Soaring with Board Giving as the Foundation
Don't sell your organization short. Taking a shortcut when it comes to your board members and their leadership - and especially with their giving - shortchanges those you serve.
The board has a role to determine an organization's future - and a fiduciary role that includes ensuring adequate resources are obtained. Board giving needs to be the anchor of any nonprofit with fundraising as a priority.
So many boards wrestle with their own giving. Especially organizations that are maturing and where board roles are changing from operational to more strategic.
I've attended many board meetings where someone is bound to utter, "We just ask that you give - at any level." At a client meeting where we were about to guide through a development plan, the board chair directed them to pass a motion assessing all board members $1 so that they could be at 100 percent board giving for grants. I almost jumped out of my chair in protest.
Yes, a board must be at 100 percent board giving each year - and with any campaign it initiates. Based on my 25 years in nonprofit leadership, I have a firm position - a best practice: not only 100 percent board giving, but board giving at a leadership level for the organization.
For some organizations, that level might be $100, others $250; most we find the minimum level to be $1,000 and for larger institutions it may be $5,000 or more. Whatever the level, you need to consider a leadership gift to fulfill your mission. This may change and evolve as your organization grows in size and effectiveness.
You need strong leadership to establish board giving expectations. I have been part of many strategies to change a board culture - including giving. It takes strategy, a plan - and leadership. You should educate, cultivate and even challenge board members.
Create that board giving threshold and stay with it. Don't waiver. Yes, you may lose a few board members, current and potential, along the way. But this journey will lead you to ideal candidates for your governing board who can fill a profile of skills, backgrounds and demographics - and make a leadership gift. Again - don't sell those you serve short. You will have plenty of opportunities for involvement on advisory boards and other opportunities for people to contribute and grow with your organization at other giving levels.
Realize that many of your board will be asked for and will make gifts above the threshold. Set the stage with a clear set of board expectations that include board giving- call it a job description, responsibilities, a covenant, whatever you like. But make it clear what you expect of your board. Share this with potential board members and include it in your orientation.
Be sure that each year you mirror best practices by visiting with each board member - face to face - to ask for his or her annual commitment. Ask just before the fiscal year or early in the fiscal year to make it easy for those who may choose to spread out payments. Secure the commitment and then remind them. Thank them repeatedly, and demonstrate through testimonials at each board meeting the impact of their leadership, including their giving.
Then, your board - I promise - will begin to take their role more seriously. And they will be empowered to ask others to join them as joyful givers.
It is not give or get. It is giving and serving as an ambassador, telling the story and inviting others to give. And please, it is not "give, get or get off." Treat your board - and board giving - with the respect they deserve.
Once you have accepted the challenge and opportunity of seeing your board giving at a leadership level, it will soon become a part of your culture. Your organization's philanthropic culture will be bolstered, and you will see board giving rise dramatically, providing you with a firmer foundation to take your giving - and your mission success - to the next level.
Jeff Jowdy is the president and founder of Lighthouse Counsel and a member of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.