Face the Facts

Face the Facts

April 30th, 2010

by Dan Schipp


The board member’s frustration was palpable. 

“I want to do my fair share,” he told me, “but I have no idea how I stack up with other board members in my giving and I really don’t know what [the organization’s] expectations are of board members when it comes to giving.  If [they] shared some facts and figures on the financial support they receive from the board, it sure would help me to see what I need to do.”

This board member understands that he has a responsibility to assist his organization financially, but he wants (and deserves) some clarity and guidance on what is expected of him.  I suspect he also wants some reassurance that other board members are stepping up to the plate, and his requests are not unreasonable.  His organization and all other not-for-profits would do well to be more clear and upfront about board giving. 

So, what should not-for-profits communicate to board members about giving?  First and foremost, it needs to be said that each and every board member is expected to make a generous, annual gift.   If the board has a tradition of board members giving at a defined level, that practice should be reported to the prospective board member at the time they are being recruited for the board.  The board member’s expected role in identifying, cultivating and soliciting prospective donors must also be discussed.

In reporting on board giving, organizations certainly need to note the percentage of board members making an annual gift and the total amount contributed by them.  In addition, not-for-profits might consider reporting the range of gifts received from board members as well as the medium and median gifts.  Another valuable statistic to share with the board is the percentage of board members who have included the organization in their estate plans.

So, is your organization clear about what it expects from board members when it comes to giving?  Are any of your board members frustrated because they don’t have the “facts and figures” they need to help guide their giving?

If you’ve encountered this challenge or have more tips on keeping your board informed, let us know by posting your thoughts in the JGA comments section below.

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