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Board Giving: Starting the Conversation

Nearly every authority on nonprofit governance I know agrees:  One element of board responsibility is to contribute to the nonprofit they serve.  The concept does make sense.  If members of the board of directors are reluctant to give we’re off to a rough start in our fundraising.

And while this concept makes eminent sense to me, and I expect to you, too, how do we start a conversation that’ll move us in this direction if there’s been no clarity about board responsibilities up to now?

Here are three ways to get the subject on the table for serious consideration:

  • Ask the board chair to appoint a group to write a board job description. If you have a governance committee, it’s a natural task for them. If you don’t, appoint a small working group. But be sure there are a couple of members who get the concept and will be willing to argue for “board giving” to be among the responsibilities.
  • Has there been board training on governance in the past couple of years?  If not, get a session organized and on the agenda. And bring in a consultant, or a volunteer leader from another nonprofit in your community where board giving is part of the drill.  Be sure the volunteers and not the staff are leading the discussion.
  • If you have a chair of the board and a chair of the development committee who are “with the program,” start an informal conversation with them about getting this addressed and put before the board for action.

Remember:  Your chance for success is greater if the charge is led by volunteers.  And further: That you don’t start by mandating a minimum donation.  In the first one, two, or three years make the amount voluntary.  But do discuss the “ouch factor:”  If I don’t wince when I write the check, it’s probably not enough.

Give it a go!  Remember that most donors expect giving to start with the board of directors.  Charitable foundations frequently want to know that all board members are on board and donating.  It just makes sense.  But if it hasn’t been practice ’til now, start the conversation. You’ll get there.

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