Should You Ask Your Staff to Contribute to Your Nonprofit?

Picture of a tree trunk decorativePhilanthropy is experiential. You can’t stimulate philanthropic giving with words. Talking to your staff about giving doesn’t work. You can’t just ask your staff to be more philanthropic. You don’t just invite staff to give.

Philanthropy works when you give first and make a large enough gift that you feel pinched. Why? Because, then you understand. You understand what its like to stand on the should-I-give-or-not bridge. You know the sound it makes in your soul when you hear your footsteps on the bridge. You imagine spending the money for your own needs or those of your family. You experience regret. Then as give your money, you sense of loss of control and trust the promises the nonprofit’s making about how they will use your gift.

Giving until it pinches wakes you up. Fully awake you notice details. These will prepare you to with others standing  on the far side of the should-I-give-or-not bridge. Like a scout, you go first and report back trail conditions.

Some 70 percent of Americans give money. My conservative estimate is that 99.9 percent of us that work in the nonprofit sector give. We are the philanthropists. We give from our own means to help others. Means includes time, belongings and money. All resources, we might need that instead we share.

Even though we are already philanthropists. all of us hold the potential to develop into even greater ones. This includes all nonprofit staff. In your nonprofit, how many of your staff give? If you’re serious about seeking individual donations set a goal to make it 100 percent. Yes, the money will help but what will help more is the wisdom giving until it pinches provides. To reach the goal, develop two metrics, one to measure the frequency of your asks and the second to measure the response. Calculate each monthly and be accountable to someone about your progress.

Managers with low-paid staff, who already work beyond the call of duty, frequently hesitate to ask staff for cash donations. This thinking denies employees the opportunity to be philanthropic partners. It denies staff philanthropic joy. It denies them the insights they need to help other give. In other words, it stunts their ability to effectively invite others to donate.

Managers who don’t ask often feel guilty. If this is you, replace your guilt with solutions. Find ways to improve wages and ease workloads by obtaining new resources or managing those you have better, such as time.

Besides replacing guilt with solutions, formulate ideas to reward giving. For instance, the Girls Scouts of Greater Atlanta brilliantly invites their staff to join their $1,000 a year giving circle. Membership in the circle generates privileges! For instance, circle members don’t work at fundraising events. They attend as guests. (This also encourages more giving among non-staff donors. They love mixing with staff to learn “insider” stories.)

Stop asking others to give by just using words. Go first. Cross the bridge. Give an amount that scares you or empties your wallet just once. Know the experience first hand. Then, help staff and others to follow.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis Consulting guides executive directors and CEOs to generate the resources, boards, and support they need to make remarkable progress on their missions. As the award-winning thought-leader, advisor, and founding principal of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, Karen helps nonprofit leaders get answers, generate revenue, and grow their mission. Davis is known for her innovation and practicality based on her work with or visits to over 1,000 nonprofit organizations and her experience leading board and team events. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.