How Important is Donor Potential When Selecting Your Lay Leaders?

From what I have seen in my non-profit experience, when it comes to choosing lay leaders, we always want our biggest donors to be our lay leaders. On the one hand, this certainly makes sense. Of course we want our big donors to be involved. The idea is that the more involved they are, the more they will see the wonderful work that we are doing, and they will want to give even more. 
However, now that I live and work in the non-profit world in Israel, I am noticing that this model might not always work. One of our big goals is to involve younger leadership, which will not only bring a breath of fresh air into the organization, it will also sustain the organization in the future. Thank G-d, in Israel there are some younger people with high giving potential. But from what I have seen that does not seem to be the norm. Which brings me to the question: How important is donor potential when selecting your lay leaders? 
I’d love to hear your thoughts, but I’ll also tell you my opinion. Of course donor potential should be considered, but it should not be the only factor in selecting lay leaders, especially amongst the younger generation. Private donors are wonderful and are in many ways the heart of the organization. But there are also other ways to get money … the government, foundations, grants, etc. So I don’t think that everyone who sits on a board needs to commit to a minimum annual gift. People from different walks of life and different circles can also contribute new, fresh ideas. 
What do you think? 
Chava Ashkenazi
Jerusalem, Israel 
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5 Responses to How Important is Donor Potential When Selecting Your Lay Leaders?

  1. Esti Keller says:

    You bring up an important point! I also think that the biggest donors are not necessarily the most organized or efficiant leaders. Sometimes people who’d make great lay leaders are overlooked simply because their donor potential isn’t huge. We should choose people based on their talents not just the size of their pockets.

  2. Chava, as a Certified Board Trainer, I have had to deal wth some very good functioning boards and some boards who have members just for the prestiage and for their resume. I tell clients that a board is good if it is diverse and made up of 1/3, workers, 1/3 wealth, and 1/3 wisdom. While the wealth doesn not have to be only givers each board member should contribute some money. Funders more and more want to know if 100% of board members give a donation. If the board will not give why should they? And each board member should know at least 3 people they can contact about giving to the cause. It is also good if you can have at least one or two board members who are in the community and can relate directly to your cause (perhaps they have helped by your agency) or a member of their family has benefited from your organization. And please as you bring new members on to your board, give them a good orientation about your organization and at least once a year arrange a good board training for the entire board. This is especailly important as your newer board members come on to the board. Also, make sure they truly want to serve on the board and that they understand it is much more than just a monthly meeting. Some board members are shocked when they learn they have to raise funds, attend events, etc. Don’t let them come to the board blind. Good luck.

  3. Michael says:

    My 2 cents – Authenticity. And commitment to service of sort. They have to walk the talk. These will bring in donors…

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