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Tired of complaining about your board? Adopt this Golden Rule

June 16, 2014
by Terry Axelrod
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This week's blog post is an excerpt from The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right.

Above all, treat your board members as if they are your most cherished major donors. That is the Benevon Golden Rule. It sounds simple enough, yet when you scan through the list of your board members one by one—if you tell the truth—there may be a few members whom you've already written off in your mind, either because they are annoying or troublesome to you in some way, or because you have predetermined that they do not have the capacity to become a major donor. That is a violation of the Benevon Golden Rule.

Compare that to how you think about your list of major donors, at whatever dollar level you define as "major." Think of all the special things you do or try to do for those donors—special events, letters, calls, and meetings. Think about the respect and humility you bring to each interaction, regardless of that donor's quirky personality. You have a great deal of tolerance for your major donors, knowing their capacity to give.

Why, then, would you treat your board members differently? These are people who are giving their own time to do something you invited them to do, to serve on your board. That is a great gift unto itself.

Furthermore, the statistics show that 90% of people who volunteer in America also give money. That doesn't mean they necessarily give money to the same organizations where they volunteer. It just means that "volunteering" people are also "giving" people.

And here, in your board members, you have the most dedicated volunteers. Why not assume they will become your most passionate major donors? Even if they do not have the capacity to give a large gift now, odds are they will be making charitable gifts at the end of their lives to one or more organizations. Where else would they rather give that money than to an organization that has treated them well throughout the years—an organization whose work they know and love and perhaps has benefited them or their families personally?

What systems do you have for cultivating and engaging your major donors? You have a plan for talking to them several times a year, personally and face-to-face. You invite them to special mission-focused Free Feel-Good Cultivation Events each year. You continue to deepen your relationship with them, very intentionally, finding out at every opportunity how else they might like to become involved, what more they need from the organization, and who else they might want to introduce.

These are the same sorts of systems you will want to put in place for your board members.

Tell me: do you honestly treat your board members the same way you treat your major donors? I'd love to hear from you!


Terry Axelrod

CEO, Benevon

Terry Axelrod



Terry Axelrod is founder and CEO of Benevon. She has more than thirty years of experience in the...

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