Often times grassroots nonprofits spend time exploring ways to become more effective. The most common areas of evaluation seem to be mission clarity, program development and implementation, staff training, fundraising, and mission based marketing. One area, however, that may not be so deeply investigated is Board performance.
Board leadership is a success factor for organizations seeking to increase organizational capacity and maximize impact. Nonprofits rely on their Board for effective decision making, organizational accountability, donor cultivation, community reputation, and financial and legal oversight. Unfortunately, one essential element of Board leadership that may have been overlooked is full Board financial contribution.
When undertaking fundraising efforts, an organization should be able to demonstrate to the community that each of their leaders is willing to make donations to ensure mission fulfillment. Why should I give to a cause whose own administration does not feel strongly enough to make a personal financial contribution? While not all Board members- especially those in startup nonprofits– are affluent individuals, each should be willing to make a sacrifice in order to lead by example within their community. In addition to making a personal contribution, each member of the Board should be charged with the responsibility of soliciting donations from others with which they have established relationships.
So how do you get your Board to become a fully contributing Board? At the end of each fiscal year, the President should draft a letter to each member requesting their direct donation toward the upcoming budget. If some motivation to give is necessary, remind members to keep in mind that many times other prospective donors, especially foundation grantmakers and major donors, will only make a donation if everyone on the Board has made a capacity gift. Such gifts need not be excessive; they should be to the extent of each individual member’s capacity. By demonstrating that a stretch of your personal budget has been made in an effort to demonstrate dedication to the cause it will influence other members of your community to do the same.