Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

Do your board members generously give of their time and talent but don’t understand how important it is that they also give money to your organization? One of the most frequent questions I am asked by executive directors is “How can I get my board members to give financial donations to our organization on a regular basis?”

As anyone who has submitted a grant proposal knows, one hundred percent giving by board members is an expectation shared by funders of all types. Yet, many people are asked to join a board and never told that there is such an expectation. Why? I believe the major reason is that so many people are uncomfortable talking about money, whether they have a great deal or a limited amount.

To address this issue with nonprofit boards, I have created an exercise I call “The Giving Game”. This article contains all the information needed to use this exercise with any size board of directors. In my experience, it is the small to mid-sized boards, particularly community-based ones that have the hardest time asking board members for money. Anyone asked to serve on the boards of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Red Cross, or Yale University certainly knows there is the expectation of regular financial gifts. Unfortunately this is not often the case with boards of smaller nonprofits.

If you choose to use this exercise, you must first decide who will facilitate this meeting. Given the sensitivity around money issues, I do not recommend that a board or staff member be the facilitator. Use a consultant or a generous local volunteer facilitator who have fundraising experience and are comfortable talking about money.

The next step involves collecting all the materials needed in advance of the session.


  • First, get play money, preferably in denominations of $100, $500, and $1,000. Get enough for each person participating to receive a total of $2,000.
  • Second, prepare tent cards (at least eight) with the names of familiar nonprofits, such as the United Way, a local sports group, a community theatre, a homeless shelter, etc. Make sure to include generic cards for religious institutions and schools/universities. The one group you cannot include is your own nonprofit.
  • Finally, have newsprint and magic markers available.

At the beginning of the session, the facilitator will announce the rules of the game. 


  • Each participant must give away the full $2,000 without talking to anyone before doing so. They have ten minutes to do this.
  • All participants must keep their own lists of how much they give to each organization.
  • When they have given away their full amount, participants sit in silence until everyone has given away all their money.
  • When all the money has been donated, the facilitator adds up the donations in each category and lists this information on newsprint for the group to see.

It is important to do the exercise in silence so that people will have time to process their thoughts and feelings about the exercise without being distracted. This may feel uncomfortable both because silence isn’t always comfortable and because money is the topic.

The second part of the exercise involves the facilitator asking questions which are best answered in small groups. Randomly divide people into groups of three or four and have them answer the following questions:

How did you feel when you were first asked to give away the money?

How did you choose which organizations to support?

Were there nonprofits, other than this one, which you wish were options?

What can you learn from this exercise that will help your nonprofit raise more money?

Allow the groups 15-20 minutes to answer these questions. The facilitator should check in with each group as time goes on to make sure that everyone has a chance to participate.

As the closing part of this exercise, the facilitator brings the whole group back together and asks “What was the one thing that you did or heard today that most impressed you?” The answers should be written on newsprint which can later be used by the board president as s/he works with the development committee and staff to ask board members for their annual fund donations.

Using this exercise will not necessarily result in a significant increase in board member donations immediately, but it can lead to better discussions about money and fundraising in general at board meetings. In my experience, these discussions increase members’ comfort level and, in the long run, both increase their personal donations and also their willingness to ask others for donations.

©Jane B. Ford, M.Ed. 2010

Jane B. Ford, M.Ed. is a speaker, author, teacher, coach and consultant who guides individuals and nonprofits on the road to prosperity. She has worked with small to mid-sized nonprofits for three decades in the roles of executive director, trainer, fundraiser and management consultant

By rahul