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Unleash your grantwriting success: Five sure-fire tips to bring in the cash

November 13th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Grantmakers tell us that many applications they receive are discarded as they fail to answer central questions or address priorities. Consequently, grantmakers choose from a small selection of well-planned and well-prepared applications.

There are a number of reasons why grant seekers are failing to produce precise and polished funding proposals.

  • Short turn around times: Grantmakers use to give at least eight weeks from the date of announcing a grant call, until the deadline date. Now it is not unusual to see a call with only three weeks to the due date.
  • Team approach required: Applications often require the contributions of more than one staff of an organization, requiring staff to engage in several collaborative meetings on top of their regular deliverables.
  • Expertise sits with a number of departments or positions: Sometimes the responsibility of drafting the proposal sits with program-delivery managers, sometimes fundraising staff and often the Executive Director or CEO.  While the flexibility of the responsibility allows organizations to capitalize on individual strengths and talents, it also fails to focus and build the effort of grant seeking and writing.
  • Overburdened and overworked staff: This is all too familiar.  Who has the time to write proposals and reports on top of regular responsibilities?

While we can’t change what is beyond our control, we can change what is within it.  We can improve our organization’s capacity to seek and secure grant money.  The first step is to think of grant seeking and grant writing as a strategic effort.

In Canada, grant writing is not a well-known profession or skill set. Most of the time, people respond with a “What is that?” after I tell them I am a grant writer. Unlike the United States where grant writing is an established industry, it seems to be an afterthought here.

That can change.  Maybe we can change it together. Helping individual organizations raise money to deliver better or more programs is fulfilling but does little to affect the whole sector.  After 15 years of writing grants, I’ve learned that there are five top tips for writing stellar proposals.

TIP 1.     Tri-alignment: Your project or program for which you are seeking funding needs to align with your agency’s mandate, the needs of your constituents (not the needs of your organization) and the grantmaker’s priorities.  Gone are the days when you can make any program fit any priority.

TIP 2.    Clear and Consistent Program Design: Your objectives address the need or problem; your outcomes follow from your objectives; your outcomes are measurable; and your activities are relevant, realistic and cost-effective.

TIP 3.    Clear and Consistent Writing Style: You have one chance to persuade the grantmaker with words. Make all the words count. Less is more. Write for a generalist. Respond to an anticipated thought of the reader. Minimize absolute terminology. Include a connection to a current event. Incorporate grantmaker language. Do not repeat answers even if the questions seem redundant.

TIP 4.    Partnerships: Secure partnerships that strengthen your project, your agency and sector. Partnerships should not be a last minute thought; rather, they are a necessity to bring the project to fruition.

TIP 5.     Budgets: Make them real, cost effective for the grantmaker, worthwhile for your agency, and reflective of the narrative.  More and more grantmakers are not publishing the financial range of the grant.  They want to see a real budget, not one crafted around the expected grant amount.

By Anne Morais
Sep 15, 2015
Hilborn Charity Info

New US college “scorecard” puts spotlight on post-graduation earnings

November 12th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Education

The White House has pulled back further on its initial attempt to establish a government-run US college rating system and has replaced it with a newly announced college “scorecard” system. This system will place significant focus on the post-graduation earnings of colleges’ students and these students’ ability to pay down their federal loans. However, critics have argued that the system only tracks students who have received federal student aid, which might drastically skew the scorecard’s ratings. The scorecard will specifically track the average earnings of students 10 years after graduation and compare it against average US incomes to verify whether student investments in education are justifiable from a financial perspective. Again, critics have been quick to point out that the current scorecard system does not account for what subjects the students of certain colleges studied in, which could also skew overall ratings.

The White House on Saturday unveiled the new college-information website that it developed once it abandoned its ill-fated plan to rate colleges.

The new College Scorecard site, which replaces an older one of the same name, features a more modern and user-friendly design and some new information about colleges not previously available on the predecessor site or from other federal data sources. Notably, for each college, it includes measurements of students’ earnings six and 10 years after they started at a college and data showing the proportion of the college’s students who are repaying their student loans.

Most of the rest of the information on the new Scorecard is already available in existing federal databases, such as College Navigator.

The big reveal for the Scorecard was designed for maximum political effect. It came on the same day President Obama devoted his weekly radio address to a discussion of the Scorecard and two days before he was to join the education secretary, Arne Duncan, in Iowa, to meet with high-school students and parents to discuss college access and affordability.

