“How can I get my nonprofit Board members to give?”
I bet you have asked yourself this question.
As well you should.
Your Board should be giving.
It’s part of their job.
As leaders of your organization, they should be the FIRST ones to make a donation.
Yet some don’t.
Why is that?
Why don’t they want to financially support the organization they serve on the Board of?
It’s frustrating when they don’t understand how important their donation is to you.
It’s really frustrating when you have to chase them down to give, especially when you have so many other things you could be doing with that time.
Getting 100% Board giving can feel insurmountable.
But it’s important to pursue because:
- Grant funders want to know that Board members aren’t just seat holders, but passionate enough about the cause to put their financial resources behind it.
- Savvy major donors will want to know that Board members are committed enough to make a large personal contribution.
- Board giving sets the stage for annual giving and capital campaigns.
- Board giving shows YOU that they are in this with you, as partners.
So, how do you get your Board members to understand all this? How do you get them to give without a lot of prodding?
The role of a nonprofit Board in giving money
Nonprofit Boards serve a vital role in supporting the vision and mission of the organization. Their main role is to be the interface between the organization and the community to make sure the mission is carried out, that money is handled appropriately, and to create trust.
Additionally, individual Board members can help in a variety of ways. They can:
- Volunteer their time on a committee or in a specific role in the nonprofit.
- Help raise awareness in the community about your mission.
- Open doors to potential sponsors, donors, and volunteers.
- Obtain or give in-kind gifts.
- Advocate for the cause inside and outside of the community.
Those roles can change and vary depending on the specific Board member and their strengths, connections, and interests. Ideally, you should recruit a diverse group of individuals to serve on your Board who have a variety of resources to bring to the table.
However, the one thing that ALL Board members should be willing to do is to make a personal financial contribution.
Regardless of how much they give, it’s important that each member of your Board makes a financial donation to your organization.
What exactly is 100% Board giving?
100% Board giving means every single member of your Board of Directors is giving money to your nonprofit.
Whether they give $1 or $1 million or something in between doesn’t really matter (although I hope that they give as much as they can!). What matters is that everyone is giving something.
The goal is achieved when every single person on your Board is a financial donor at some point during the fiscal year.
Now, I recognize that there are all different types of Boards:
- Boards that are recruited and Boards that are appointed.
- Boards that are small and others that are quite large.
- Boards that are actively engaged and those that rubber stamp whatever the Founder or Director says.
- There are Boards that are holding on by a string and others that have a committed group of people determined to ensure the success of the organization.
- There are Board members who put their ego aside and others who constantly want you to appease them.
Whatever type of Board you have, there IS a way to get 100% of your nonprofit Board members to give.
And it will help if your Board members understand WHY it’s important that they give.
Why it’s important that Board members give
There are several reasons why it’s important that you have 100% Board giving.
Explaining these reasons to your Board members will help them understand why you’re asking for their support and pave the way for a smoother Board giving campaign.
1. Some grant funders require it. If you want to apply for and actually win a grant, you need to answer this question on the application of grant funders.
“Does 100% of your Board give?”
If you cannot answer yes to that question, it may disqualify you from receiving a grant.
Help your Board understand that if they don’t make a personal financial contribution, it could keep you from getting grant money. That’s usually enough of a reason to motivate them to give.
2. Leaders should be the first givers. Leaders provide an example for others to follow. If you want staff, volunteers, and the community to give, your leaders need to give first.
Leadership giving sends a strong message to the community that “I believe in this organization so much that I am going to give to it before anyone else does.”
3. It’s their job. A third reason that you need to have 100% Board giving is because fundraising is one of the main responsibilities of the Board. It’s their job to ensure the organization has adequate resources to operate. They can accomplish that by giving themselves, helping with fundraising, and hiring a consultant, contractor, or staff person to lead fundraising efforts.
Teamwork is truly what will make your dream work and the only way to do that is to have all of your Board members committed to raising the money to fund the cause, starting with their own donation.
4. Askers should be givers first. Before your Board members invite someone to give, they need to make their own gift first. Think about it: what if they are in a situation with a friend talking about your nonprofit, and that friend says “So, how much did YOU give?”
You don’t want your Board members to be embarrassed in front of their friends! If they haven’t made a personal financial contribution, how could they ask someone else to do the same?
How do you get 100% Board giving?
So, how do you get 100% of your nonprofit Board members to give? What does a successful Board giving campaign look like?
It takes a purposeful effort on your part with a little education to remind Board members that they need to give. They probably won’t remember it on their own, so they’ll need your help remembering their responsibility and knowing how you’d like them to give.
There are two main things you need to do:
1. Set the expectation during recruitment.
Start new Board members off on the right foot by making giving a part of the recruitment conversation. Set the expectation as you’re talking with them about the possibility of their joining your Board. If they push back on this or have an excuse for why they can’t give, you may not want them on your Board. Just saying.
When you tell prospects upfront that you’ll be expecting them — as a member of your Board — to make a personal financial contribution, they’ll just do it. As far as they’re concerned, it’s just the way things are done in your nonprofit.
It’s best if you put this expectation in writing so they have it to refer back to later. You can either make this part of your Board handbook if you have one or simply give them one-sheet document with a list of the expectations you have for your Board. Have them sign it to give them the chance to document their commitment.
