In case you’re not familiar with them, Give or Get policies require individual board members to donate or solicit a minimum amount of money each year. It’s intended to be a one size fits all way to deal with board giving: Board members can write a check themselves, ask others for it or some combination therein. The idea is that you can engage board members who hate fund raising because they can write a check to cover the minimum gift and you can engage people who may not have disposable income because they can solicit others to cover their gift. It’s a win win, right? Wrong!
Give or Get policies get in the way of good governance. They get in the way of 100% board giving. They get in the way of your ability to steward your board members as donors, or thank them for their gift or ask for a larger gift. They get in the way of building a culture of philanthropy. They’re bad policies.
Any policy that is in conflict with your goal is a bad policy.
Give or Get policies allows for members to just “get” and not give at all, which precludes the possibility of reaching 100% board giving.
Most communities have an expectation of 100% Board giving. That means there is an expectation that every single member of the board of directors has personally financially supported their agency. It matters.
Foundation officers ask if there if 100% board giving at meetings to discuss grant submissions. Major donors ask at solicitation meetings. Sometimes there are forms agencies must complete that ask. The answer has to be yes.
If it’s no, you are inviting the question of why someone else would support an agency that its own leaders don’t support. That is a question you really don’t want to have to answer, because there is no good answer.
That’s not the only reason not to do it. Give or Get policies take what is intended to be a minimum gift and make it “the gift” thus minimizing the amount that could be raised and the potential investment of board members. Having such a policy leaves money on the table. It’s possible that every member of your board has the same capacity, but it’s unlikely.
Minimum gifts invariably become maximum gifts by anyone other than the Chair, and sometimes them too. Such policies also works as a disincentive for potential board members who can’t give at the minimum level and limit the gift amount for seated board members that can.
Finally, such policies eliminate the agency’s ability to steward their board members. Board members should each be asked by the appropriate person (defined as the person most likely to get a yes, which is often another board members but may be the executive or a volunteer) for a specific gift that is reflective of their capacity and level of engagement.
Board members should be treated like the donors they are. They should be thanked. They should be appreciated. They should be cultivated, solicited and stewarded. They are not one size fits all and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Some policies don’t stop there. I saw a board member contract the other day that included among its requirements that each board member is expected to “present a check to the agency without having to be asked.” I’m guessing that whoever wrote that policy doesn’t like to ask or be asked for money. I’m guessing that they’re also not satisfied with the amount they receive in contributed income.
Our board members should be our advocates, our ambassadors, our cheerleaders, our leaders, and – yes – our donors. Allow yours to fulfill all their roles and create a plan to ask each one individually for a significant (to them) gift that reflects their capacity and level of engagement. You, your community and your coffers will be glad you did!
What’s your experience with give or get policies? As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please share your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.