Learning to ask

Charity boards need to earn their keep.

By Todd Cohen

[03.24.04] — Charity boards need to get on board.

With rising social needs, skittish donors and retreating government, charities face a crisis.

They need funds to strengthen programs and operations, but raising money is tough, particularly for retooling how they work.

Charity staffs are overworked, underpaid and stressed out.

They are civic heroes who work their hearts out trying to meet urgent social needs.

They need all the help they can get, and should be able to count on their boards.

But they are taken for granted, expected to deliver services, run their shops, put out fires and change the world.

Boards should help their charities raise money and make organizational changes so they can run at full steam, address social needs and shape public policy.

Yet many people join boards to pump up their resume and make business connections.

Instead of using their real-world know-how, board members leave it on the street when they attend charity meetings.

Using standards they never would apply to their own business, board members expect charities to make do with limited resources and hand-me-downs.

Boards should pitch in or make room for people who care and will show it with hard work and common sense.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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