The Obama administration scuttled its plan to develop college ratings after hearing from numerous experts and college officials who noted the complexity of creating a single rating system for colleges with so many different missions, student profiles, and resources.

The new Scorecard has already drawn a similar critique in a statement provided by the American Council on Education. ACE officials were briefed on the Scorecard by the Education Department.

“Developing a system of this size and scope is a complicated and nuanced endeavor, and the department has done so without any external review,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the organization, which represents colleges. “Given what we believe are significant data limitations, this revamped Scorecard may or may not provide meaningful information to the students and families it was designed to help. For example, it appears the system only provides a single number for an entire institution regardless of whether a student studied chemical engineering or philosophy, and only includes the earnings of federal student-loan borrowers.”

Earnings and Repayment Data

The new College Scorecard uses earnings data obtained from the Internal Revenue Service and displays it in two ways. It shows the median salary of students 10 years after they first enrolled in the college (and compares it to the national average of $34,343); and it shows the proportion of a college’s students with incomes greater than that of the average high-school graduate (about $25,000) six years after enrolling in the college. Data for students who did not receive federal loans or grants are not included.

For now, the Scorecard’s earnings numbers do not make distinctions based on what students studied, but the department said that could come in later versions. A number of college reformers have been pressing for more information on the earnings of college graduates, and several college guides already produce such reports, based on private sources like PayScale. Still, the use of earnings data in a government-run college-search tool remains controversial to many in higher education.

The Scorecard’s use of repayment rates as a measurement also introduces a new approach to assessing how a college’s students are managing their student-loan debt. It shows the proportion of students who have paid at least $1 toward the principal on their student loans within three years of leaving college. Many experts contend that such a “repayment rate” metric offers a more complete picture than the default rates that the department tracks and publishes each year. That is because some colleges keep those rates lower using “default-management” tactics that are not always in the best interests of the borrowers.

A number of outside groups had urged the department to include additional consumer-oriented features, such as warning flags for colleges that are under federal or state investigation. It doesn’t. But it does indicate if the college is among those that the Department of Education has placed under a category of surveillance it calls “Heightened Cash Monitoring 2″ for financial or other reasons.

In a briefing with reporters Friday evening, White House officials said the new Scorecard, specifically designed for use on mobile devices, would be of better help to students in finding the right college than many of the existing commercial guides.

The department also created a new “technical site” for researchers, policy makers, and others, which will include analyses and additional data, such as college-graduation rates for students who receive Pell Grants.

September 12, 2015
By Goldie Blumenstyk
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Veterans Group That Hosted Donald Trump Loses Nonprofit Status

November 11th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in News and Updates

The Internal Revenue Service revoked the nonprofit status of the veterans benefit organization that hosted and sold tickets to a foreign policy speech by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump aboard a retired U.S. battleship, The Associated Press has learned. The group’s endorsement of Trump at the event also could raise legal problems under campaign finance laws.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to questions from the AP about whether it was aware that the IRS had revoked the nonprofit status of the Veterans for a Strong America, which sold tickets to Trump’s event for up to $1,000 as a fundraiser. The IRS issued its decision Aug. 10, citing the group’s failure to file any tax returns for three consecutive years, according to IRS records reviewed by the AP.

The Associated Press
September 18, 2015
NonProfit PRO Magazine

Small-Dollar Donors Having Big Impact on Presidential Campaign Fundraising

November 10th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson are benefiting from supporters who give in tiny amounts.

Daniel Moughon, an insurance salesman from Fort Worth, Texas, said he knew long shot Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was special after listening to one of her early Iowa speeches. He’s donated to her 10 times since then.

Moughon is not giving millions, though. He’s not even giving thousands.

In fact, he has added just $273 to the former Hewlett-Packard CEO’s campaign coffers through small donations ranging from $7 up to $100.

Why Fiorina? “Well, one, you can’t trust elected Republicans, they’ve let us down time after time,” Moughon said. “Carly Fiorina has a clear message. She’s a true outsider and a true proven leader.”

It’s not a lot of money, but he and others like him account for 45 percent of the $1.7 million Fiorina’s campaign has raised so far, according to the Federal Election Commission. And Fiorina is not the only presidential long shot who is doing well with small-dollar donors this campaign season.

By end of the last filing period, June 30, Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had raised $13.6 million, over 80 percent of which came from donations of $200 or less. Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson’s campaign had raised $10.6 million, three quarters of which came from similarly small donations, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Sallie Barreca, a grandmother from St. Louis, has given to Carson 33 times, for a total of $1,532. She said she likes the retired neurosurgeon’s up-by-the-bootstraps story, his patriotism and his ability to stay cool under pressure.

