The Skinny on the “Give-Get” of the Non-Profit Board
written by Ellen Freudenheim, MPH
One terrific way to give back to the community is by joining the board of directors of a non-profit organization. At its best, board membership can be a wonderful way to meet new people, to do good for society at large, and to flex your skills in leadership, creativity, and management.
In general, non-profits are seeking board members who can strengthen their organizations. Board skills most in demand include accounting, legal, finance, PR, communications, marketing, advertising and strategic planning.
Everybody knows that joining a board of directors means, at bare minimum, saying you’ll show up for a half dozen board meetings a year, and perhaps working probono on committee work.
But most boards of directors ask members to make a financial commitment, as well—either a contribution in cash or a commitment to raise funds for instance, by selling tickets, organizing a fundraising event, or asking friends.
So, how much money is actually involved?
How Much? The “Give-Get”
It’s called the “give-get.” Leigh Burwell of New York City’s BoardAssist, a nonprofit that identifies and recruits high impact board members for the nonprofit community on a pro bono basis, explains, “The give-get is the amount of money that a board member brings into the organization. It might be just a personal donation. Or, it could be a personal contribution plus money from a variety of additional sources such as a company match, a fundraising event organized by the individual or their employer, or personal outreach to the board member’s ten best friends from college.”
While some non-profits, albeit a minority of them, don’t ask for any financial commitment from board members at all, experts say an average give-get ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 annually for a medium-sized non-profit entity. Some of the nation’s largest non-profit organizations recruit board members who can either donate or raise anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 annually.
Cynthia Remec, founder and executive director of BoardAssist, has been identifying board members for the nonprofit community since early 2001. She generates board candidates from the financial services sector by building partnerships with major financial firms and alumni groups from, for instance, the Harvard or Columbia University business schools. She helps pair them with a non profit board, drawing on international, notional and local organizations that hold their board meetings in New York City.
When it comes to board membership, money isn’t everything, A good board of directors has members who represent a healthy range of perspectives, skills, contacts and interests. So, if you’re considering whether you might like to serve on a non-profit organization’s board, don’t be automatically put off by the notion of a give-get. Still, one of the first questions you might ask when researching a possible board commitment, is whether you are willing to give what the organization wants to get.
Questions to Ask Yourself if joining a Board
- What is your time availability for meetings and committee work?
- Do you know what drives you? Get in touch with what interests you, whether that’s stray cats or local history, and then seek out the non-profit that works on that niche area.
- What skills you can bring to an organization?
- How much money are you able and willing to either contribute or raise?
For More about Non-Profit Boards in General
- Nationally, BoardSource formerly the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, is dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations by strengthening their boards of directors.
- In New York City, check out Governance Matters a nonprofit organization that educates, convenes and advocates for good governance within New York City’s nonprofits.
Additional Resources for Identifying Board Membership Opportunities
If you are interested in possibly joining a non-profit board, but aren’t sure what organization to approach, here are some recommendations.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, a free service which connects potential board members to hundreds of non-profits which meet in New York, though they may serve locally, nationally and internationally.
- Call your local United Way, an umbrella organization of many charities. Note however that they do not represent all non-profit organizations, only some.
- Visit the Foundation Center.
- Call your local library or use the Internet to determine whether there is a local management service organization dedicated to non-profit organizations in your area,, such a New York City’s Support Center for Non-profit Management.
- See also “[NYC’s “Linkages” Program Matches Prospective Board Members With Boards]”