A New Standard for Board Giving | npENGAGE

A New Standard for Board Giving

By on Sep 1, 2017


New Standard of Board Giving

In a recently conducted survey of my linked-in colleagues, I asked about their involvement with nonprofit boards. I specifically focused on board giving at their nonprofits and the responses I got back were a bit surprising. Although nearly 90% of those responding had a requirement that board members either give and/or solicit donations, nearly 60% had no minimum giving requirement.

Research on the true drivers of fundraising success reveals just how important board giving is to the success of the fundraising program. Giving by board members is more powerfully correlated with overall fundraising success than any other factor! In fact, advanced analysis reveals that total contributions can often be predicted by multiplying the total given by board members by four, if the board(s) are giving at the numbers suggested in this post.

In the original research done for my book, The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Want, board member after board member admitted that they gave more to organizations that offered substantive, meaningful board experience. The more engaged they could be on their board, the more they wanted to support the organization financially.

It is time for nonprofits to consider a new standard for board giving.

The new standard should be that total board giving is 25% of the organization’s fundraising target for the year. Easier said than done; however, not impossible by any means. It is ambitious, but we need to pay attention to what research has demonstrated and to what board members are clearly saying

Engaged board members give more. And the more they give, the more involved they become in your overall fundraising effort.  They become powerful advocates to other donors. They willingly speak powerfully and convincingly about the importance of the organization’s philanthropic needs. A fully engaged board—giving 25% of the organization’s annual goal—becomes a powerful fundraising engine helping energize every donor to give generously as well. They are rewarded by meaningful involvement and the foundation meets financial goals—it’s a win-win.

Some board members will be able to give large gifts, some smaller gifts, but together their gifts should equal 25% of the overall goal. When I have presented this important new standard to nonprofit boards, I use a board member giving pyramid that outlines that the size of the individual gifts will vary, but the total will equal that powerful 25%.

So, what has the response been when this new target has been presented to various nonprofit board members? Without exception, they have immediately seen the justification and the potential power of this new standard. They understand the importance of re-evaluating the giving capacity of the current board and the identifying new member prospects whose giving potential can help the board reach that 25% goal. And just as importantly, they understand that if they are to reach this new goal, the board must be passionate about the cause, engaged in substantive work, and fully supportive of the organization’s strategic goals. Many factors affect each other, but this is one that you can address immediately!

Let’s conclude with this: not all nonprofit boards are formed with fundraising as the primary goal; therefore, this recommendation may not be as pertinent to some. A few still feel their board members should be focused more on community involvement. However, many with this initial goal eventually find the need to raise money. Why not start with this board recommendation? With this new standard guiding a philanthropic board’s fundraising role, the team will begin to fulfill their true fundraising potential and, in the process, bring transformational change to the nonprofits whose work they guide. That is what it is truly all about, isn’t it?


June Bradham, CFRE, Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions, uses her experience as a thought leader to refine products and build bridges with healthcare leadership, physicians and development offices across the world. In addition, June is the President and founder of Corporate DevelopMint founded in 1987, an organizational development and fundraising consulting firm having served hundreds of clients since its founding. Under her leadership, Corporate DevelopMint has served over 200 non-profits across the US. International clients from Australia, Turkey, United Kingdom and Eastern Europe. She and the team she leads have directed campaigns of $2 million to over $1 billion. But more importantly, they have succeeded at organizational turnaround resulting in a shared view of philanthropy.

Recognized for her expertise in strategic planning, innovative fundraising and board dynamics, June is an internationally sought after speaker whose recent engagements have included plenary and keynote addresses at such prestigious conferences as AFP – International, AHP, CASE, CASE Europe and Blackbaud’s Conference for Nonprofits. In addition to the numerous articles in national publications she contributes to each year, June was the author of a monthly column for the Charleston Regional Business Journal and was named the Journal’s “Most Influential Woman CEO” and was their recent keynote speaker. June’s groundbreaking and insightful book on board dynamics, The Truth about What Nonprofit Boards Want: The Nine Little Things that Matter Most, was published by Wiley and is fast becoming one the industry’s most talked about books.

June and her team have worked with Higher Education, Independent Schools, Healthcare Systems and Community Organizations.

June’s deep commitment to the growth and success of non-profit organizations is underscored by her years of volunteer experience, including service to a number of healthcare and education boards, community organization boards like the Spoleto Festival and the Community Foundation as well as Chambers of Commerce and boards of industry associations. She is the past president of the board of the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations as well as AFP – International and the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business, a top ranked business school.  Her most recent interest in pro-bono work among professionals and companies is evidenced in being selected to join the International Board of CreateAthon™ known for serving nonprofits through pro bono professional work. She joins fellow board members from companies such as BMW, Hewlett Packard, Netscape and others showing her ability to stay in front of the curve of trends.

