Want your board to give? Find a member who acts like these grandmas.

Convincing a board to give. It still is difficult in the Netherlands. Even when it comes to giving in times of a major gift campaign. Even when they know that giving as a board member will be inspirational, that it will set an example for prospective donors. Then why is it so hard to convince NGO boards?

I thought about this a lot last week. I did some research and had great discussions with colleagues and fundraising friends about it. We came up with several reasons why (Dutch) board members are still not that enthusiastic about giving to their organization. It had to do with culture: the culture of asking, the culture of giving. And even Dutch culture.

We had figured it all out for this blog. We thought about ways to engage boards, how to convince them, how to make them contribute financially to the organization after all. The only thing left to do was write it down. And just when I was about to do so, I saw a video. It’s been circling around the Internet for a week or two now in the Netherlands. It’s about two grandmas, and they made me change my mind. No, they made me change my vision. Just take 10 minutes and see if they‘ll have the same effect on you.

What this video did with me? It moved me. It inspired me. And it made me reconsider. I thought back of everything we talked about last week, and all the great ideas how to convince boards to give. I couldn’t help but thinking these were all arguments. Rational arguments. And then it hit me. Rational arguments are nice to have. But are they ‘must-haves’ in this particular case?

What these grandmas did was something they’ve never done before. Something they couldn’t imagine doing themselves. Something they were scared about, a bit / a lot. And then there was this opportunity to overcome the fear. They grabbed it with both hands; the one a little bit more convinced then the other. And they were not scared of sharing these potentially frightening moments with tens of thousands of people. These two brave women didn’t use rational arguments. They fastened their seatbelts and just did it.

How these grandmas changed my vision? They made me come to the conclusion that it’s better to focus on board members who already give, then trying to convince the ones who don’t. Instead of you being a ‘preacher’ who tells them what they should do, try to find board members who already give. Let them be the inspirational figurehead, and give them a stage to share the experience of giving.

What I think every NGO board needs, is a member who acts like these grandmas. Who dares to take the risk (and let’s be honest, how big of a risk is it anyway to give?), and then shares the experience with others. A member who fastens the seatbelt and just does it.

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