Board giving: Part 2

By Todd Cohen

A survey five years ago by BoardSource in Washington, D.C., found a gap between staff and board expectations about boards’ fundraising role.

In that survey, 47 percent of organizations that responded required board members to make annual monetary contributions, but only 36 percent of board members gave to their nonprofits.

And that gap is widening, with a greater percentage of nonprofits requiring boards to make contributions, and a smaller percentage of boards actually doing so.

Among nonprofits whose chief executives BoardSource surveyed for its 2004 Governance Index, 55 percent required board members to make a personal financial contribution.

But among nonprofits whose board members were surveyed, only 26 percent made personal financial contributions.

“This means that organizations may require boards to make contributions, but not all board members are fulfilling this requirement,” says Joy Folkedal, director of training at BoardSource, formerly the National Center for Nonprofit Boards.

The survey, following similar surveys in 1994, 1997 and 2000, found that only 21 percent of board members were dissatisfied with their personal fundraising performance, compared to 57 percent of chief executives who were dissatisfied with their boards’ fundraising performance.

And while only 30 percent of chief executives and 21 percent of board members characterized the board as mainly a fundraising body, 55 percent of nonprofits in the survey required the board to make personal monetary contributions.

In the most recent survey, 57 percent of nonprofits required board members to identify donors or solicit funds, or both, and 57 percent required board members to attend fundraising events, while 22 percent of board members surveyed said they solicited contributions from other sources, 30 percent attended special events, and 16 percent provided in-kind services.

BoardSource encourages 100 percent giving by boards to show support for their organizations, and to make it easier to ask potential donors for gifts, and also suggests that each board member make a “stretch” gift, an approach that lets nonprofits recruit board members with different income levels.

Written policies about board giving and fundraising can help board members “rise to the occasion and fulfill their responsibilities,” Folkedal says, and be used to hold accountable board members who do not fulfill their commitments.

Other articles in series

Part 1: Charities work to involve boards in fundraising. 
Part 3: Charities urged to define boards’ development role. 
Part 4: Charities offer options for fundraising role boards can play.

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