Pocket Change

Pocket Change

When I come home every evening, I throw the change in my pocket into an old coffee can. (Remember when coffee used to come in cans?) It’s an old habit that has served me well around Christmas on more than one occasion. Sometimes it’s just a few cents. Sometimes several dollars, especially after a business trip.

I don’t cash it in regularly, but I do cash it in when the can gets full – about every 10 months or so. The last time I cashed in my change can, there was $228.81 in the can. So I’m throwing an average of 75 cents in the can each day.

I’m telling you this because the other day I heard yet again how an organization couldn’t ask a board member to give more than the $50 they’ve historically given because the board member “couldn’t afford it.”

Stop it.

OK – so there are some people who truly cannot afford $50. Maybe they’re homeless, or about to be. Maybe they’re jobless and every nickel they have has somehow got to last until something breaks their way. (Under these circumstances, perhaps serving on a land trust board work shouldn’t be their highest priority.)

Other people don’t give because they choose to do other things with their money. I have no problem with that. But let’s stop pretending they can’t afford it. And let’s stop not asking because we think they can’t afford it.

Especially Board Members.

Instead, let’s talk about ways people COULD give – gifts that have the potential for inspiring others – if they decided to afford it.
• How about throwing change in a coffee can each night beginning in January. At Christmas, cash in the can and give the total to the land trust. It’s probably worth at least $200.
• Every time you take cash out of an ATM or out of the bank, take an extra $5 out for the land trust. Maybe stuff the bills in a coffee can, too. That might yield $300-500.
• Every week at the grocery store, write your check for $20 over the amount. Put the twenties in an envelope and give $1,000 to the land trust at the end of the year.
• Set up an auto-withdrawal or a recurring credit card charge for $100 monthly – that’s $1,200 per year.
• Establish a savings account and have $100 per week automatically transferred from your checking account into your savings account. That’s $5,000 for the land trust at the end of the year.

And those are just the options you won’t feel. (OK so you might feel the last one.) But what about other things you could do? I have friends who host annual parties for circles of friends and family. Taco bars, block parties, pot-lucks, creole parties, Packer games, holiday events, fireworks, and so on. Maybe you host such a party. How hard would it be to ask for a “suggested donation” of $20 per person with all proceeds going to the land trust?

I’ve been known to ask each land trust board member to commit $1,000 annually to the organization they serve. I do that because donors make more effective fundraisers and funders are increasingly looking at whether the board has “skin in the game.” $1,000 is about the point that board giving starts becoming noticed positively by others. I don’t expect every board member to give at that level necessarily, but it’s not unfair to ask. The world expects nonprofit board leaders to be among the most committed and ardent supporters of their organizations. If those people don’t give…….

Let’s stop settling for the ways people say “No,” and start looking for ways to help them say “Yes!”

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome here.


Photo credit: Hawaiian Cliff, courtesy of Riley Hallett.

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