How to waste your board member's donations

February 06, 2012

Posted in Fundraising and Management.

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A few years ago, I counted up the number of times when I was tapped at a board meeting. At our monthly meeting, someone would ask the board to buy tickets to the car wash fundraiser, sell candy, or pitch in for whatever project. People would get out their wallets and toss $5 or $10 out there. When some adorable kid is asking you to buy a candy bar, it’s hard to resist.

Eventually, this became our board’s method of giving. With 10-12 meetings each year, our board was being asked on a monthly basis. And they felt as if they were contributing because they responded by giving money. In fact, some would complain that they were exhausted from being over-solicited.

Incredulous, I asked everyone to think about how much they had donated that year. Hardly anyone was giving anything substantial, yet they all felt as if they had been. The problem was that we were throwing away our asks.

Rather than cultivating board members to give significant gifts and invest in the organization, we were tossing nickels and dimes into a jar. The end result was donor fatigue through small, wasted appeals.

Your board should be some of your most invested donors. Be careful about substituting small, one-off causes for real, meaningful gifts. It’s one thing to buy a ticket to the annual dinner or buy something at the silent auction, but that’s not the same thing as a considered, prepared donation. Don’t let your board fall into this trap.

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