21 Jun Time and Lived Experience are NOT the same as Money
21 June 2022
By David Allen, Development for Conservation
A few weeks ago, Vu Le posted an excellent piece on his blog Consultants, are you actually making the sector worse? Here are some questions to ask yourselves – Nonprofit AF about questions consultants should ask themselves through a DEIJ lens. I was listening.
In the post, Le referenced a story about Board giving:
A few months ago, a colleague told me that they were writing a grant application. One of the questions was “what is your board’s giving rate? If it’s not 100%, please explain why.” This is a silly and archaic question that all funders need to stop asking. My colleague had written an answer to the effect that her org believed it was inequitable to focus on money as the most prioritized contribution, that they valued time and lived experience, and so they didn’t have 100% board giving nor did they care to measure it, etc. A dose of refreshing honesty so rare in our sector, like decent chairs and retirement savings.
Le has written about this before. Here’s a quote from another of his blogs:
The idea of “100% board giving” is one of those concepts that somehow have become entrenched in our sector, an unwritten truth that we don’t question. Well, it’s time to challenge this notion. I don’t believe in 100% board giving as a standard. In fact, I think this expectation is extremely problematic, culturally ignorant, and a very white way of doing things.
Well, I’m still listening. When the gauntlet of “a very white way of doing things” is laid down, I think I have to listen. And I believe I’m constantly challenging myself and others to question entrenched notions.
But in this case, I’m also respectfully disagreeing.
Here’s my thinking:
- Asking the Board giving question on grant applications probably is silly and archaic, but that’s a completely different idea from whether Board members should give or not.
- Institutional fundraising is just one of many types of fundraising. And it’s not even close to being the largest one. Putting all your eggs into a foundation grant basket is probably not the best long-term strategy.
- Many funders (including some individuals) aren’t really asking whether Board members are giving. They are asking whether Board members support the mission and projects. To me, that’s a legitimate question.
- There are many ways people contribute to an organization. Money is one. Time and lived experience are others. But the expectation that they are separable is problematic. We don’t need some contributing only lived experience any more than we need others contributing only money. We need Board members to bring it all.
- There are and should be other ways for people to contribute time and lived experience. Committees, advisory groups, strategic planning exercises, and so on.
The bottom line for me is that we need Board members who can help raise money. It’s easy to see for organizations that are all-volunteer, but it’s just as true for organizations that have staff. It’s difficult for Board members to raise money from others when they aren’t willing or able to give themselves. See my own post on the subject from 2019: Greater than Zero.
“I don’t have enough time,” and “I don’t have enough money,” almost always means “I choose to spend the time and money I do have on other things.”
There’s no judgment about this and there shouldn’t ever be. Period.
But people who choose to spend their time and money elsewhere will be ineffective in asking others to spend their time and money with the land trust. Ergo such Board members will be ineffective as Board members, too.
This thinking (MY thinking) may very well be silly and archaic, “extremely problematic, culturally ignorant, and a very white way of doing things.” That doesn’t automatically make it wrong or bad. And the truth is, I don’t see an alternative – yet.
But I’m listening.
Cheers, and Have a great week!
PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.
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