A family recipe for board and donor engagement

Slide503 cups of Face-to-Face Visits. Over coffee or lunch, at their office and (best of all) on-site. Phone calls, emails and social media touches are all good and relevant but should be used to provide a greater context to the personal interaction. The near-entirety of your business is to build relationships and nothing comes close to face-to-face conversations with board members and donors.

2 cups of Patience. Scheduling visits can be as easy as clicking “send.” However, let’s face it: people are busy! Getting the visit often requires persistent follow-up contact that stops short of over-bearing.

1 cup of Authenticity. Keep it real.

1 cup of Uniqueness. Make every effort to show them, visually and firsthand, what makes your organization unique. If you have nothing tangible to show, then tell them what they can expect to see.

1 cup of Success. Share a success story of your mission in action. Ask them for reactions to what you have shared. Not only will you get a read on their current enthusiasm for the organization’s goals, but putting it in their own words can deepen their existing connection to the mission, probably more than anything you could say.

2 cups of Curiosity. Why do they support your organization? When and how did they become involved? Why do they continue pitching in?

Season it all with Enthusiasm. Genuine passion for an organization is flat-out contagious.

Then: listen. Really listen. Answer the questions you can. Get back to them on the others.

Yield: You will be amazed at what results from this simple recipe for success. Over time, this depth of engagement will strengthen your organization by building board and donor confidence, one relationship at a time.

Let’s do a recipe swap. What’s your recipe for board and donor engagement?


  1. I absolutely agree with your ingredient list, Nancy. Focusing on the process, really listening is critical. If you’ve got wonderfully open-ended questions and are just waiting to ask the next one, you’re missing the point. People like to talk about themselves. In fundraising, they want to talk about themselves and your good works. You’ll learn a huge amount about why donors give; what they want to give to among your programs; what they love about your work; what worries them about your work; why they love (or don’t) your new CEO; what frustrates them, etc. Everything you learn helps you strengthen your relationship with them.

    There’s also an inside value to close listening. I talk about it in my post, “Best Prospect Research Comes From The Prospect.”

    Great post, Nancy!

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