In most successful nonprofits, giving begins with the board. Your organization may have a board policy that stipulates 100% contribution participation. The policy alone is all you need to encourage or remind most board members to contribute, but how do you handle those who don’t? Here are some ideas that other nonprofits have successfully implemented:
Provide board members options to fulfill their commitment
Agree upfront whether board members’ time and talents qualify toward the 100% contribution goal. Allow board members (and anyone else you can find!) to sign up for a monthly giving and/or estate planning programs. Does participation in the nonprofit’s annual event qualify? Sometimes removing ambiguity as to what qualifies and what does not is all you need to meet your 100% participation goal.
Include it in their annual board member agreement
Many organizations require board members to sign a board member agreement, either annually, or upon joining the board. These agreements can clarify roles and responsibilities of board members. Often, they include a 100% participation requirement, and what types of contributions qualify, avoiding unnecessary confusion or surprises down the road. It is frustrating to join a board, only to learn later of requirements that were not mentioned during the recruitment process.
Implement a plan to personally ask each board member to contribute. Board members are very closely involved in the organization and deserve to be asked on a more personal level than the general solicitation materials sent out by the organization.
Celebrate all contributions. This avoids someone feeling ashamed that they were “only” able to contribution $50 when another member can afford contribute $5,000. Emphasize that the amount should be meaningful to them, and that amount is different for every individual.
An annual “give” meeting
Incorporate it as part of a specified meeting every year and ideally, the same meeting annually. During the fourth quarter of the year is common timing as many donors are already in the process of their annual giving considerations. Some organizations “pass the hat,” or distribute contribution agreements while others are less public about it. The methods you use should match the culture of your board.
Report on participation regularly
Some board members might not recall if they have made their annual gift this year. Reporting on overall board participation can provide a subtle reminder to make their contribution. Care should be taken not to turn this into a public shaming of any individuals.
Many organizations set 100% participation as a stretch goal, but do not feel it is necessary or appropriate to follow-up to meet that goal. Again, the culture of your organization and board plays a large role.
Ultimately, consideration of the culture of your organization and your board will direct how you approach encouraging board members to meet your 100% participation goal. Remember that most board members provide valuable resources, time and expertise to your organization. Regardless of the approach you choose, be sure to communicate expectations upfront so there are no surprises.
– Dave Studebaker