“How much should a board member be required to give?”
It’s a question I receive fairly often when working with all types and sizes of organizations. The short answer – it depends on your board culture.
My personal preference is not to set an amount, but ask each board member to make their best gift. If they are serving on your board, it is not unreasonable to expect to be in their top three gifts.
Two ways to approach it with your board:
Their Best Gift
Board members should feel strongly – even passionately – about your organization’s mission. Therefore, they should want to make their best gift to help you accomplish that mission. Through their perspective as a board member, they know how much money you need to make a difference and their passion should translate into a gift that makes the biggest difference possible.
Caring How it is Used
A key responsibility of a board member is the fiscal health of the organization. Board members who have made a personally significant best gift, will feel ownership of how donated funds are used. As they monitor the fiscal activities of your organization, they will see their gift at work. This allows them to shift from an “advisory” role where they are watching over other people’s money to a “service” role where they have a stake in your progress.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention minimum gift levels. I’m not opposed to them in all situations. Many organizations have a culture that supports that approach. If it’s working for your nonprofit, stick with it. However, if you have a minimum amount but most board members aren’t giving it, it’s time to reevaluate your approach.
Board giving is a critically important topic for every nonprofit. After all, it is easier to ask other people to join you in making a difference – rather than just asking them to do it. Now is the perfect time to discuss your board giving and take action to improve it.
If you need help with your board giving plan, contact us today and we can discuss how we can help.
Many times in my career I resented the money we were spending on board gifts. Looking back, that was short sighted of me. Board gifts – those little things with your organization’s logo that you can use to express gratitude for their service – actually pay a dividend to your organization.
I’ll use my favorite Yeti knockoff as an example: it was a thank you gift for my service on a board (it was actually leftover participant gifts from a golf tournament – so check the supply closet). At the time I opened the gift, I thought “oh this is nice.” But now 5 years later, it is a powerful tool that opens many conversations about the organization.
Yesterday I took it to my daughter’s high school softball game. Lest I sound like a complete nonprofit nerd, let me assure you I selected that tumbler because I can sit in the hot Florida sun and the ice won’t melt in my Diet Dr. Pepper. But, because the Young Life logo was on the tumbler, one of the other parents asked me about it (the organization, not my cold beverage). I had the chance to talk about the mission of the organization and why we support the organization. I didn’t have to bring it up – they asked me. In any fundraising book, that’s a win-win.
Here are some ideas on how your next board gift can be a win-win for your organization:
Do they write with your organization’s pen? Do they keep an extra on hand so when someone needs a pen they can share it?
Do your board members have name tags they can wear at your events? These are cheap and easy to order, so make sure it looks nice.
Do your board members have shirts (a collared shirt for casual Friday or golf)? Hats? Some kind of apparel that makes it apparent they are on your team?
Do they drink from a coffee mug or insulated cup with your logo on it? It could also be used on their desk to hold pens.
Board gifts are a valuable tool in helping board members share the mission of your organization and allows a soft introduction to the people they see when out and about.
We’d love to hear about the best board gift you have given or received – please share in the comments below or Tweet us @SaraTampa.
The annual board retreat is coming up! You’ve found the perfect date (you still can’t believe it worked for everyone!), location (the perfect mix of relaxation and work space) and the yummy food is set to be delivered. The board leadership has worked with your board retreat facilitator to create an agenda that lets the group get to know each other better and discuss some big things ahead. This isn’t your first board retreat though, you know how hard it is to get everyone to disconnect and be present. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with three ways to help you and your participants be present at your next board retreat.
1. A cell phone basket. Before the board retreat begins, have everyone place their silenced phones in a basket (don’t worry, they can check them at breaks and lunch if needed). We all know how addicting our phones are and one innocent, out-of-habit look at your email is all it takes to lose focus on what is going on in the same room. The fair thing would be to give your board retreat participants advanced notice so they can set their out of office messages and be prepared for giving up their phones.
2. To do later list. One of the first things we do at a board retreat is have participants take out a blank piece of paper and title it “to do later.” This is where all of those nagging thoughts of ‘did I respond to Joe?’ and ‘I need to pick up the dry cleaning’ go. Taking a cue from meditation – acknowledge the thought, write it down (in our case, not meditations) and let it go.
3. The parking lot. Sometimes conversations take a wrong or winding turn. This is where the parking lot comes in handy. When the ideas are flowing and everyone is together great ideas happen. But, it might not be the time or place for that idea. On the parking lot it goes. It makes the board retreat participant feel that their thought matters and it gives the great idea or question a place to live so that it can be addressed later.
A well-organized board retreat is a great way to re-engage, re-energize and reconnect your board members. It offers time to concentrate on specific issues at your organization or to think big picture about the future. To make it as successful as possible everyone needs to be fully present and engaged. We hope using the tips above helps you make the most of your time together. We’d love to hear how you incorporated these into your next board retreat.
I recently worked with Steve King, Executive Director, and Dennis Pitocco, Board Chair of Meals on Wheels of Tampa to present an educational session on increasing board members’ participation in their fundraising efforts. Like many boards, this board sees the opportunity for improvement in this area. One of the challenges expressed by many: how do we hold board members accountable when they are just volunteers, not staff members. The next question is often, who should hold them accountable?
In our preparation for the educational session, Dennis said that as board chair his goal was to hold board members “comfortably accountable.” I love that phrase! We want to hold board members accountable but in a way that is comfortable for the board member, the board leadership and the staff.
Here is the goal: comfortably accountable. Here is the What, Who and How of “comfortably accountable.”
Comfortably accountable is an approach that allows board members to hold each other accountable, not with an atmosphere of intimidation and guilt but with an atmosphere of encouragement and celebration.
The best person to hold a board member accountable is another board member. Board member to board member is a peer to peer relationship. Both are volunteers.
How do we achieve comfortably accountable? I recommend these 5 things:
Clear expectations – start with clear board expectations during recruitment and revisit them at least once a year.
Focus on the mission – make sure each board member sees how their involvement and investment helps the nonprofit reach their mission.
Thorough follow-up – insure that board members are communicating on their progress.
Collegial atmosphere – find opportunities for your board to get to know each other and build trust as a group. Often a board retreat or social gathering is the way to encourage that collegial atmosphere.
Celebration of successes – make sure that board members appreciate each other and celebrate the successes of the board and the entire organization.
No one wants to serve on a board that is ruled by guilt and fear. Conversely, no one wants to serve on a board that doesn’t really need them. The way to make sure you don’t face either of these extremes is to seek an atmosphere of “comfortably accountable.”
In my favorite sport, auto racing, a green flag signifies the start of a race. My favorite moment at the Indianapolis 500 is when the green flag waves and 33 cars come roaring past us on their way to turn one. It makes my heart race just thinking about it. This blog post also makes my heart race – for many of the same reasons: it’s the start of the Sara Leonard Group.
In launching this business I am committed to being your partner in doing more good.
What does that look like?
Fundraising – every nonprofit needs resources to accomplish their mission. I can equip you to get the resources you need whether you are starting from scratch or fine-tuning.
Training – I love creating and delivering training to nonprofit professionals and volunteers at all skill levels. I can help you and your team build skills, confidence and motivation to succeed.
Coaching – through fund development coaching, I can assist you through the process of achieving specific professional and organizational results. I am available to work one-on-one with CEO’s, executive directors, board leaders and fundraising professionals.
Facilitating – as an objective, informed outsider, we can provide the facilitation your group needs to accomplish important objectives. Let us help with board retreats, staff retreats, meetings, strategic planning sessions.
As I wave the green flag to start my business, I’ve got to ask: how can I help you? I’m here to be your partner in doing more good.
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