These words were recently uttered by the CEO of a mid-sized nonprofit organization to his nominating committee. The intent was to signal a sea change in attitude during the search for new board members for the ensuing year. With an above-average give-or-get policy, the idea was to convey the message that all board members should expect to write sizeable checks or get friends and acquaintances to do so. Given the downward trends in social service funding and the upward trend in demand for services (not to mention costs that continue to rise even in a low inflation environment) this sounds like a good position to take.
But is it, really?
One thing is clear: nonprofit boards must become more involved in fundraising than ever before. What is not so clear is whether that should apply to each and every board member individually. In other words, should board members shoulder the fundraising responsibility evenly? When put that way it’s easy to say “No, of course not.” But does your nominating committee understand that they still need to fill certain critical skill sets the board will need, even if all candidates can’t give or get the big checks?
The challenge for board recruitment today is that the role of a director/trustee has not shifted, it has expanded. Governance and fiduciary care are still the central responsibilities of every board, and fundraising has now been added to the mix in a much bigger way. None of that says that nominees should only be the big donors – it says both bases must be covered. That means everyone does what they can, and no one expects more than that. If you can raise money for the organization, you will be loved and cherished. If you can provide critical advice and guidance the organization needs, you will be loved and cherished for that. Board evaluation methods must allow for that director or trustee who gives valuable service but can’t meet the give-or-get. Yet every board needs to attract members who can raise more than the minimum, and hopefully provide valuable guidance as well.
If that is not the case on your board, perhaps it’s time to make a change.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.