June holds a Bachelors degree from Columbia College and a CFRE and has completed the Harvard University Governance Education program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Comments (9)

  • Adrienne Bellinger says:

    Outstanding concept, June (as usual coming from you). Sharing immediately with my org’s leadership.

  • June J Bradham, CFRE says:

    Thank you ever so much, Adrienne.

  • Chris Manley says:

    June – great article and thank you for highlighting the importance of board giving. I’m curious what your take would be for growing organizations with smaller boards (i.e. a $1m org with a $250,000 goal for annual gifts, with 10 board members). Should the board seek out high wealth donors to serve on the board? Or seek to grow? Thank you again and I look forward to hearing your insights!

    • June J Bradham says:

      I am thrilled that you asked that question. The premise works regardless of annual goal (withstanding grants and governmental contracts). With a $250,000 goal, the giving would cumulatively be $62,500 from the board.

      In the ideal world, you want a diverse board including time, talents and treasures. So each member brings at least 2 of those three and a wide range of giving.

      With 10 board members you would like


      With 10 board members, you would wish to have gifts in these ranges:

      1 @ $12,500
      2@ $ 6,250
      4 @ $ 3,125
      8 @ $ 1,652
      15 Total $62,500.00

      Under this scenario you would need 5 more board members. These numbers and percentages are not absolute, of course. But this may be the realistic movement for the board. Be sure to remove any grants or governmental funds from the overall goal and calculate the board giving on that final total.

      If your board is a long way from these ranges, start slower and grow them along this path as your organization grows in its impact.

      Hope this helps.


      • June J Bradham says:

        Chris, I accidentally put a link in the wrong place for your question. the Blackbaud calculator is great for an overall campaign range. I wanted to show you that so your board could see where they are in the larger $250K campaign each year.

  • Seth says:


    I truly enjoy your articles and perspectives. That said, the 25% is an arbitrary number in my view. How did you come up with that amount and why? Why not 20% or 30%? You make the point that some board members can give more, some less, fair enough. I have served on numerous boards, most with give requirements, or give/get requirements and full 100% board participation is always a challenge to manage.

    Your article has excellent points worthy of consideration but the 25% to me, seems more a number put out there that sounds meaningful as a percentage of total board fundraising but most likely, arbitrary. You do state that “analysis reveals that total contributions can often be predicted by multiplying the total given by board members by four.” Where is the evidence behind this-where does it come from?

    A board give of 25%, in my view, could also cement a culture of board dependency on fundraising for total dollars raised and in my view, could even impeded a culture of philanthropy as the expectation is the board has 25% of our annual needs covered so development might not take actions they otherwise would to diversify and raise funds, Also, board giving is not necessarily a good proxy for board engagement. All that said, I don’t know if there is a number of total fundraising dollars annually the board should be responsible for unless you are an early stage nonprofit–I don’t have one. Thanks for your thought-leading contributions.

    • june bradham says:


      Thanks for these great questions.

      Our company’s research completed a quantitative study that found that the #1 driver of success in an organization that requires charitable giving is the amount of the cumulative giving by the governing board (.0000 probability that this information is near perfect probability.) Beyond this data, I have stated after 30 years of daily work with non profits of all sizes, my estimate is that if your board cumulatively contributes that 25% or more, it is evidence that they are totally and highly engaged. One gift may be very small but the board member cared so much that they sacrificed to make it; the other may be very large but also equally sacrificial.

      This is hard for many to adopt and if it is not appropriate for your group there is no reason not to structure it so it works for you and the board. If this makes sense, perhaps give it a try.

      Best, June

      • Sandy Annala, PhD says:

        I am not certain this advice scales well for large nonprofit organizations with nationally and locally prominent board members who fill multiple key roles including professional oversight of strategic and tactical planning, budgeting, facilities development, research, manufacturing, and clinical services, human relations, and representation of multiple stakeholder views including patients, community members, and diversity. We have grown from a two billion dollar to a five billion dollar organization over the past ten years. We generate most of our revenues via clinical cancer diagnostic and therapeutic services, private philanthropy, royalties on licensed intellectual properties (one billion dollars in the past year), and research contracts and grants. My Very Kindest & Warmest Regards, Sandy Annala, PhD, MS, MSc, The City of Hope, Duarte, CA

        • june bradham says:

          Congratulations on your significant growth. Very impressive.

          And, it is very important that you generate as much non-philanthropic income as possible. Again, congratulations.

          My reference to board giving is to non earned, non-governmental, non-grant income. Exactly what do you expect from philanthropy work toward at least 25% of that. if you are already over the 25% as many are, another great job.

          If you are not, think about striving for that.

          In conclusion, you are right with your observation. However, all governing boards oversee those important tasks that you mention. Perhaps your organization has grown to be able to have both subject matter experts and philanthropic mindset and capacity.

          Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify.

          Best, June

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