Being a part of a non-profit board can be an extremely rewarding experience. Serving on a board can also be a great professional development tool for young professionals or those seeking to change career paths. But the money factor is a common hang-up for many people: Most established non-profits have a “give or get” policy requiring board members to either personally give, or otherwise solicit, a certain amount annually. This can be daunting for shy individuals or young professionals who don’t have a lot of discretionary income and haven’t yet established a network of people with such means.
However, the fact that an organization requires its board members to give or get shouldn’t deter people with limited financial means from serving. The other day, a woman with whom I volunteer shared a fantastic article by Nell Edgington highlighting several ways board members can raise money without writing a check or directly asking others to do so. The key point of the article is that organizations and board members alike should define the “give or get” responsibilities as broadly as possible:
If you think of a board member’s “get” responsibilities in these much broader terms, then I find it difficult to imagine a board member who cannot bring money in the door. You just have to get strategic about how each individual board member can best contribute to the organization’s bottom-line.
Some of the suggestions include soliciting an in-kind service, negotiating more favorable rates from vendors, or having coffee with a potential donor to explain why you serve the organization. In both my paid and volunteer non-profit experience, I’ve seen board members contribute in a variety of ways. Just to name a few: Introducing the organization to a grant-making foundation, connecting staff with local businesses who can provide services or do fundraising events, finding in-kind equipment donations, or providing services like accounting and web design.
By defining a board member’s fundraising obligations more broadly than simply writing or soliciting checks, the organization in turn broadens its spectrum of potential board members significantly. While check-writers are always appreciated, there are so many people with vast life and professional experiences and a passion for the organization’s mission that can contribute meaningfully in other ways as well.
So, tell me: In what ways have you contributed as a board member without directly giving or soliciting funds?