Give or Get? Don’t Forget a Gift of Significance, Too!

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

Over the past decade the ubiquitous “Give or Get” policy has defined the approach of securing a financial commitment from your board members. Each board member is asked to personally contribute and/or raise an identical amount of funds.  However, the threshold set, say $5,000, may be too high for some and too low for others.  It’s not based on the real consideration of your board members past giving, or their capacity to give, their potential.

When you find that a board member truly “gets” what your organization is doing, loves it as much as you do, and has the capacity to give more, it is time to supplement your “give or get” policy and ask for a Gift of Significance.

To prepare to talk with your board member, you need to first calculate what a Gift of Significance represents for them. So, here is the method.

  • Calculate the total contributions a board member has made to your organization, for as long as you have a donor record for that board member.
  • Locate the largest single annual gift that board member has ever made to your organization.  Why? That large gift serves as an indicator of their giving potential, and can shed light on their motivation to give again.
  • Add the amount of the donor’s largest gift to the average gift of other board members.  This number indicates your board members ability to stretch their giving for a special, larger, gift in the future.
  • Increase the total of the board members highest gift by 50%.
  • Obtain the informal rating of peers or colleagues, if possible, concerning the donor’s interest and capacity to give to your organization, and at what level.
  • Research your board members past giving to other charitable institutions, through services like Wealth Engine, and note the fiscal range of those gifts.
  • Take a look at the numbers you generated in steps 3-6, and use these numbers to determine the range of a Gift of Significance that you should ask your board member to make.

In most cases the donor’s giving history to your organization, joined with the informal rating of peers and colleagues; and their past giving history to other organizations carry the most weight in assessing what to ask them for.

Have asked board members for a Gift of Significance?  If so, how did it go? Please share your comments on the blog.

Do you want to get your board members to make a Gift of Significance? Click here to order Laurence’s most recent book: ’The Nonprofit Fundraising Solution.’  Chapter 3: Tuning Up The Board for Effective Fundraising Performance covers this topic.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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