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  • Writer's pictureRebecca J Diamond

Don't Worry You Don't Have to Fundraise—The #1 Lie Told When Joining a Nonprofit Board

Stop! If your executive director is onboarding board members by telling them they don’t have to fundraise, you are in big trouble. And, you need to fix it.

As a board member of a nonprofit you have a fiduciary responsibility to not only fundraise but to make a proud, personal, monetary contribution each year. Yes, volunteering your time to be on the board is valuable, and you signed up for that, but you also signed up for a whole lot more.

Each and every member of your nonprofit board should be making an annual, financial contribution to the nonprofit, because it helps secure major donors, it helps you fundraise in good conscience, and it shows that your board leads by example.

What is 100% board giving?

Boards are responsible for the financial health of the organization and part of that financial health is the board members themselves giving. Your goal should be to have 100% board giving, which means every one of your board members makes a monetary donation each year.

The beauty of 100% board giving is that the actual amount given is often less significant than the board actually giving. 100% board giving sends a loud and clear message to the donor community that the board is fully in support of the mission of the nonprofit.

Additionally, certain grant funders and major donors require 100% board giving before they themselves will make a contribution to the organization.

Why 100% board giving?

For one reason or another, board members may not choose to make an annual, personal gift to the organization, but most of the time, the board members don’t understand the positive results of 100% board giving nor the extremely negative ramifications not giving can have.

Compared to major gifts, annual board giving might feel inconsequential—and is often accounts for less than 10% of total giving—however, major donors often won’t even start down the road of contributing to your organization unless they know your entire board is in full support of your mission, which is clearly evidenced through 100% board giving.

Outside of major gifts and grants, 100% board giving allows nonprofits to solicit donations from individual donors in good conscience. Why would anyone else donate to your organization if your very own board isn’t willing to make a contribution?

It is important that nonprofit boards lead by example when fundraising and make a proud, personal gift every single year.

How to encourage 100% board giving?

First and foremost, just ask. The most common reason for board members (and the general public) not giving is simply because they were never asked. Ask and you shall receive.

While asking is Step #1, organizations can also encourage 100% board giving by setting the expectation during recruitment, running a board giving campaign to start the year, or literally requiring it in the bylaws.

According to Leading with Intent’s 2021 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices, nearly 80% of nonprofit organizations require its board members to make a personal, monetary contribution and more than 25% of those nonprofits specify a minimum or exact dollar amount that must be given.

Some organizations also choose to implement a “give or get” policy that sets the expectation of how much a board member needs to fundraise, however, allows them to either personally contribute that amount or raise the funds from family and friends to equal the required amount.

While the “give or get” approach has its merits, applying a “give and get” policy requires board members to make a contribution and ask their family and friends to contribute. This approach allows board members to encourage their families and friends to join them in giving, rather than relying solely on the contributions of others.

The bottom line

If you are not willing to put in the time, effort, and financial support, do the nonprofit a favor and do not accept a position on their board.

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