With Board Giving, One Size Fits None

Board giving is often the cornerstone of a successful fundraising program. When every trustee makes a gift each year, their generosity signals solidarity around the mission and the importance of private giving to fulfill it. It follows that 100% giving is a common and reasonable expectation of nonprofit board service.

But is asking the same of every member reasonable?

Some nonprofit organizations set a specific amount that each board member is expected – even required – to give. This approach fails to recognize the unique circumstances and capabilities of each individual. To its wealthier trustees, the nonprofit implies that a token gift is acceptable. To less financially secure trustees, the minimum level shows a lack of sensitivity and may devalue their other, non-financial contributions.

Board giving appeals that expect the same gift from all ignore the unequal distribution of wealth and income in our society and run contrary to a relationship-based philosophy of fundraising. That philosophy insists that donors – yes, even trustees – be treated as the individuals they are.

Rather than a “one size fits all” approach, trustees can be asked to include the nonprofit among their top three priorities for annual giving during their service on the board. This still sets a clear expectation, based on an individualized benchmark that is likely to bring each trustee to a personally significant gift, and make for a better experience of giving.