2. Run a Board giving campaign every January.
To get 100% of your nonprofit’s Board members to give every year, you have to ask them. Most of them won’t remember that they’re supposed to give or they’ll get busy with their lives and forget that they didn’t give yet this year. So, make a short Board campaign part of your activities in January each year to make it easier for them and for you.
To make the campaign successful, be ready with:
- Start date and end date for the campaign (no longer than 60 days – the shorter the better). People work well with deadlines and this will help wrap up the campaign quickly.
- Pledge/Gift form. Give them a pledge card so they can make their pledge for the year and either pay it now or pay part of it now and the rest later in the year. By putting it in writing, it makes it more real. Give the Board member a copy to keep and you keep a copy, too.
- Time for follow up. As crappy as it is, you’ll probably have to make phone calls to several of your Board members to remind them it’s time to give. Being prepared for this up front can ease your frustration a bit.
- Directions for giving. Be really clear with your Board about HOW they should give. Do you want them to give online or hand you a check? Is it okay if they sponsor a table at your event for their Board gift?
Once you have your Board campaign figured out and the materials ready, kick off your campaign each January with these steps:
- Verbally announce the campaign at the January Board meeting. Remind them that it’s time for their annual gift and give them a pledge form for the year. Talking about it at the Board meeting also gets it in the meeting minutes which can be a good reminder for those who read the minutes.
- Send a follow up email after the meeting, reminding them it’s time for their commitment. Reiterate what you said at the meeting. Attach a copy of the pledge/gift form and remind them of the deadline to give.
- Make follow up calls about halfway through the campaign to remind those who haven’t given yet that they need to act soon.
- Send a final reminder email the day before the deadline, reminding them of the deadline.
- Call in reinforcements as needed. If you have a straggler or two who didn’t respond at all during the campaign, get your Board chair or other Board leader involved. Sometimes, a peer-to-peer call can get the results you’re looking for. If the person STILL doesn’t respond, it’s time to gracefully remove them from your Board.
Example #1: January Campaign.
One of our clients conducts their Board campaign every January and has their members re-sign their Board Member Agreement Form where it lists Board giving as a requirement. This is a good way to remind everyone of their responsibility and run the campaign at the same time.
Example #2. Event Sponsorships.
Another one of our clients has a Board that fully supports their annual fundraising event. Every Board member sponsors a table, which boosts the bottom line amount raised at the event. While this works well, the group has to remember that Board members give through the event, which means there’s not a “Board giving” line item in the budget and Board member giving has to be tracked another way.
Occasionally, you may run into issues trying to get 100% Board giving.
The main thing is to try not to get frustrated. Once you do, it’s hard to think positively or be supportive as you try to reach your goal.
Remember that each person on your Board is an individual and has their own situation. Everyone has different ability to give and some people’s ability changes from year to year based on their income. Whether they choose to give or not to give is really about them. Your job is to support them to do what you’ve asked them to do.
What do you do if someone’s seat on the Board is because their employer makes a large donation? Or if they are appointed? Do they still need to give personally?
The simple answer to that is yes.
Here’s a story from Dawn Owens to illustrate:
“I had a situation where a local bank invested in our cause early in our organization’s history and the bank president who was most passionate about us didn’t have time to sit on our board. However, he assigned another member of the leadership team to sit on the board.
I asked the bank president to communicate to the selected leader that with their appointment came the requirement of a personal gift no matter the size. I also made it my goal to educate the appointed individual, and he became so passionate about our cause he was excited to support the mission financially.”
How about if a Board member has provided an in-kind gift or is offering free office space or printing services? Do they need to give personally as well?
I think you already are guessing the answer, but here it is anyway: yes.
Those donations are very helpful to the success of the organization. However, in order to ensure 100% Board Giving, every Board member must give a personal financial gift. While their gift of materials or free services is valuable, it just isn’t the same as giving money. They need to make a monetary donation too, though it can be modest.
What about apathetic Board members who don’t respond to your request?
Well, it may be that your Board is in need of some training to better understand their roles and responsibilities. Or maybe they need a first-hand experience with your nonprofit’s programs to really understand how their donation will be used.
Or maybe you have some people on your Board who don’t need to be on your Board right now. It might be time to ‘bless and release’ them so you don’t have to keep dragging them around.
Does 100% Board giving mean my Board members will be my nonprofit’s biggest givers?
You definitely want the leaders of your nonprofit to make the largest charitable gift they can to your nonprofit. However, if your top donors sit on your Board, it may create a power struggle that you aren’t equipped to handle.
In other words, you don’t want someone on your Board who thinks they can throw their weight around or call the shots because they’ve made the biggest donation.
You may not want to recruit only big potential donors to join your Board. Just because someone has the capacity to give a large gift, does not make them a productive Board member.
People give for lots of different reasons, and until you know that their reason is purely for the good of the cause, use great caution when adding Board members with big bucks.
Can their gift be monthly or does it need to be paid all at once?
This is really up to you and your Board and can be a great conversation for an upcoming Board meeting. They all need to give but how they do that may be different depending on each person’s circumstance and on your need for cash.
This is why a campaign in January can be helpful. If someone commits to $1,000 for the year, but wants to make monthly payments of $83.33, you need to decide ahead of time if that is acceptable.
The Bottom Line
Having 100% Board giving is important to your nonprofit for many reasons. To get your nonprofit Board members to give, set the expectation during recruitment. Then, ask them each year to give.
By having a well thought-out process, you can reach your goal of receiving personal, financial donations from every single one of your Board members every year.