Attention Board Members: 2 of 3 W’s Is Not Enough

Last week, in a meeting with a prospective board member, the valuable prospect was surprised at the minimum I had mentioned as the suggested donation for her to join the board. In the past, nonprofits had said that as long as she was giving 2 of the the three W’s – Wisdom and Work, she often wasn’t asked to give the third – Wealth.

For many years that was the theory but here are 5 reasons to change that thinking.

  1. A small board. If your board has twelve members and four don’t give that is at least a loss of income and at worst a demoralizer. I can hear the calls now, “I thought you said there was a minimum board gift.” “Why do you expect me to give at that level when so many other board members don’t.” Keep it simple and explain why the minimum is essential. And if someone can’t give at that level but is still a necessary part of your council – explain the essentials of why they should be giving a meaningful gift.
  2. If you are trying to engage the board in asking others for money. It is always easier to ask people to join you in your gift to the organization. It shows you have the commitment and hope they will too. In fact, you cannot ask someone to do something that you, yourself, have not done.
  3. It is proof that the nonprofit is a priority. Not everyone can give at the same level. And you do want certain people for skills beyond their wealth, but a meaningful gift – one that is a bit of a stretch- shows they understand how important the organization is and want to show their support.
  4. Foundations ask for board participation levels. The reason they ask for that information is for reasons 1-3. They understand that money is often the sign of board commitment and an understanding of the importance of the necessary funding for the nonprofit. As far as I am concerned, there is no reason to have less than 100% participation for a board. A token gift may be appropriate from time to time, (but not because the person thinks they already give enough in wisdom and work).
  5. To create a culture of giving. Nonprofits need funding to survive. They need annual gifts and capital/endowment gifts from time to time. If everyone is used to donating, it will not feel like a task – it will feel like the right thing to do for the community that benefits from the organization. It will be a no-brainer that feels good.

The support of the board – in the form of the three W’s is important. But try not to trade any two for the third – it will never be in the best interest of your organization.