“I’ve corresponded with a good friend of mine and we both feel this way,” Barreca said. “We will continue to support him until we think he doesn’t have a chance. … We’re all in the game here.”

Theoretically, existing donor networks should give an edge to candidates who have held public office, experts say. But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have raised just roughly $600,000 each, according to the FEC.

While dollars flowed into Fiorina’s and Carson’s campaigns amid low polling earlier this summer and continue to do so, an array of GOP strategists and political scientists say the two outsider candidates don’t stand much of a shot at actually being the Republican presidential nominee.

An uphill battle

“Let’s put it this way– the last time someone who’s never held public office won the presidency, let alone the nomination, was [Dwight] Eisenhower,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican commentator and adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

O’Connell said that while Fiorina and Carson tap into a group of conservatives who are fed up with Washington, some political experience is necessary.

“Republicans are more about ideology than a lot of other things, but they also like to see someone have a track record,” O’Connell said.

Julian Zelizer, a history and public affairs professor at Princeton University, said Carson’s and Fiorina’s lack of elective office experience and lower tier status among the GOP establishment makes them long-shots.

“They don’t really have any of the fundamental signs that you are a serious candidate,” he said. “Both are really, for the first time, introducing themselves.”

The track record of candidates running for president without previous experience isn’t good, said Jason Johnson, an analyst and political science professor at Hiram College. Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, formerGodfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, and retired Gen. Wesley Clark didn’t go far when they ran for the country’s highest office, he said.

“How many of them actually ended up being successful?” Johnson said. “Not many if the goal was to actually participate in government.”

So why are small-dollar donors giving to these long-shots?

“It doesn’t mean you’re foolish, it doesn’t mean you’re naïve,” said Johnson. “It makes you feel good to support this person. And that’s never going to be something that can be entirely explained or rationalized or justified.”

True believers

Johnson said small donors are similar to sports fans. Even though the Cleveland Browns football team may have a losing record, fans still pay to watch them play. Donating to a candidate that represents your ideals is similar, he said.

Keith Bradley, a realtor from Chatham, Maryland, who has donated to Fiorina nine times at $25 each, said her speech on foreign policy at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was “spine-tingling.”

“It’s not that I want to support the underdog. I support her because of her policies and because of her strengths,” said Bradley. “And so, yes, I understand the low polling numbers. But I still support her.”

Support for Carson runs deep, too. Barreca, the grandmother from St. Louis, acknowledges Carson is a long way from being elected. His “mellow” personality appeals to her.

“That’s what I like about him,” she said. “Now in a field of loud talkers, I don’t know that he’ll be heard that well.”

Mary Cole, a retired librarian, said she gives Carson a monthly donation and attends weekly prayers for the success of his candidacy. She said the retired neurosurgeon’s message aligns with her beliefs, and has given him $840 so far.

Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute in Washington, said that unlike large-dollar donors who often give in exchange for access to the candidate, small donors who connect with a candidate’s message usually don’t expect anything in return.

“They have no reason to think there’ll be any quo for the quid. If they’re lucky, they’ll get a bumper sticker,” Malbin said.

A personal draw

Political scientists say non-political connections between candidates and donors also matter. David Magleby, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University, said in local elections, a realtor might vote for a fellow realtor because there could be some collective benefit.

“You do this fundraising based upon networks, relationships and shared identities,” Magleby said.

For Cole, the retired librarian, Carson’s story is relatable. Like the doctor who grew up poor in Detroit, Cole’s parents didn’t have much money. The elementary school she attended in Baltimore didn’t have a library, so Carson’s scholarship program and efforts to establish reading rooms in schools across the country mean a lot.

“I really think that Carson has strength because of his life experiences,” Cole said.

Susie Hoeller, a Florida attorney who worked in the 1990satTexas Instruments, said she admires Fiorina, the first female CEO of a Fortune 50 company, for breaking the tech industry’s glass ceiling. Hoeller followed Fiorina’s corporate career and even purchased one of her books before she became a candidate.

“In my era, the Baby Boomers, someone like Carly was much more unusual than women today,” said Hoeller, who has donated $225 to Fiorina’s official campaign and more to her PAC. “She was a real trailblazer.”

Goals for giving

Unlike large donors, who often expect some level of access to the candidates, people who give smaller amounts seem to understand that they won’t get likely influence campaign strategy, campaign finance expert Malbin points out. But they seem to believe that every donation, no matter how small, can make a big difference.

