Seriously, on the most basic level, if you’re doing this to your board members, I have to ask – what are you thinking?
Board members are donors. Do you tell your other donors how much they have to give in order to participate with your organization?
No. You state your case, tell your story of impact and tell them what you need to advance your mission work.
At the end of the day, they decide.
So please, stop it with your board members already.
You’re spending way too much time trying to get the expectation right anyway. I’ve watched boards agonize over this topic for months and still come away feeling frustrated.
Should they give a minimum? What should it be? Or should they generate funding at a certain level? If so, what should it be? Or should they do both?
Yeah, I know. You need 100% board giving for all the reasons:
* To qualify for foundation grants
* To demonstrate strong leadership and commitment
* To reach your fundraising goals
* To enable your board to more confidently invite others to join them and invest
* To partner and support staff in their philanthropic work
* …and more
So What’s the Problem?
I’ll spell a few of them out for you here.
1. You may be undermining your commitment to inclusion and equity. When you set an expectation that all board members participate at a prescribed minimum level, you’ve implied you value money more than their other experiences and talents.
I don’t think you intend to create a culture where not everyone is welcome. But have you?
Or do you truly appreciate different backgrounds and lived experiences? Many volunteers have more time and knowledge to share than money.
Don’t you need those things too?
Let’s be careful to not give board members of affluence or those who travel in those circles any more influence or deference than other board members. Monitor those dynamics to ensure everyone is on a level playing field.
(if you aren’t yet familiar, check out Community Centric Fundraising)
Maybe you can also measure the strength of your board by asking questions about how many board members have first-hand experience with the issues you’re trying to solve. Not just how much money they can give or raise.
Allow your board members to invest at a level that is meaningful to them.
Consider scheduling individual meetings with each person and ask about their goals for the year; in all areas. Each person deserves the respect of a personal conversation.
2. Might there be an over-emphasis on philanthropy? Have strategic discussions about scaling all revenue sources. Wouldn’t it be even more valuable to have board members focus on the overall financial picture?
Again, it’s important that you achieve 100% giving on the charitable side, and what about an expectation that board members help develop earned revenue or government contracts, etc?
A few ideas:
* Share marketing expertise with the gift shop manager
* Promote opportunities for corporations to build an employee volunteer program
* Boost membership revenue by hosting tours
* Help identify RFPs for government contracts
* Contact elected officials to encourage funding of the organization
* Help add interested people to the newsletter list
Each of these activities could result in more revenue and I’m sure you can review your revenue streams and add more creative ideas.
3. Philanthropy isn’t just about personal giving. It’s also about cultivating and maintaining relationships.
There are so many ways that board members can plug into activities that feel good to them and foster important donor relationships. (Just google it). These relationships often lead to greater support.
Besides making their own investment, board members can:
* Make donor thank you calls
* Introduce potential donors or partners to the CEO and provide a tour
* Invite friends to your next event
* Identify potential committee members
* Share social media posts and stories
* Participate on the Philanthropy Committee and help staff develop the annual plan
* Share strategic priorities with potential donors and get their feedback
* Write a personal note, sharing how donations have specifically impacted lives in the past 3 months
* Be interviewed by a local magazine, TV station, online publication expressing why they are involved with the organization
As you can see, board giving is just one piece of a successful philanthropy strategy. It takes a diverse village to sustain long-term financial success.
Let’s avoid putting too much emphasis on the amount board members “should” give and instead honor all their “gifts” equally.
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