With Proper Training, Anyone Can Be an Effective Fundraiser
Andy Robinson and Andrea Kihlstedt
Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson
One of the most important jobs of nonprofit boards is to raise money and while there are few born fundraisers, anyone, with some training, can excel at the task. A good place to start is by reading Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) To Raise Money.

Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson, who have provided fundraising counsel to scores of nonprofit boards, understand the issues, fears, anxieties, myths, and missteps that beset inexperienced fundraisers ”“ and tackle them head on with a highly accessible set of training exercises that aim to educate and instill confidence.

At a fundamental level, asking for money for your nonprofit should be easy. Board members (and others) give their time, energy, and creativity, and probably some money, to the organization because they believe in it. They have the passion, but they may need some help articulating it.

To address the problem, Kihlstedt and Robinson provide an exercise, among others, to help fundraisers tell their stories, as well as the story of their organization. As with all exercises in the book, the authors explain its purpose, who it’s for, when to use it, the setting where it should be used, materials needed, and the time it will take. Each exercise concludes with a training tip for the facilitator.

Does this mean the organization needs to hire a facilitator? Not according to the authors. Recognizing that smaller nonprofits have tighter budgets, they have included a section on getting started as a trainer along with a list of materials for a basic trainer’s tool kit, which together can make nearly anyone into an effective trainer.

An intriguing feature of the book is the way it is organized. The 49 exercises are broken into eight parts, such as “Reducing Barriers to Fundraising,” “Debunking Fundraising Myths,” “Making the Case,” and “Asking for the Gift.” But, recognizing that organizations differ from one another, Robinson and Kihlstedt offer 13 menus of exercises to deal with specific challenges. For example, nine of the exercises can be used to create an agenda for a full-day board retreat.

The book’s subtitle, "A Cookbook of Easy-to-Use Fundraising Exercises," underscores an important point: this volume, like a good cookbook, should be used repeatedly. The case for doing so is clear. New board members and other newcomers who engage in fundraising will likely benefit from the training, while veterans may want to revisit exercises as a way to check up and polish their skills.

The good news for fundraisers, especially novice fundraisers, is the United States is full of people who want to give money to nonprofits. In fact, seven out of 10 households do so each year. But they need to be asked. (Academic researchers have found that the top reason people don’t give is “Nobody asked.”)

Kihlstedt and Robinson observe that we learn to ask for things early in life ”“ for something to eat or drink, advice, a date, a job, a raise, some compassion. “These requests are the glue that holds our communities together,” they write. When it comes to asking for money, sometimes we need to learn how to ask for it, not for yourself, but for a cause that is dear to you.

Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) To Raise Money is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

April 2014