Boards and Giving

The question that keeps coming up is “Should Board members be expected to give?” I keepPink Piggy Bank On Top Of A Pile Of One Dollar Bills wondering why that is a question at all. Of course Board members should give. In fact, if they aren’t already supporting the organization, why are they even on the Board? Was there a hope that being on the Board would make a somewhat disinterested person more interested? Inspire commitment from one who is not yet committed? I don’t understand.

Serving—and I use that word deliberately--on a Board is important work. It is a commitment to help the organization do its best, be its best, and serve its constituents in the best possible way.

That takes, among other things, money.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am adamant that Board members need to stop starving their charities and ensure that they have the resources—including money; including staff; including reasonable salaries—to move the mission forward. A Board member who is not committed to this should get off the board. A Board member who is not willing to stretch him or herself to make a significant financial commitment, should not waste everyone’s time and take him or herself off the board.

Board members must be committed to the success of the organization. They have to be supporters in the broadest sense of the word. That means giving of their time, their talent, their treasure…and their tentacles. Their contacts are critical and if they are not willing to open doors, to bring others close, they are not committed Board members.

Great Board members—and I know quite a few—never say “we should,” and wait for someone else to step up.

They never expect others to make contributions if they, themselves are not willing, indeed joyous, givers.

So yes, Board members should be expected to give. But, how much? Should the organization state an amount? Or should it be left to each individual Board members to decide what is a reasonable gift for him or her to make this year?

While I think good fundraisers always have a specific number in mind-and out on the table--when asking for a gift, I’m less sanguine about putting a Board member number out their that is the number for everyone.

For starters, what should be a minimum pretty quickly becomes the ceiling and that means that the organization loses out. Sometimes big time.

Second, some Board members may not be able to reach that number, and you might lose a great board members who just cannot make that gift.

I don’t think it is bad to talk about an average Board member gift, making it clear that each Board member will be met with and his or her individual gift will be discussed. That’s a job for either the development committee or the Governance committee and helps to ensure that Board giving is a responsibility of the Board and not just something dictated by staff.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and to build stronger, more engaged boards. Learn more at, and don’t forget to ask for your free 30 minute consultation.