Board giving: Part 4

By Todd Cohen

When the Des Moines-based Food Bank of Iowa ran a capital campaign two years ago to raise $700,000 to repay a loan for a new warehouse, all 11 members of its board either contributed or helped raise money, including one who made an anonymous donation of $250,000.

“We always say it’s not legitimate unless everyone has made a contribution,” saus Karen Ford, executive director. “We impress upon them it’s not the amount, it’s the idea that they’re contributing to this effort.”

The YM/YWCA in Newark, N.J., has a written policy that says its 18 board members are expected to “give and get donations and sponsorships for the Y,” says Milton Harrison, president.

While all board members participate in the annual fund drive, their participation varies at the Y’s four big special events each year.

A dozen board members purchased tables at the Y’s annual Sports Legends banquet last fall at a cost of $4,000 each, for example, while other members bought three or four tickets each or an ad in the banquet program.

“We don’t tell them they have to be at all of them,” Harrison says. “All of them are not wealthy people.”

At the National Council of Nonprofit Associations in Washington, D.C., the 12 board members previously were asked at the start of each year to make a pledge to the organization, and the board chair would follow up with reminders to each member.

This year, the entire board has set a goal for itself of giving or raising $4,000, roughly double last year’s total, says Audrey Alvarado, the group’s executive director and a member of the BoardSource board.

Half the members of the National Council board are executives of state nonprofit associations whose jobs include primary or sole responsibility for raising money, and who may find it tough to compete with their own organizations, Alvarado said.

So setting an overall fundraising goal for the board allows individual members to raise modest amounts and still contribute, she says.

While board members cannot all contribute in the same way, she says, “boards are ambassadors for your organization, so they should always, when they’re out there, be on the alert for funding sources or opportunities for partnership.”

North Carolina-based Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro asks all 22 members of its board to make a gift, although the amount is not set, and to participate in fundraising, says Winston McGregor, director of development.

All board members, for example, are expected to captain a table and ask another person to do the same at an annual community event that has raised just over $600,000 in the past three years.

“For us to do what we do here at Habitat, we need people to be very personally invested in what we do,” she says. “When people give their money to something, it’s personal, it connects them and invests them in that organization. And it makes it easier for them to ask others to do 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 3: Charities urged to define boards’ development role.

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