“Portions of the public often believe that long-shot candidates actually have a shot, provided they have enough funding, which is where their donation comes in,” said Dino Christenson, an assistant professor of political science at Boston University.

Daniel Gorman, a Fiorina donor from Winter Park, Florida, who has given $750 to her campaign, said he supports the former CEO in part because he thinks she could stand up to Clinton, the female force on the Democratic side of the 2016 race. While Gorman believes Fiorina could win the nomination, he said she needs to get her name out.

“I mean, she wasn’t known to too many people,” Gorman said. “And hopefully the donation can help her do that.”

Sept. 10, 2015
By and
U.S. News and World Report

Are Your Emails Reaching the Inbox?

November 9th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Email, Fundraising

Every year, ReturnPath publishes the Deliverability Benchmark Report, which is the analysis of inbox placement rates. The 2015 report has just come out and deliverability trends are a tad worrisome.

This year’s report opens with the following statement:

“Marketers have spent years honing their email expertise, refining their strategies and improving their campaigns. For most marketers today, email is a given—the workhorse and often the foundation of their digital marketing program. And yet, our research shows that reaching the inbox is more difficult than ever. Worldwide inbox placement rates are dropping, with one in five commercial emails now failing to reach the inbox.”

This is especially important to understand considering email volume is up another 7 percent this year from 2014 (16 percent since 2013). In other words, there are more and more emails and fewer of them are reaching the inbox.

Want some more tough news? The largest drop in deliverability—the highest drop anywhere in the world—is in the U.S. In 2014, reaching the inbox in the U.S. was measured at 87 percent, and in 2015, we have dropped to 76 percent. Not reaching the inbox means it is reported as spam or “disappears,” which means the mailbox provider most likely blocked it.

With that said, the report also provided some stats by industry. Unfortunately, we cannot see the breakout of nonprofits in the U.S., but when all nonprofits are viewed globally, the change from 2014 to 2015 is only 1 point—from 90 percent to 89 percent. Either way, what is clear is that deliverability in the U.S. is more challenged than anywhere else in the world and that is going to affect everyone—even nonprofits.

There are several practices that a nonprofit (or anyone, really) can use to help offset what is happening in most American inboxes. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you keeping your list clean? Do you do regular maintenance on the list? Are you removing bad email addresses? Are you scrubbing your list after the bounces happen with a campaign? As emails are brought into your database, are you screening them for proper email structure (@, .XXX, etc.)? Make sure you are doing everything you can do to keep your list clean.
  2. Are you structuring your annual email campaigns with your best email consumers in mind? In other words, are you taking the time to plan your communication schedule for people who regularly open and respond versus those who rarely open and respond? If you are still marketing to one segment (meaning everyone who has an email), this will continue to upset constituents and hurt your deliverability. Start looking at your email constituents by traditional performance metrics—how often are they opening emails, which emails are they opening, etc.
  3. How relevant are your emails? I know everyone thinks that word is overused, so I don’t care if you call it something else—just make sure your information is in line with what your email constituents want from you. There are multiple ways to do this: look at their behaviors and where (i.e., topics, subjects) they are clicking on in previous emails; review how your email constituents originally signed up to receive your emails; track what emails they are opening (or not), etc. And don’t forget that you can always ask them. This is a great way to ask for overall feedback from your constituents.

Have you tracked deliverability of your emails year-over-year—or even across differently themed campaigns? If not, that’s the first step.

NonProfit PRO Magazine


5 Direct Mail Messaging Tips

November 6th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Direct Mail, Fundraising

Direct mail marketing has many areas of focus, so sometimes not enough time is spent on messaging. Too many times marketers are quick to try something while not thinking it all the way through. Just as the designer took time to lay out the art, you need to take time to lay out the message. Thoroughly vetting WHAT you say and HOW you say it, is essential. In order to have your direct mail messaging be effective there are some things you should consider.

Here are five tips for better direct mail messages:

  1. Not Too Wordy: The easiest way to get your mail piece thrown in the trash is to put too many words on it. Think of ways to convey your message using less words. Bullets, color text, bolding and italics can all help to highlight the most important words. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) method is best.
  2. Repeat the Message: The more times a recipient sees the same message the better it is remembered. They are then more likely to respond. Another benefit of repeating the message is that the more often they hear or see it, the more they trust the message.
  3. Focused Theme: In direct mail it is very important to coordinate your message, your artwork, your design and your audience together to form your theme. When any of these is out of alignment it detracts from your message, confuses the recipient and your direct mail ends up in the trash.
  4. Rhyme: People enjoy rhyme. It’s easy to remember and fun to read. When your message rhymes it resonates more with recipients. Have some fun with your messaging. The best part about rhyme is that you can subliminally coax people with your message.
  5. Brand: Your brand is how people identify you. If your message conflicts with your brand people will not believe it. They will not trust your message and may even get angry about it. Take the time to craft your message to your brand.

