Should Nonprofit Staff Be Asked to Give ??

Sections of this topic

    This posting by: Hank Lewis

    In a recent exchange of email….

    “What’s the standard thought on nonprofit annual employee appeals (a.k.a. asking your employees to donate back to the organization)? Is this standard practice? Is it a good/bad idea?”

    Like almost everything else in fundraising, there is no “standard” thought about annual employee appeals. There is, however, standard thinking that questions whether you can (or should) run an effective fundraising program if an organization’s insiders don’t/won’t support it.

    • It’s always good to be able to say to (potential) donors that all of the members of your “family” give … to the best of their ability !!

    • How can you ask outsiders to give to your organization if the board and staff don’t?

    • Now, to be able to leverage “family” giving effectively, it would be best if all “family members” made a gift early in the year, i.e., early January. That way, you’ll be able to say to potential donors (individual, foundation and corporate) that every board and staff member is also a donor.

    • Should it become known that your family members don’t support your organization, you can be sure that there’d be a drop-off in contributions from outsiders. And, by the way, many foundations ask about staff giving … and consider that information when deciding on grants.

    • I have a problem with the concept/reality of asking staff to “give back.” Unless a staff member (or one of their family members) has benefitted from your services, the question of giving back is moot. Asking staff to contribute money to your organization is not “giving back.” One must assume that they are being paid for the work that they perform – that there has been an even exchange of value.

    • Staff should support the organization they work for because they believe in the mission and get satisfaction from seeing what is accomplished on a day-to-day basis.

    “I’ve had conversations internally and with acquaintances in other nonprofits about this topic. There seems to be two primary thoughts (as you say, no standard). One is exactly what you’ve stated…. The other goes something like: nonprofits pay so little to begin with (compared to the corporate world) that it’s an insult to ask employees to give back to the organization they’re already working so hard for.”

    • That “insult” excuse is what people say when they’re afraid to ask, and/or when there is lousy employee morale. It’s never a question of whether an employee can afford to make a gift – even the poorest person can afford a dollar. It is a question of whether an employee feels good enough about the organization/mission to want to give.

    The reality should be that employees (and board members) give to the best of their ability. And, being able to say that that is the case can only strengthen your position when asking others to give.

    Caveat: Staff members should not be required to give. Giving is their decision to make, and must not be coerced.

    One last thought: A nonprofit organization should never have an annual appeal … either for “family” or outsiders. Donors should be allowed/encouraged to give as often as is comfortable for them – not just once each year !!
    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating or expanding your fundraising program? With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, I’ll be pleased to answer your questions. Contact me at
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