Board giving: Part 3

By Todd Cohen

Every board member should be expected to make a financial contribution that is “significant” for the individual board member, says Stephanie Roth, editor in chief of Grassroots Fundraising Journal in Oakland, Calif., and a consultant on fundraising and board development.

“I don’t believe in minimum contributions,” she says. “That immediately ensures some people won’t ever join your board.”

In addition to contributing money, board members can help raise money in a variety of ways, such as visiting major donors, hosting house parties or selling tickets to an annual dinner, she says.

A useful tool can be a contract or letter of agreement that board members and staff develop together, giving each board member options and goals for fulfilling fundraising responsibilities, with annual reviews in which board members can evaluate their performance and make a new commitment for the following year.

Both board and staff “are responsible for making clear and finding out what the expectations are,” she says.

Paul Shoemaker, executive director of Social Venture Partners Seattle, a group that works to help nonprofits and philanthropists be more effective, says the biggest challenge facing nonprofits is that “boards don’t understand or fulfill their roles,” a problem for which boards and staffs are “equally culpable.”

And the board’s role can change from hands-on work during a nonprofit’s startup phase to providing stewardship and strategic direction as the organization and staff mature.

Yet board members either may not understand that part of their job is to raise money, or they may be asked only to raise money.

Still, as board members and staff change over time, “the only thing permanent is the board,” Shoemaker says. “They need to not forget that they own the mission. And if you own the mission, that has obviously some important responsibilities that go along with that.

Other stories in the series:

Part 1: Charities work to involve boards in fundraising. 
Part 2: Staff and boards can view board fundraising role differently. 
Part 4: Charities offer options for fundraising role boards can play.

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