Think about the last direct mail piece you received and really looked at. What about that messaging was intriguing for you? Usually you can pin point a few key words that stuck out to you. Using that information, how can you tailor your message to do the same thing? What words will grab attention and stand out to them?

All the words you place on the mail piece need to work together toward your goal. Is your goal for them to visit your website? Come to your store? Call you? Or something else? When you have a clearly defined goal it makes it easier to craft your message. Not every mailing will have the same goal, so make sure that when you carry messaging over from other campaigns that you carefully edit it to fit your new goal.

Remember that recycling the message from previous campaigns is good for recognition, so you want to do it. Just make sure that when you do, you are integrating it into the new campaign well. Some wording will need to change and you may need to highlight different key words. Crafting your messaging can be really fun, so take some time and get inspired to be creative.

By Summer Gould
Target Marketing Magazine

Kansas City Couple Turn Their Wedding Into Fundraiser

November 5th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Ella Eckerson and Brent Rogers are hoping to have strangers at their wedding this weekend.

The bride, 30, and groom, 32, are forgoing the traditional wedding template and instead will host a rock charity concert in front of hundreds of family, friends and, they hope, plenty of people they’ve never met. They plan to exchange vows between sets, and in lieu of gifts, are asking guests to donate to Literacy Kansas City.

“Instead of friends or our families giving us a spatula, how about we give something to the community?” Eckerson said. “We need a strong community to raise a family.”

Their “Love, Charity and Rock & Roll” event will start at 5 p.m. Saturday at Crossroads KC at Grinders and feature the bands Trapt, Shaman’s Harvest and Chance the Arm.

Rogers and Eckerson describe themselves as a couple who like to drink beer and go hiking. They met in fall 2011 in a math course at Penn Valley Community College and have been together ever since.

They don’t like to take things too seriously — when they take photos together they typically stick their finger in each other’s nose.

During a little picnic in their yard, Rogers proposed in a kilt to Eckerson.

“We enjoy being together,” Ella said. “God, that sounds so lame.”

As you’d expect, they weren’t interested in a conventional wedding. They wanted to focus on what they say people actually remember from such events: the food, the booze and, most importantly, the entertainment.

The idea for the concert formed while they were struggling to think of items for their gift registry. They were already living together in a house in Kansas City and had everything they needed.

They also thought it would be funny to ask a celebrity to marry them and started brainstorming names: Mayor Sly James, morning radio show host Johnny Dare and actor Bill Murray (Eckerson even wrote him a letter). They figured a celebrity would be more inclined to do it for charity — and then the lightbulb turned on.

“We have everything we could ask for. Instead of having a traditional wedding, which everyone has been to plenty of times, we decided to make it essentially a giant reception and make it as fun as possible while giving back,” Rogers said.

More and more couples are asking for charitable donations instead of gifts. I Do Foundation reported that 242,000 couples have used its website to create charity registries since 2002, according to Couples have donated $8.3 million to charities through the site — $703 per registry on average.

But turning the whole event into a fundraiser and inviting the community is more unusual.

Eckerson and Rogers have connections with Literacy Kansas City. Rogers’ cousin, Kim Rogers, has been the group’s operations manager since 2013 and will be one of Eckerson’s bridesmaids. Eckerson has also been raising money for the group for about five years through her Dusty Penny Fund. Back when she was cleaning houses, she asked her clients to donate the loose change she found to Literacy Kansas City. (She now has her degree in mechanical engineering and is working at a consulting firm; he just got his master’s in physics from UMKC.)

Now more people will learn about the group and the problems it addresses, Kim Rogers said. About 225,000 adults in the Kansas City area read at the lowest literacy level, according to the organization.

“This concert will reach a lot of different groups we typically don’t reach out to,” she said. “Most of our volunteers are retired; this will reach a younger crowd.”

The wedding might not follow the typical format, but Brent Rogers said the planning is still “hellish.” The couple have booked the bands, selected the venue and coordinated donations themselves.

They hope Kansas Citians, even those without much money to donate, will crash their “wedding weekend bender.”

