Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Should nonprofits require giving?

A new post by our friends at Blue Avocado caught my eye, as it poses a question I've heard often in my work with nonprofit boards: Should boards require giving by their members? There is the inevitable follow-up: if so, should those requirements include a minimum level of giving?

The post, found here, does a good job of summarizing the trends and challenges surrounding the issue. One that I wish had been addressed in greater detail is something I've seen and heard described by others more frequently: the attention that many funders pay to how boards respond to that question and how that can impact their response to your request.

My advice to boards is always "do what's right for your board and its members." But I also point out that many individual donors and funding organizations take seriously board commitment as demonstrated by member giving. Being able to say that, yes, 1oo percent of our board members contribute to our nonprofit is a compelling - and sometimes qualifying - statement for prospective donors.

My recommendation to boards who do not have a giving provision is covered well in Jan's post: consider a policy that requires members to give, preferably at a level that is meaningful to them. In all of the cases with which I am familiar, how much is not the issue: full board participation is.

For the vast majority of our boards, even those who take great care to ensure broad participation across socioeconomic groups, this is a reasonable expectation to make. "Meaningful" can be $1,000. It can mean $1. It is an important additional statement of your board's commitment to funders and other stakeholder groups, one worthy of consideration (and adoption). It is one that the board and its members should take seriously. It also is one that they should enforce, allowing them to say annually, yes, our board puts its dollars where their time and their hearts already lie.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Who are your young board turks?

I'm always thinking about boards and, more and more, about how to bring the energy of younger adults to nonprofit leadership. If boards aren't considering age part of their 'diversity' mix in recruitment goals, they need to be doing so. Now.

Today's RSS feed brought an article on the topic that really clicked for me. "Young Turns on Board" is both affirming what this Boomer already believes about the value of bringing fresh voices to the boardroom table and expanding my understanding of why doing so is good for the health of our organizations.

I would offer the same caveat that I always do about targeted recruitment from 'special' groups: do your best to avoid tokenism. Make sure that anyone you bring to your board supports your mission fully and is valued for more than membership in a demographic group. Make sure that the young person you recruit to the board (or, better yet, young persons) is also expected to contribute expertise, energy, and creative approaches to fulfilling your mission.

I'd love to hear your reactions to this article, as well as your experiences with recruiting and engaging younger members to your boards.