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A few years ago, I wrote an article that was titled, 5 Decisive Ways to Support Your Nonprofit Board’s Fundraising Efforts. As we approach Giving Tuesday and the holiday season, this is the time to be focusing on one of the elements I mentioned like a laser. That would be making sure that board members contribute their financial gift if they have not done so yet.

I’ve been in your shoes. I know that many, perhaps most, nonprofits have a tough time getting their board volunteers to support their cause. Many board members want to serve and appreciate the prestige that comes with the association of serving on the board of a charity; however, when it comes to pulling out their wallet, it’s often difficult.

I Love You But…

As I mentioned, I’ve been in your shoes in my various roles in the philanthropic sector, and I’ve heard board members be enthusiastic and very supportive of the cause. Many will give of their time and talent, and that’s great. But, in almost all cases, board members should be able also to make a financial contribution.

Being a board member brings its privileges, and the thought of giving leadership volunteers a pass when it comes to supporting an organization with a monetary donation should be something that is limited to very few exceptions. Nonprofit teams have to get beyond the “I love you, but…” when it comes to money.

Differences in Capacity

Yes, there can be valid reasons why a particular board member will not be asked or will be excused from making a financial contribution. One of the most straightforward reasons is that a board member might not have money and is personally going through tough times. If this individual is giving in other ways and supporting the cause, of course, they should be given a pass––particularly if they’ve been supportive in the past. We should always have the grace to allow people to get through a storm that may be passing through their lives.

Other instances could be valid reasons for someone not giving a financial gift in a particular year. Perhaps the person is a founder or one of the earliest board members who has had an incredible history in contributing to the charity, but they have gotten to a place in their life where they have become a lot older and, as may happen, they are reconsidering their giving priorities in the winter of their lives. You can also have a person on your board who is afflicted with a disease, such as cancer. Again, it’s essential to allow the space for people to get through difficult times. But yet, these are the exceptions.

The Rule for Making Few Exceptions

The most important thing that you can do as a nonprofit leader to ensure that you don’t ever find yourself in a situation where you’re faced with multiple board members who are not making a financial contribution is to make it clear at the outset as a condition of serving on the board. If you recruit volunteers with the explicit understanding that they must make a financial contribution, then there’s an expectation that they will give from the moment they join.

If you happen to have a board that does not have an explicit commitment for board members to make a financial donation, all it takes is to have several conversations with influential board members (e.g., board chair and development chair). Your aim is to get them on your side and then to have them make a board motion when you know that you’ve got the critical influencers on board.

Should All Board Members Give the Same Amount?

There are two schools of thought. One group of people, particularly at larger organizations, think that board members should commit to “give or get” a specific amount, regardless of capacity. Often prestigious organizations have this approach to fundraising from the board.

The other group believes that so long as 100 percent of the board makes a financial donation, then each board member should contribute according to their means. In this scenario, you may have an affluent board member give $50,000 while a school teacher who serves on the board may only donate $500.

Neither of these approaches is right or wrong. What’s most important is what works for your particular organization. But, as we approach the end of the year, merely asking board members who may not be actively contributing, could be a great way to begin the conversion of 100 percent board participation.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)

© 2018 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.