A New Standard for Board Giving

In a recently conducted survey of my linked-in colleagues, I asked about their involvement with nonprofit boards. I specifically focused on board giving at their nonprofits and the responses I got back were a bit surprising. Although nearly 90% of those responding had a requirement that board members either give and/or solicit donations, nearly 60% had no minimum giving requirement.

Research on the true drivers of fundraising success reveals just how important board giving is to the success of the fundraising program. Giving by board members is more powerfully correlated with overall fundraising success than any other factor! In fact, advanced analysis reveals that total contributions can often be predicted by multiplying the total given by board members by four, if the board(s) are giving at the numbers suggested in this post.

In the original research done for my book, The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Want, board member after board member admitted that they gave more to organizations that offered substantive, meaningful board experience. The more engaged they could be on their board, the more they wanted to support the organization financially.

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It is time for nonprofits to consider a new standard for board giving.

The new standard should be that total board giving is 25% of the organization’s fundraising target for the year. Easier said than done; however, not impossible by any means. It is ambitious, but we need to pay attention to what research has demonstrated and to what board members are clearly saying

Engaged board members give more. And the more they give, the more involved they become in your overall fundraising effort.  They become powerful advocates to other donors. They willingly speak powerfully and convincingly about the importance of the organization’s philanthropic needs. A fully engaged board—giving 25% of the organization’s annual goal—becomes a powerful fundraising engine helping energize every donor to give generously as well. They are rewarded by meaningful involvement and the foundation meets financial goals—it’s a win-win.

Some board members will be able to give large gifts, some smaller gifts, but together their gifts should equal 25% of the overall goal. When I have presented this important new standard to nonprofit boards, I use a board member giving pyramid that outlines that the size of the individual gifts will vary, but the total will equal that powerful 25%.

So, what has the response been when this new target has been presented to various nonprofit board members? Without exception, they have immediately seen the justification and the potential power of this new standard. They understand the importance of re-evaluating the giving capacity of the current board and the identifying new member prospects whose giving potential can help the board reach that 25% goal. And just as importantly, they understand that if they are to reach this new goal, the board must be passionate about the cause, engaged in substantive work, and fully supportive of the organization’s strategic goals. Many factors affect each other, but this is one that you can address immediately!

Let’s conclude with this: not all nonprofit boards are formed with fundraising as the primary goal; therefore, this recommendation may not be as pertinent to some. A few still feel their board members should be focused more on community involvement. However, many with this initial goal eventually find the need to raise money. Why not start with this board recommendation? With this new standard guiding a philanthropic board’s fundraising role, the team will begin to fulfill their true fundraising potential and, in the process, bring transformational change to the nonprofits whose work they guide. That is what it is truly all about, isn’t it?