Guest blogger - Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, author of numerous nonprofit & fundraising works, speaker at the upcoming DSAIA 2019 Leadership Conference
Okay, what other options do we have?
Nag Them at Every Board Meeting?
I’ve attended a lot of board meetings and have often seen the board chair, usually with an uncomfortable look, say, “Okay you know we all have to make a financial commitment and so far, we’ve only had 60 percent of the board make pledges. Does this work? What do you think? What I’ve observed is there are usually a lot of board members shifting around in their seats, a few looks of haughty derision (“I’ve made my pledge, have you?”), a couple of people stammering an explanation or apology, “Oh I thought that was by the end of the year,” or “I lost my pledge card,” or, “Oh yeah, I wanted to send it in but I forgot.”
Threaten to Fire Them?
So, what do you do with the board member who does not give? “You’re fired!” Wait a minute. Can we even fire board members? Yes, you can. (See Simone Joyaux’s masterpiece, Firing Lousy Board Members) or watch her webinar on the topic in STACKS. But it is a process that requires much consideration. A decision to fire a board member wouldn’t happen solely on their inability or refusal to contribute. What other benefits do you gain by having them on the board? Is there a valid reason they are not giving? You need to have a private discussion with these board members and perhaps give them options—monthly giving, or a pledge to be paid later, or a smaller gift than they were asked for. However, don’t let them off too easy either.
I worked with one board during a capital campaign and one of the board members refused to make a pledge to the campaign. The board chair said, “Okay we know it’s important to have 100 percent board giving to this campaign, so I’ll make a pledge in Gary’s name.” Seems like an easy out, huh? But is it a legal, ethical, wise thing to do? While there is no legal reason this cannot be done that I am aware of, it is certainly not ethical nor is it wise to set this type of precedent. Ethically, you cannot say you have 100 percent board participation if you don’t. And do you really want to set a standard like this? Pretty soon, other board members will say, “Well I don’t want to give, I’ll just let Jack make a gift in my name.”
One organization I know has a poster in the board room, listing each board member by name and the amount of each board member’s annual gift, contributions they’ve made to the organization’s two annual events, and gifts they’ve obtained from others. While this might be looked at as a tactic to shame board members into giving, it can also serve to inspire them and foster a healthy sense of competition. It might work for your organization.
Another organization conducted its annual staff appeal at the same time the annual board appeal was being conducted. When the results of the staff appeal were announced at a board meeting, the board was shocked to find out how much was raised from the staff, which consisted of mostly social workers. The board chair said, “Wow, folks that is amazing, I think we board members better pony up.” Several board members increased their pledges on the spot.
While these may seem like shame tactics, it served to inspire the board.
Another way to inspire your board include educating them about fundraising. One thing you can do is hold a “mission moment” at each board meeting where they hear from program staff about the work your organization is doing and how it is changing and/or saving lives. This makes them want to support your efforts and makes them feel part of the mission and vision. You can also have some educational sessions on the importance of fundraising, and especially how important their giving is to set an example for others. You might want to bring in a board member for another nonprofit whose fundraising is extremely successful and have this board member talk to your board about how board giving made a difference in their fundraising success.
So, what is the best way to ask board members? Funny you should ask! In my upcoming presentation for DSAIA 2019 ("Building a 5 Star Board") I’ll explain the annual board appeal.