Ann Franzenburg

Senior Writer

About Ann

One of the challenges faced by development professionals in building relationships is deepening the donor’s engagement with the institution. One of the best ways to help a donor or potential donor move from awareness and interest to participation and ownership on the Donor Commitment Continuum is by asking them to volunteer as a board member—but it can’t be in name only. The volunteer work that you ask donors and potential donors to do should be meaningful to them and tailored to their interests and abilities if you hope to involve them more deeply with the work of your organization.

“The head fundraiser had invited me to go to dinner, and I said to my husband, ‘Give me the checkbook and tell me what the largest number is that I can write a check for because I want to do that.’ I felt incredible gratitude for what they had done for me…but when I went to dinner, they didn’t ask me for money. They asked me to join the board. When I got home, the first question my husband asked was, ‘How big of a check did you write?’ When I told him I didn’t write a check, but instead had joined their board, he said, ‘They got you!’ In getting me involved, in helping me become more educated, in making me a part of the process, they’ve got me for life.”

—Donor and Board Member

Provide a Window Into What’s Happening

In addition to learning about the organization through routine agenda items, board meetings should always contain some type of informational or educational component. Board members appreciate hearing how the work of the institution has impacted the lives of people. Additionally, information about a program or priority could align with or even spark a board member’s own philanthropic passion.

“Every time we have a board meeting, there’s time set aside where we get to hear a child’s story, actually meet the child, or we get to meet a care provider who tells an amazing story about a remarkable child and their family. So, we get indoctrinated, and we get a shot of why we do what we do in raising funds for the Foundation every time we gather.”

—Donor and Hospital Foundation Board Member

“My interest grew because of my involvement with the Foundation board. The director of a center asked me to come and speak at one of their forums. I got to know what they were doing and was very impressed by it. When they invited me to join the effort to endow a chair, I agreed and accepted.”

—Donor and Academic Institution Foundation Board Member

Tap Into Their Expertise

Volunteers agree to serve on boards and in other ways because they want to help. Often, the best volunteers are influential people who have many obligations, so look for times of transition where serving on a board could help ease the passage to a new phase of life.

“From a personal perspective, when you make a transition as large as retiring from a corporation with many years of experience there, you begin to wonder if you still have value to give back. You get defined by your role in the corporation and not necessarily by who you are and the contribution you can still make. So, when people asked me, ‘What are you going to do next?’ I could proudly say, ‘I’m going to help build a brand-new hospital.’ I loved it because it gave me a purpose.”

—Donor and Hospital Foundation Board Member

Deepen Their Sense of Ownership

When donors are fully engaged with your organization, they develop a sense of ownership. Because board members participate in the decision-making process, they will naturally begin to view the work of the institution as an extension of themselves. Perhaps they view the mission of the institution as their own personal mission. Many consider their service on the board an important part of who they are.

“Establish a sense of ownership. You don’t want [board members] to come in and feel like they are just sort of renting the stuff for a while, and then they’re done.”

—Donor and Academic Institution Foundation Board Member

“When I think about the hospital, I feel like I am a critical part of the overall institution. I do not think there is a difference between a board member, a doctor, a nurse, or a care provider. We all have the same mission. We all have the same passion. We just deliver our skills and our special capabilities in a different way for the same purpose and the same cause. So, it’s ‘we.’ It’s not ‘they.’”

—Donor and Hospital Foundation Board Member


Advancement Resources’ board member training is a sure-fire way to more deeply engage your volunteers and strengthen the culture for philanthropy at your institution.

Contact us for more information