The Small Nonprofit Podcast: Board fundraising for a non-fundraising board with Emma Lewzey

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It can be scary to ask your board members, who are already giving so much of their time and attention, to think about board fundraising, especially if they aren’t recruited to be a fundraising board.

In this episode, Emma Lewzey, national chair of the Fellowship for Inclusion and Philanthropy and president-elect of the world’s largest Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter (Toronto), deep dives into board fundraising! Learn all about how to engage your non-fundraising board in a way that's comfortable for them, setting them up for success and demystifying fundraising WITHOUT asking them to bring out their Rolodex.

Demystifying fundraising boards

The first thing that people will say is, “we don’t have a fundraising board” or “we just don’t know people with deep pockets” but often, the issue lies with not understanding what a fundraising board is. Ideally, you can set clear expectations about fundraising from the start. Of course, we know that you can’t go back in time, so we have some suggestions on how you can be a fundraising board with even the most stubborn non-fundraisers.

Most board members can start to get involved in fundraising in a way that feels comfortable without thinking of high-potential donors.

Setting role expectations

To begin with, going forward, you can recruit potential board members with the expectation that they will be involved in fundraising. Clearly articulate what that means (not picking up the phone and cold-calling for $10,000 - we’ll give examples below) to build comfort.

Allow for growth and development over time. They can be involved in simple, yet meaningful ways to thank donors to begin with and build to something more active. Emma suggests giving your board different options that they can choose from, giving them the opportunity to start within their comfort zone.

Fundraising vs. social justice? 100% board giving

We often hear about the tension that exists between fundraising and social justice from a board perspective on recruitment. Organizations are expected to meet the social justice expectation of ensuring that their board is reflective of the community. At the same time, there is also an expectation for them to fundraise.

For community-based boards, where members may be former or current service users, 100% board giving can feel like a touchy subject, but Emma thinks it’s an important one. 100% board giving does not mean a minimum gift or amount fundraised. It means encouraging your board members to make a personally significant gift that can works best for them and be sure to celebrate those gifts as you would with any level of donor!

The key is to have an open dialogue with your board and let them know that it’s the act of giving, rather than the amount, that counts.

Thank you

A good entry point for board members is to start them off by thanking donors. This helps your board connect with your donors by having meaningful conversations with them. It can be transformative for a donor to hear about their impact directly from a board member, and vice-versa for a board member to hear about why donors support the organization.

Don’t forget to offer support and guidance! Considering putting together a little kit for your board members with speaking points, a form to record notes or feedback on, and some frequently asked questions and answers. After they have finished calling donors, set up a debrief meeting for board members to share their experiences and insights.


Your board members are your best ambassadors - so put them to good use! You can have them host their own event or act as a host at an organizational event.

Their own event - ask them to invite their friends, family, and community to their house to learn more about the work of your organization. Focus on people who are inclined to care about the work, rather than the size of donation they can make. The idea is to build relationships and deepen people’s commitments.

An organizational event - when your organization is hosting an event, ask your board members to check in with certain guests and play host. Even better, give them a list of 3-5 people they need to meet and welcome. All your board members need to do is make people feel engaged. It’s a feel-good activity with no ask and no “network” required.

Giving your board a lot of options around how they can contribute (whether it’s by giving, thanking, or hosting) is a great way to get them engaged in fundraising. Whatever you ask them to do, don’t forget to give them proper training, set them up for success, thank them profusely and above all, make it a great experience for them.

Listen to the full episode now on our Small Nonprofit Podcast landing page!

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Resources from this Episode

The Good Partnership Guide
CharityVillage Fundraising Articles
#DonorLove with Jen Love
Blue Sky Philanthropy

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Your Hosts

Cindy Wagman spent 15 years as an in-house fundraiser at organizations large and small before founding The Good Partnership – a boutique fundraising firm focused on small nonprofits. She has worked in social justice, health, arts, and education organizations. She has overseen and executed everything from annual campaigns to multi-million dollar gifts. She became a Certified Fundraising Executive in 2009 and received her MBA from Rotman at the University of Toronto in 2013.

With more than ten years of experience in development, staff and stakeholder management, strategic thinking, partnerships, board governance, and program development, Aine McGlynn is a diversely talented, self-starter committed to finding creative solutions in unexpected places. Aine holds a PhD from U of T and has a history of academic publishing, along with her decade of nonprofit sector experience. She is a practitioner-scholar focused on how to help nonprofits build their capacity to be successful at fundraising.

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