How to Get Your Board to Approve a Give and Get Policy

by Joan Garry

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.

Don’t you just love when an episode of your favorite TV show comes in two parts? Complete with cliffhanger?

This week I’ve got one for you. It’s no “Who Killed J.R.” on Dallas or “Is Jon Snow really dead” on Game of Thrones. But it’s the best I’ve got.

When last we left our nonprofit heroes, I made the case for why a board should have a give and get policy. Why it’s so critically important.

Board members are leaders and ambassadors for your organization and simply cannot be 100% credible messengers without 100% giving. If your role as a board member is to invite folks to be a part of the organization as a donor, the two most important words you will utter?

Join me!

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.


I know how badly Executive Directors want give and get policies and how hard many of you have tried to get them passed. In the comments below, tell me your war stories and what thwarted your efforts.

I’ll offer my thoughts and advice.

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