In his 1995 book Revolution from the Heart, Bill Shore has one powerful message for fundraisers: ask the donor for what she has to give. He uses the example of a restaurant, which has a physical plant, a food ordering system, people to prepare the food, and a place to serve it. At the end of the day, all that infrastructure costs a lot of money, and profit margins in restaurants are thin. So, the fundraising can ask the restaurant for a cash donation, which must come out of profits, of which there is not much. Or he can ask the restaurant for what it has to give—all that infrastructure—in the form of a fundraising event of some kind.
Board members are the same way. To get board members to participate, you have to ask them for what they can give. If the board member doesn’t have a great amount of personal wealth, nor connections to those who do, don’t ask that board member to do major gift fundraising.
If the board member doesn’t have strong connections to other board members, strong enough to get them to return phone calls and carry out tasks, then don’t ask that board member to chair board committees.
Everybody wants board members who command great wealth, who rub elbows with other wealthy people, who have clout and get others to do their work. But not every board member has those things.
Other board members have the ability and willingness to complete needed tasks in their own specialties.
Match up what the organization needs with what the board members have to give. Then ask them for what they have to give, and avoid asking them for what they cannot do.