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Sometimes board service comes with a “required minimum donation.” If you serve on the board, it’s your duty to give or get that stated dollar value for the organization.

I think every board should require its directors to make SOME financial contribution to their organization annually. I’m not a fan of specific, required minimums, but I can see why some nonprofits stipulate them. It is not an unacceptable practice. What I prefer is to make it clear that each board member should make their nonprofit their major giving priority for the year (preferably their ONLY giving priority for the year). To drive the point home, I say: If you can write the check without thinking about it, it’s not big enough.

The first board I ever joined, I raised $1,000 doing car washes. Not kidding. I simply told all my friends and neighbors what I was up to, and that it was a fundraiser, and that I would wash their car if they chose to make any contribution of their size. The smallest I got was $50. The largest was $500. I washed about 15 cars in total.

I was happy to give that $1,000 to my organization. This is why you should only ever serve one board at a time. It’s better to give one entity your whole effort instead of giving less of yourself to a handful of organizations. There was a time when I simultaneously served on four boards and my HOA. It quickly became an exercise in insanity that I would spare you, the reader. Never mind the legal exposure to liability that you are incurring in the form of potential conflict of interest. Never mind that you are arguably hurting all four organizations because not one of them is getting your full impact as a helper.

As a board member, don’t give $250 to four boards if you can give $1,000 to one.

I still occasionally meet people who insist they are capable of serving multiple boards, and I don’t hesitate to tell them they’re wrong. If you are in this position, I urge you to pick one org and be the best you can be for that org during your term as a board member. At the end of your term, you can roll off that board and serve another org. Because if you are giving one board 100% of you, then spending time fundraising, serving on a committee, participating in programming, and making a significant annual contribution IS the recipe for demonstrating commitment to any organization.

You have gifts. Give them to one org at a time.