Bristol Organizations

An Organization Made Up Of Organizations

5 Reasons Your Board Would Benefit from a Give and Get Policy

By Joan Garry


A give and get policy can mean slightly different things to different organizations. But essentially it means that every board member must ‘give’ a donation of a certain amount AND help to procure financial resources.

It is typically something that the board votes on so that it becomes part of what candidates are told when they are being vetted for board services.

Please note that it is not a give OR get policy. Every single board member must give. There are many reasons for this, but my favorite? Because the two most powerful words a fundraiser utters?

“Join me!”  

But all too often, boards push back. They don’t want to be on the hook for this. And it’s not just board members who push back – executive directors and development directors do too.

Today my goal is simple. To introduce you to the benefits. Staff leaders can be dogs with bones about this (not helpful) and just pound their fists that it’s the board’s JOB. This is not the path to success.

Why not try framing the conversation differently? The list of ‘why nots’ is clear (and long). And if they’re not, I’ll write more about them below. Let’s focus on the benefits instead, shall we?

Here are five benefits for a give and get policy. I bet you will find that at least one of them will offer you an ‘AHA’ moment.


Have you said or heard any of the following when the phrase ‘give and get’ is tossed into a conversation around board fundraising?

“GET? Are you kidding me? Not all of our board members GIVE!”

“Don’t you think I would have remembered if someone said I had a fundraising responsibility during my board interview?”

“I don’t know any wealthy people.”

“I am not wealthy.”

Oh, and then there’s this gem:

“We can’t have a give and get policy because we want to diversify our board.”

Allow me to explain why that one has a particular sting. Young people can be very effective fundraisers and they can give SOMETHING. And any statement that implies or infers that people of color are poor? Problematic. I think that is the kind word.

These are the most common objections I hear from both executive directors, development directors, board chairs and development committee chairs.


  1. A board without 100% board member giving is a weak board. It tells external funders something highly unflattering about the commitment the board has to the organization. Some foundations walk away from nonprofits without 100% board giving.
  2. Mature boards understand that growing the financial resources of the organization is one of their key responsibilities and a policy formalizes that understanding the commitment to deliver.
  3. It tells board prospects that you are serious about meeting your obligations. If the existing board doesn’t take things seriously, they won’t either once they join.
  4. When multiplied by the number of board members, it represents a target revenue number the organization should be able to rely on from the board as a whole.
  5. A policy introduces accountability. You either hit the number or you don’t. This is different from, “We’d like to see you invest more time in fundraising.” The former offers the perception that board leadership have teeth; the latter? Not so much.


Technically, a policy is enforceable. But I would steer clear of technicalities. The give and get policy is a goal. And goals are vital to performance assessment.


It gives you something tangible to discuss in what can be a pretty informal annual board member evaluation conversation. “So I see you had a tough year on the ‘get’ side of things – let’s talk about that.”

It becomes a hook for a conversation about their efforts, their level of commitment and a way to either pat someone on the back as a rock star or a way to illustrate to the board member that this may not be the gig for them. You might find out something really important in those conversations too. You might learn that your staff is not supporting board members effectively – that they could be doing more to equip board members to be successful.


As I wrote this I realized that there is a second part to this post. So you are now armed with some clear benefits. But with all the resistance you know you will face, how do you make the best case?

Stay tuned for my next post!

Part 2

I hope ‘Part 1’ persuaded you that this policy is a must have. Now comes the harder part – getting the policy approved by your board.

I heard you. You tried to cover the laugh over with an awkward cough. Stay with me. I cannot guarantee my advice will work but I can tell you that without some of these strategies, you don’t stand a chance.



1. A Positive, Collaborative Attitude at the Top

That is a very nice way of saying, “No whining, nagging or foot stomping!”


Telling them (nagging them) that this is their JOB will not work. Would it work on you? I think not.

Maybe they were recruited with a line like, “Oh, don’t worry about fundraising. I hate it myself. And besides the E.D. and the staff take care of all that.” Who knows? But at the end of the day, the board must OWN the obligation. They can’t feel coerced, nor can they feel that the policy is necessary to ‘police’ their board obligations. If that’s how they feel, you’re not going to win your case. 

2. A Terrific Partner (E.D. or Board Chair)

Yes, my friends, I’m taking out my twin-engine jet metaphor. The E.D. and the Board Chair must be in this together. The board chair must be a champion for this new policy. If not, get busy building a strong leadership pipeline. While I have seen a give and get policy pass with a weak board chair, I have never seen it enforced under the leadership of one.

It is the board chair’s job to take the lead in educating your board so that she can be a champion for this. A board conversation using 5 Reasons Your Board Would Benefit From A Give and Get Policy would be an excellent place to start. Send the post out ahead and set a time on the agenda for a real conversation.

3. A Most Excellent Board Development Committee

Read this (What Makes a Great Fundraising Committee) and then come back.

A most excellent board development committee understands its role as peer cheerleaders who are engaged in building the board’s fundraising muscle and introducing some peer accountability to the process. They take the total goal (give/get x # of board members) and track progress against the goal. Celebrating successes, pushing for skills building – whatever it takes to set the group up for success.

P.S. No public shaming  Best to keep the individual results out of the hands of the whole group and address those 1:1. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you had a development committee like this? And if you did, they would only be successful with a stated obligation for each board member and an aggregate target.


Want to formalize a board give and get policy?

First, you have to educate folks on what the policy is and what it is not. Why is it important? How will the policy introduce a certain kind of accountability that will help board members prioritize their volunteer time?

A give and get policy will increase board members’ effectiveness as ambassadors and present each board member with a benchmark for success.

To make the policy a reality will require finesse, lobbying, and a few serious champions on your board (especially your chair). It will also demand a re-boot of your development committee that understands its role as the champions/advocates/cattle prods for board fundraising.

Plant these important seeds and you’ll begin to change the board’s perception of this kind of policy. Without these your chance of success are slim.


Take the time to get it right. Don’t rush. I’ve never made a souffle in my life but I do know that if you open the oven door too quickly, it’s all over. The beautiful rising souffle is no longer beautiful nor rising. And you can’t fix it.

The same is true for this vote. You need to do some serious education. You need champions. You need strong leadership. Push for a vote without them and it may be a good long while before you get another at bat.

And if you’re not ready, focus on your maximum points of leverage, board recruitment. Work on your pipeline and interview process and build a new kind of development committee that drives board fundraising.

And when the time is right and you have the right folks on the bus, you won’t need to nag. The board will be ready.

To return to the Bristol Organizations Non Profit Newsletter............ Click Here