Board members are the key volunteers of the organization. Fundraising follows their lead. They set the tone.
Not only should board giving be 100% (at any level), but board members should also give to their capacity and participate heavily in securing gifts from others. Individual gifts account for 60% to 80% of all donations in mature organizations, and to achieve that, many gifts must be large gifts. In most small to medium sized organizations, major gift development typically falls to board members with the support of staff. A board member would be hard-pressed to ask someone else for a gift if that board member does not already give.
Board giving goals:
- 100% participation: this is essential if the board is to have any credibility when asking others for gifts—and, in many cases, to qualify for foundation gifts.
- A “give or get” policy that sets a reasonable overall fundraising goal for board members. If a board member can only afford $100 per year, the “give or get” policy might establish the expectation that this individual board member’s overall fundraising target is $2000 -- $1900 of which comes from gifts the board member secures from others on the organization’s behalf.
- A giving policy that expects board members to consider their organization as their primary benefactor of their philanthropy. It would, for example, not reflect well on the board member’s commitment to the organization to give $100 to the organization s/he governs and $5000 to another charity.
- A giving policy that expects board members to donate to their “capacity” to give. This is pretty murky, but while a person of modest means has limited capacity to give, someone of substantial means has a greater capacity to give. Individuals who govern the organization should support it to the degree they can afford to do so. While a car mechanic might be considered generous and self-sacrificing to give $100, a wealthy person would not be giving to his/her capacity with the same $100 gift.
Widely held opinion: Yes, board members absolutely should give, and it reflects badly on an organization when some of the individuals who have fiduciary responsibility for the success of the organization do not support that organization with a generous gift. Some board members may say, “My gift to the organization is my time and my expertise,” but that does not cut it. The board member’s return on that investment is the opportunity to have considerable say about how their beloved mission is carried out. That is both a responsibility and a perk or benefit of board membership. If the board member cares passionately about the mission, then having a say in how the organization fulfills that mission is a tremendous reward. Participation on the board does not absolve board members of their fiscal responsibilities to the organization and mission they love.