By missioncontrol | 0 comments
Someone asked me recently, is it appropriate for a nonprofit Executive Director to solicit donation for the nonprofit directly from the individual board members?
It’s a great question! Many nonprofit leaders struggle with how to ask their boards for funding, and many board members are anxious about asking their network too.
An ED can of course ask the board directly for a contribution. Some may find that it is easier to go through a peer who is already donating, but asking directly is definitely appropriate. Ultimately, the best solution is for the Board to put in place an explicit give/get policy which is part of the board recruitment process. As an advisor and a board member, I can tell you it is actually a relief for Board members to know what is expected of them. It can also be useful for a board peer to help coach another (newer) board member on how to ask their network for funding, as this is often a daunting prospect the first time around.
Remember too that as a very experienced board chair said to me recently, you just don’t know what someone has. Even if someone has a high paying job, they may be supporting relatives, donating to other causes, coping with debt or other financial strife, so ask for what you need, but respect the fact that different people have different abilities to contribute.
Lots of nonprofits fall into the trap of thinking that the main role a board should play is as an ATM! While boards can, and should be major contributors to the work of their organizations, it is important to realize that the best way to build strong financial relationships with your board is to make sure you are really using and valuing the full set of skills they have to bring to the board. It might sound strange, but many board members are actually more willing to donate if they are making other non-financial contributions, such as sharing their insights and experience such as on legal matters, real estate transaction, program development, budgeting, or wherever their expertise lies.
Liana Downey is an experienced management consultant, who has consistently delivered results for clients on critical topics around the world. Liana is an expert advisor to the Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Prior to establishing Liana Downey & Associates, she led McKinsey & Company’s Australian government and social-sector practices, and holds an MBA (Public Management) from Stanford University.