“Adult literacy is not really cute puppy dog faces or starving children, but I think it’s incredibly important,” Eckerson said. “Because when you educate the adults in children’s lives you automatically grow the community in a way that has a ripple effect.”

And they still really hope Bill Murray shows up.

August 31, 2015
Kansas City Star
Read more here:

Money looks at what US college tuition cost a century ago

November 4th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Education

With concerns over the cost of college appearing in US presidential campaign messages and many news cycles, the team at Money has run a series of calculations to determine what several well-known colleges would charge for tuition today if they had stuck with their prices from a hundred years ago. After adjusting for inflation, the editors found that tuition at Harvard would cost $3,544 today if it were to accurately reflect 1915 prices; the actual cost of tuition at Harvard today is $45,278. MIT would charge $5,907 if its rates had remained the same, while today it charges $46,704. Finally, Stanford University would charge $0, as its tuition was free in 1915. However, the university now charges $45,729. The team at Money ultimately found that while the consumer price index has risen 2,263% over the past century, the average cost of tuition has increased a “staggering” 42,930%.


Thursday, September 3, 2015
Academica Group
Academica Top Ten Newsletter

Should Board Members Be Required to Give?

November 3rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Annual Giving, Fundraising
How to Reach 100 Percent Board-Giving

At this point, it’s practically an unspoken rule. For the majority of nonprofit organizations, 100 percent of boards should be contributing financially. Chances are this includes your board.

Despite being aware of what should be, evidence actually points to the contrary happening. In fact, a Small Shop Fundraising survey that I conducted a couple of years ago revealed that an astonishing 55 percent of organizations claimed that they did not have 100 percent board-giving. Yes, more than half! Think about it. How can you reasonably expect others to contribute financially to your organization if the members of your board do not?

Yes, I know—there are plenty of reasons for why not. You have members who contribute in-kind services, volunteer or bring in new donors. They already are doing stuff to help out and you just don’t feel right about asking them to contribute financially in addition to what they already do. Plus, if they were to contribute, how much should they be giving? Would it make sense to enforce a minimum-giving level?

The reality is that more and more grant-making foundations are making it a component of their criteria to fund only organizations with 100 percent board-giving. I’ve even come across the far end of the spectrum, where a funder requested a notarized statement attesting to attendance at board meetings. Again, it makes sense if you really think about it. How can foundations reasonably give to your organization when there are members of your board who aren’t even giving?

While I don’t recommend setting giving amounts, every member of your board should be contributing financially at a level that is personally meaningful for them. Understand that generosity is a flexible, relative thing based on each individual member. Together, your board has the power to do a world of good and place your organization in the running for the next step: Foundation funding.

My friend Debra Baker Beck, from the Laramie Board Learning Project, said:

“My counsel to nonprofit boards, when it comes to a policy on member giving, is to do what is best for your organization. That right choice may very well be not requiring contributions from board members. However, that approach could ultimately have very real financial consequences, as more foundations and more major donors ask and expect to hear that you have 100 percent participation from your board members. This very tangible demonstration of commitment is increasingly important to those we ask to support us via grants and personal gifts.”

What’s that, you say? You don’t currently have a policy on board-giving? What are you waiting for? There’s no time like today to start.

The key lies in how you approach your board members. I have found that far too often we treat our board as an entity, rather than the generous, compassionate individuals they are. Instead of announcing your policy at a board meeting, make the time to meet one-on-one with your board members. Spend some time listening deeply. How did they become involved with your organization? What are their stories?

When I was an in-the-trenches fundraiser and handling everything from writing a grant proposal, to putting up a website, to loading the dishwasher, I typically included board-giving with my first fundraising appeal of the year and sent a letter written specifically for board members. You can download this sample template letter. Still awaiting a response from one or three board members? Try using this follow-up appeal or invite the board member to coffee. Still holding out? A gentle follow-up phone call from your board chair will do the trick.

Keep in mind that monthly giving offers the opportunity for board members to make a bit more of a stretch gift. When I have started monthly giving programs for clients, I’ve always begun with the board. Members, who ordinarily made a $1,000 gift, were delighted to give monthly at the $150 level.

Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate every little success. When you reach 100 percent board participation, celebrate it—perhaps with a pizza party at your next board meeting, or by breaking out a bottle of champagne. A board member has brought in three new donors? Send them a thank-you gift or present a token of your gratitude publicly at your next board meeting.

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” – Tom Peters

[We can help!]

By Pamela Grow
NonProfit PRO Magazine