Captioning–Press (Special Page)

"Our BoardAssist candidates have been amazing additions to our Board of Directors."

Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services.
Credit: Volunteers of America
helping individuals and families in need

Your Board Members Can Become “Door Openers.” Here’s How!

Most people join nonprofit boards because they truly want to be “agents of change” on the boards they join. So why are some board members more successful at that than others?  Guest blogger Gail Perry believes that any board member can be that critical agent of change with the right training and support, especially with respect to opening doors for his or her board. Here’s how she thinks any nonprofit can train their board members to get the job done.

Your Board Members Can Become “Door Openers.” Here’s How!

What would you MOST love your board members to do?

Many nonprofit ED’s tell me that  – of all possible things – they wish their board members would simply open doors. That’s all.

Just open doors.

But what happens when you ask board members to make introductions and open the door to prospects?

They shy away from it. They just don’t like it.

Lots of times they say they will help and then what happens?  Nothing!

They chicken out at the last minute!

SOOOO how do you get your wonderful board members to help in this ALL-IMPORTANT area?

Here are my 4 steps to help your board members learn how to open the door.

These 4 steps WORK!

Board members tell me that this approach is easy and very doable.

Even enjoyable!

So give them a try with your own board and let me know how they like it too!

What we are doing is teaching them how to use their elevator speech to start a conversation with the prospect about the cause, and then create a followup next step.

Presto the door is open!

1. Develop their elevator speech/personal message.

Board members all need a personal message that is inviting and inspiring.

They need practice with an elevator speech – but it can’t be learned or memorized.

It has to be their OWN PERSONAL STORY of why they care.

Here’s a powerful morale-boosting exercise/game you can play with your board members to help them create and rehearse their personal story.

It is one of the most powerful activities you can ever do with your board.

It inspires them with their own personal passion for the cause and WHY THE CAUSE IS SO IMPORTANT.

2. Create contagious energy by removing the fear of soliciting.

Your board members have to be happy, fired up and passionate.  You have to get their mind-set right before they can make anything happen in the world.

If they are like that, then they’ll be engaging.  To anyone!

If they are embarrassed about what they are up to, then they put people off.

Energy is, in fact, contagious. (as we all know!)

Great energy is catching – and awful energy is catching too.

Be sure your board members are excited, and totally standing in their passion for the cause.

If you take the emphasis AWAY from soliciting, then they will relax and be amazing.

3. Create a conversation.

Once your board members learn how to share the wonderful story of your organization’s work with their friends, they need to learn how to create a conversation.

They need to learn how to “shut up” and let the other person react and comment.

I teach board members to ask my favorite fundraising question: 

“What are your impressions? . . . ”

They need to learn listening skills and how to develop their prospect’s interest by staying quiet and asking questions.

This is NOT intuitive, but board members welcome the training!

4. Invitation to followup for a next step.

Say your wonderful board member has inspired a friend with her passionate story about what you are up to.

She has contagious energy and an enthusiastic attitude.

All this is wasted unless she can say,

  • “Can you come down for a tour?”
  • Or “I”m having a small group over to my house next week to meet the new director, can you come?”
  • Or “Can I take you out for coffee and get your own ideas on how we tackle this huge community problem?”

That’s how you follow up. You have to show your board members how to conclude their elevator speech with an invitation.

Somehow, someway, they need to get the door open for a second conversation.

Then you’ll be on your way.


Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, is an international fundraising consultant, trend-spotter, speaker, trainer and thought leader. Her Fired-Up Fundraising Board Workshops have inspired thousands of board members to get actively involved in fundraising. Gail’s book, Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action (Wiley/AFP) is the “gold standard guide to building successful fundraising boards.”