Wednesday, August 4, 2010
For some, board membership represents prestige, a resume builder, or just something to chat about. However, the actual role of a board member is to promote organization awareness, to inform and execute decisions related to organizational sustainability and growth, to provide program oversight and support, to fundraise, to ensure effective leadership, and to provide financial guidance/oversight.
Sadly; however, some board members shy away from their responsibility to serve as fundraisers for the very organization that they want others to support. Development departments throughout the sector cringe at the very idea that often there is not one hundred percent board giving. How can a prospective funder or donor to feel comfortable about giving when board members have not?
In the hallowed “halls” of the development/fundraising departments, there is a mantra often quoted that simply says, “Give it. Get it. Or get off.” Paraphrased, the mantra simply suggests that board members are expected to be of financial support to the organization, which they represent – some how, some way.
All board members should have a copy of their organization’s bylaws that state the required board gift/assessment. Board gifts differ from organization to organization in terms of amounts and frequency of the gift (i.e. some gifts are annual, some are quarterly, etc.) Regardless of the size or frequency of the gift, when you accept a board seat you have also accepted the responsibilities that come with it – including giving!
As noted, board members are expected to give. So KNOW the assessment and the frequency of the gift before you accept a board seat. If you pockets can handle the assessment, please write the check, turn in the cash, charge it, or have it debited from your account in a timely fashion. The development department has to report on all of these activities and board member cooperation is crucial to that process. So if you can, give it!
Again, you are expected to give; however, your pockets cannot handle the expectation. Well, this is where the “get it” comes in. Ask x number of your friends to make gifts in some pre-determined amount until you have reached your expected gift total. Family members, colleagues, etc. can make a donation on your behalf to your organization putting your name in the memo section of the check. For instance if board assessment is $100 annually and you cannot afford give the full amount, ask 9 people for $10 to support your organization. Add your own $10 and you will have met your duty. If you can afford half of the cost and your company has a matching gift program, then this is another way to “get it.” Your company can even make the full payment on your behalf, if it has a matching funds program for volunteer hours.
Your respective nonprofit organization should have a giving policy in place that addresses the processing and acknowledgement of such activities. If not, your development committee, finance department, and/or legal counsel need to work towards such with expedience. There are countless ways to make your board gift, even if you do not personally have all of the funds available. All it requires is a little bit of time, effort, and follow-up on your part. You have not, because you ask not. Simply ask and go get it!!!!
Finally, if you really have no desire to support organization financially it is probably best for you to step down or simply put, get off the board. If you are not willing to fundraise, you are simply dead weight in that respect to the board. Perhaps, it would better serve for you to sit on an advisory committee where you can share ideas and even volunteer during some of the fundraising activities such as phone-a-thons, stuffing envelopes, serving as a greeter, etc. Either way, you still must be willing to “give” something! No one wants to really see a board member leave, but board members must realize that they have financial and fiduciary responsibilities that are crucial to the overall health and sustainability of the nonprofit organization.
I hope this serves as a wake up call to some and/or just a reminder to others. If nonprofits are to be viable in both the short and long-term, board giving is a must. It directly impacts and influences the giving of prospective donors and speaks volumes about the overall organizational culture and propensity for success.
-The Grant Guru