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Article Published: 26 Apr 2021

Board Giving: Minimums or Not?

Excerpted from the Essentials of Opera Governance with Marc A. Scorca

There are advantages to having a minimum required contribution for your board members. It streamlines your communications so everyone knows the expectation, and it provides you with some level of predictable income, which helps with future budgeting. But there are some disadvantages as well.

Frequently, your required minimum becomes a ceiling, and board members don’t give beyond it, even if they can. That means their gift won’t increase from year to year, even as your company’s expenses may. You may, in turn, feel tempted to increase the minimum to keep pace with the budget. But every time the threshold goes up, it will likely become harder for younger people (who are saving for a house or paying student loans) to serve on the board — or for a school principal or community leader, whose expertise you need. The higher the requirement, the harder it becomes to achieve all dimensions of diversity.

So what’s the alternative? Ideally, your board leaders speak to every board member, every year, about their gift. You talk about the company’s priorities and projects, and you ask for an increase to match them. You may offer the range of giving levels on the board, but you ask each board member to make the most meaningful gift within their capacity.

This article was published in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Across the Board, a publication of OPERA America for opera company trustees.