Should board members be required to give? | 100% board giving — here’s how!

August 13, 2014

It goes without saying. For most nonprofit organizations, 100% of your board should be contributing financially.

But in a Small Shop Fundraising Survey I conducted a few years back, an astonishing 55% of organizations reported that they did not have 100% board giving.

Woman writing checksHow can you reasonably expect others to contribute financially to your organization if members of your board do not?

Yes, I know.  You’ve got members who contribute in-kind services, or volunteer, or bring in new donors.  You just don’t feel right about asking them to contribute financially as well. And how much should they be contributing? Should you have a minimum giving level?

The reality is that more and more grant-making foundations are making it part of their criteria to only fund organizations with 100% board giving.  I’ve even seen the far end of the spectrum where a funder requested a notarized statement attesting to attendance at board meetings.

And, while I don’t recommend set giving amounts, I do recommend that every member of your board contribute financially at a level that is personally meaningful for them.

My friend, Debra Baker Beck from the Laramie Board Learning Project says: “My counsel to nonprofit boards, when it comes to a policy on member giving, is to do what is best for your organization. That right choice may very well be not requiring contributions from board members. However,  that approach could ultimately have very real financial consequences, as more foundations and more major donors ask and expect to hear that you have 100 percent participation from your board members. This very tangible demonstration of commitment is increasingly important to those we ask to support us via grants and personal gifts.”

What’s that you say?  You don’t currently have a policy on board giving?  There’s no time like now to start.

The key lies in how you approach your board members. I’ve found that far too often we treat our board as an entity, rather than wonderful individuals they are. Instead of announcing your policy at a board meeting, take the time to meet one on one with your board members. Spend some time listening deeply. How did they become involved with your organization? What is their story?

When I was an in-the-trenches fundraiser and handling everything from writing a grant proposal, to putting up a website, to loading the dishwasher, I typically included board giving with my first fundraising appeal of the year and sent a letter written specifically for board members. You can download a sample template letter below.  Still awaiting a response from one or three board members?  Try using the follow-up appeal below, or invite the board member to coffee.   Still holding out?  A gentle follow-up phone call from your board chair will do the trick.

Keep in mind that monthly giving offers the opportunity for board members to make a bit more of a stretch gift.  When I have started monthly giving programs for clients, I’ve always begun with the board.  Members who ordinarily made a $1,000 gift, were delighted to give monthly at the $150 level.

Oh and don’t forget to celebrate every little success. When you reach 100% board participation, celebrate it! Perhaps with a pizza party at your next board meeting, or by breaking out a bottle of champagne. A board member has brought in three new donors? Send them a thank you gift or present a token of your gratitude publicly at your next board meeting.

Always celebrate what you want to see more of.


Board Giving Letter
Follow Up Letter
Board Commitment Form

Looking for a plan to turn your board members into engaged ambassadors and enthusiastic fundraisers? Registration for my latest Basics & More™ fundraising fundamentals course, Empowering Your Fundraising Board is open now. Click here to enroll.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrice Luer August 7, 2015 at 11:53 am

I’ve never seen a good definition of ‘board giving.’ Does it include giving through a business they own? Does it include sponsorships and ticket/table purchases? Please share some reasons to require personal giving.

John Haynes December 31, 2017 at 11:09 am

Don’t they give valuable time, ideas and oversight?

The problem is that it’s all about getting money. That is not strategic. Here’s an anonymous quote for you to reflect on: “If you want money, ask for ideas ”

If I had my way, I’d have all board members of organizations that pick their pockets to quit.

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