It’s that time of year. Nonprofit organizations are asking their board members for their annual financial commitment. Yet despite the obvious need of almost all organizations, according to one survey, an astonishing 55% of organizations reported that they did not have 100% board giving.”

But foundation executives and major donors expect 100% participation of nonprofit board members. In the words of an executive of Piper Charitable Trust,

“We wouldn’t consider a grant to an organization if the directors weren’t 100 percent in their giving. Why would we? If they don’t care enough for their organization to give to it, why should we?

There is no excuse for not making a financial contribution to any organization that you’re on the board of.

“But I give time! That counts for something!

Yes, your time counts for a lot! I am very, very grateful to all the leaders who give of their time so freely to work on the board. Our social sector absolutely could not function without the volunteers. Your labor, your thoughtful discussions, your planning are crucial to building the world we want to live in. The organizations that benefit our community rely on you. As a member of society, I am very grateful to you for standing up and being part of the fabric of our society.

Yet volunteers can give time without being on the board.  The difference is YOU are a leader. And leaders lead the way with their gifts, as well as their time. You, dear board member, lead the rest of the community by example – not just with your time, but with your treasure, as well.

“But not all our board members are financially able to give a lot of money!”

Wow. This is such a caring objection. It almost trumps the 100% giving mandate. I hear you – and I agree with you. Those unable to give a lot of money SHOULD be included on the board. A strong organization needs to have a wide variety of voices represented on the board. Those who are wealthy – and those who are not – bring unique and diverse perspectives.

But the 100% requirement doesn’t name a dollar amount. It just says that a board member should give. If board expectations are set appropriately when you first invite the new director, then the expectation is that each board member gives a personally meaningful gift. To a successful attorney, it might be personally meaningful to give a $10,000 annual gift.  To an early childhood teacher, that personally meaningful gift might be $100 per year.

A good rule of thumb is that while you are on the board of an organization, it is one of your top three or four philanthropies.

Leaders lead by example. Be able to say, “I give. Please join me.”

Would you like some help moving your board along the giving continuum? I’m happy to have a no obligation conversation! Reach me at


 Susan Detwiler