What’s Working In Board Giving During CV19?

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

Since the start of the pandemic 6.2% of nonprofits have added new boards members, according to a survey of 424 nonprofits in 156 countries. So, what’s working with boards members giving?

The 3T mandate – Time, Talent and Treasury– Board attendance (Time), Board members sharing their skills and training (Talent) and Board members giving their personal financial donation and influence on getting others to give (Treasury) – has defined the basis for what it means to be an active member of a nonprofit board of directors; but while well received, there’s been a major problem. The 3T mandate has episodes of success, but as a whole rarely come together to achieve full board engagement.

Most board members do not fulfill the 3T mandate. Why not? A close examination shows that all three T’s are all about what a board member gives, not what they themselves receive. What kind of relationship is that? It’s a one- sided relationship and I think that is why the emphasis on enforcing the three T’s often produces lackluster results. The truth is that generally 20% of the board will enjoy being involved in fundraising, 60% will be neutral about it, and the remaining 20% will want nothing to do with it.

Six Approaches To Complement 3T

Here are six approaches that are more mutual and work best to stimulate board giving.

Annual 1-on1- Meetings

It’s very powerful when an Executive Directors and the Board Chairs join together to have an intentional conversation with each board member once a year. When you take the time to meet with each board member (just 60-minutes) to better understand what interests them about your agency. Find out why they got involved in the first place and what keeps them involved. Secondly, regarding their personal giving, instead of asking for an exact dollar amount, ask them to consider giving what for them is a significant gift—the largest gift they have ever made. By “significant” I mean in the top three of their total charitable giving that year. At the same time, you might ask them if they are happy with their charitable giving: does it reflect their values and what they want to see happen in the world? Most of all, we urge you to listen and to ask clarifying questions. Your goal at these meetings is to learn what works for the donor. Keep it focused on him or her. If it’s time for the board member to leave the board, have that conversation.

Setting Board Annual Goals

Set a group fundraising target. You will know this target after each board member reports back their annual pledge (this should be done in writing using a pledge form given at the 1-on-1 meeting). Each gift should be what for them is a significant gift. This collective amount is made public at a Board meeting and approved by the full board. It is often a factor that the Board members know these gifts are necessary to balance the agency’s budget and that funders want 100 percent board participation in giving—but the real motivation for them giving should be mission based.

Party’s With A Purpose

These are 90-minute gatherings that board members co-host with you, inviting their friends, family and colleagues (peer fundraising) to learn more about your agency. They are a terrific opportunity for donor engagement. You get to share the facts about your organization, share a powerful client story, and encourage potential new supporters to learn more. Here’s a methodology you can follow to organize a ‘Party With A Purpose’.

Stretch Giving

During campaigns or for special needs, board members are making one-time special gifts, usually over three to five year pledges—stretching beyond just an annual gift. On the anniversary of his parent’s death, one board member I know made a gift in their honor. He restricted the gift to something the agency had needed for a long-time, but no one had ever funded: growing the fundraising program infrastructure. On the fundraiser’s recommendation, the board member also took half of the gift and bought a life insurance policy in the agency’s name, which substantially increased the eventual value of his gift. Three stretches in one gift! To get the latest news about what’s going on with campaigns during CV19, register for our free upcoming webinar.

Challenge Gifts

To stimulate giving, board members are making challenge gifts that require a match. Such a challenge encourages others to give and can be used in direct mail or phone-a-thons to secure first time gifts or increase giving of regular contributors. This is particularly useful to stimulate year-end giving when one out of every three dollars donated to nonprofits is transacted in the month of December.

Planned Gifts

Board members are including the agency as a beneficiary in their Last Will and Testament. This is important because other donors who are considering planned gifts often ask if board members have also made a planned gift. If designating the agency in a will does not appeal, they are often turning to life insurance policies that name the agency as the beneficiary. Life insurance is a cost-effective way to give to a nonprofit and requires less out immediate “out-of-pocket” cash.

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