Board giving

Board giving is a frequent conversation topic. Here are the three most common issues we address with new nonprofit organizations:

Do board members need to donate to the organization? If so, how much?

People serving on a board should want to give money to their organization. How much each board member gives is a personal decision. Some boards establish a minimum/suggested donation amount per board member (or in lieu of a personal donation, a board member is required to secure outside donations to meet their obligation). I think this creates unnecessary tension. Every board member’s financial situation is different; even those that appear to be doing well financially might not be able to meet a minimum donation requirement.

It’s more important to focus on the percentage of board members contributing rather than the amount each person contributes. Potential donors and grant makers want to see that the entire board is invested in the organization’s success. After all, if you don’t invest in yourselves, why should anyone else?

Our board members give their time, not money.

Not good enough. Board members are expected to give their time and expertise. In a new nonprofit’s first three, six or twelve months, someone needs to pay for the office space, communications, utilities, etc. until donations or revenue begins to roll in. If not the board members, then who?

Again: if you don’t invest in yourselves, why should anyone else?

Our board members won’t serve if they’re required to give money.

Find new board members. If a person isn’t willing to write a check–for even a nominal amount–they shouldn’t be on a board. Board members that refuse to make a donation are not committed to the organization’s mission. Everyone is replaceable.

Third time: if you don’t invest in yourselves, why should anyone else?

Governing board composition

New nonprofits/NGOs have a few commonalities in their early stages: (1) they begin with a core group of people that form the organization’s initial vision and purpose; (2) at some point after the doors open for business, the core members realize they need assistance so they recruit other likeminded individuals to serve on the board; and (3) the board is soon filled with nine or ten enthusiastic people but are they the right people? That is, do they possess the critical skills necessary to advance and grow the organization?

Board development is a strategic operation. Let’s examine the key elements:

Who should be on the board?

Nonprofit/NGO boards should regularly conduct a skills gap analysis. Two questions: What skills do our board members have? What skills does our board need? Once you identify the gaps, you can launch a focused recruitment effort. I recommend the following individuals:

  • An accountant
  • An attorney
  • A communications/PR professional
  • A fundraiser and/or a grants professional
  • A retired executive director/CEO
  • An official from your town/city/county
  • A public advocate for the population your organization serves
  • An owner of a local business

This list is a good starting point. The key is having a wide range of skills and opinions and connections to your community.

Continue reading “Governing board composition”