Is A Board Member’s Job To “Give or Get”?

This can be a quandary or at least an ongoing topic of debate in nonprofits.  Some feel asking their board members to give a specific amount and recruit a specific amount of funding from others is instrumental.  Others feel it caps a board member’s expectations, or it will hinder board recruitment.  Many nonprofits have a job description or a Roles & Responsibilities document but don’t enforce it.  Many board members can’t tell you what’s on their job description.  Some may not have been through any type of new board member orientation.  Let’s address these topics one by one:

Board Member Job Description
Every nonprofit should have a board member job description in place.  Organizations should update their job descriptions every few years, preferably at the same time as they update their strategic plan.  Job descriptions should be used as a board recruitment tool and should include the board member’s role in fundraising.  It should also describe the board member’s fiscal responsibility and obligation to act as an ambassador to increase the awareness of the organization.  If fundraising is not set as an expectation from the beginning, it’s difficult to change later on.  Changing a non-fundraising board into a fundraising board can be done as board members roll off via term limits. It is also vital for a nonprofit to provide new board members with an orientation.  This can be led by the board chair, vice chair or a former board member.  It is an excellent time to review the job description, bylaws, term limits, budget, strategic plan, and committee structure.  Here is a link to download a sample board director responsibilities description.  It spells out the responsibility of fundraising and does not have a “give or get” policy.

Give Or Get Policy
All board members should give a personal and meaningful gift each and every year and should recruit donations to help meet budgetary and campaign goals.  Does a job description have to include a “give or get”?  Some organizations with larger budgets create a “give or get” policy that instructs board members to either give or recruit X dollars in donations.  This is a great approach, but let’s be clear that a personal meaningful gift is a must.  A corporate gift from a board member is not a personal meaningful gift and cannot count for his or her personal gift.  Create stretch goals for each board member to raise X dollars annually or as part of a campaign.  Board members should be recruited for their passion and for their circle of influence.  Successful boards are diverse and are comprised of board members who can solicit funding and open doors to funding.  Here’s a great article by Bristol with the Association of Fundraising Professionals

Is Fundraising A Board Member’s Job?
Yes.  It is important that all board members give a meaningful gift each year so that 100% participation from the board can be achieved.  Many funders will not give a nonprofit funding if all of its board of directors are not donors.  Funders question why they should give to an organization if its own governing body is not financially contributing to its success.  Some nonprofits have clients, or surviving family members of clients on their boards.  It is important that these board members make an annual gift as well, even if it’s small.  If board members feel uncomfortable asking for contributions, the nonprofit should seek out solicitation training or have these members accompany another board member or staff member who can make the ask.

Do We Need To Abide By Term Limits?
Yes.  Successful boards benefit from term limits.  The key is keeping impactful board members involved and stewarded in other ways once they roll off the board.  Term limits should be staggered so that each year new board members are recruited to keep fresh ideas flowing and new circles of influence tapped.  Creating an Advisory Board is a great way to keep former board members involved.  Former board members can lead projects, sit on committees, train volunteers, lead the new board member orientation, lead capital campaigns – the list goes on and on.  Here is a sample board recruitment matrix you can download.

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