I recently attended the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) Conference and found myself adrift in a sea of directors and staff of small/medium sized nonprofits. I had chosen a workshop on “Lessons from Philanthropy” run by two individuals from Associated Grantmakers that focused on how to successfully apply for grants and receive funding from Donor Advised Funds (DAFs).
Here we were, all innocently questioning the hands that feed, when all of a sudden someone mentions board giving.
A consecutive release of breath- whoosh- as everyone readies themselves for the fight. And then, the bombs start to fly.
“Why should the board be expected to give?”
“No, no, no. We are a working board. We already donate so much time.”
“Asking the board to donate just for the sake of donating is demeaning to myself, to them, and to my organization.”
The icing on the cake comes when a member of the audience and the one of the speakers relate how they have each asked their boards to contribute $1 for the purpose of reporting 100% board donation in grant applications. Here I sit, in a room full of people ready to bury me alive if I utter so much as a word against their boards’ records of giving, wondering if I somehow missed a memo on board best practices.
Board Giving: How the conversation should have gone
“Board giving is a priority at our organization.”
“One-hundred percent of our board members are expected to contribute annually.”
“We know that board contributions are often considered when applying for grants and DAFs, and we enforce policies to make sure our board giving positively affects our applications.”
The real deal, where best practices are concerned, is to have a written policy in place and expect 100% of the board will give. Why? Because your board members should be your organization’s number one supporters, and this does not only mean attending meetings, stuffing envelopes, sharing Facebook posts, or spreading word of your good work.
According to Philanthropy Roundtable, between 70 and 90% of households make annual charitable contributions, and your board should designate their giving toward the organization that they believe in and know best- yours! Your board are the leaders of your organization and the amount they contribute on an annual basis should be financially significant for each individual: in other words, your organization should be one of the top three organizations board members give to.
It is natural for the level of each board member’s donations to vary according to individual circumstances. There is no “minimum contribution” required, and certainly no maximum. Of course, there may be exceptions altogether. Perhaps some of your board members are part of a disadvantaged population that you serve. Those are the times when it is up to your discretion: AFP writes that “[m]anaging ‘by exception’ tends to mean that everything ends up as an exception,” and suggests dealing with such situations only if they arise. This is sound advice in order to keep an expectation of board giving in place.
But wait… there’s more!
Although board giving is an important piece of the puzzle, it is imperative that board members also take an active role in fundraising for the organization. Everyone should remember, the board is ultimately responsible for attracting funding resources to ensure the financial viability of the organization and its programs. This consists of having the proper fundraising staff in place, being an active participant in fundraising events, appeals, etc., telling all friends and family about the organization and encourage them to donate AND giving a personally significant financial contribution. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
Having trouble asking your board to contribute or fundraise? Ask us to help!