Institute for Charitable Giving

blue rule

The Buck Starts with the Board

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“Every profession is a conspiracy against the laity.” –George Bernard Shaw

For years, Walter A. Hass, Jr. headed what was considered the world’s most successful garment manufacturer, Levi Strauss & Co.  The company was founded by his great grand uncle.

Haas was a recognized leader in the business community, locally and internationally.  He was a strong advocate of volunteerism and played a vital role his entire adult.

An active giver in the Jewish community, Haas was equally generous to a wide range of organizations and institutions.  His greatest enthusiasm and support, however, were reserved for the University of California, Berkley. 

About one thing, Haas was unforgiving.  He said serving on an organization’s board of directors carries with it a financial responsibility.  “Someone like me shouldn’t serve on a board without supporting it financially,” he told me.  “Every board member should give.   It’s just like being on the board of a corporation, you should own a few shares of the stock.”

The Four “W’s” Work, Wealth, Wisdom, and Wallop
Dedicated, devoted board members are the lifeblood of an organization

Dr. Henry W. Riston ended a distinguished 18-year presidency at Brown University in 1955.  It was a fine school when he went there, but of no major national distinction.  It was Riston who developed it into what it is today— one of the elite universities in the nation.

When he retired, a reporter from the Boston Globe interviewed him.  He wanted to know if there was any particular secret to Riston’s extraordinary tenure and long roster of achievements.

Riston said it had something to do with the sheer force of vision and leadership.  But he said, “What was by far most important of all was that through the years, I worked with an outstanding Board of Trustees.”  He said this was particularly important at Brown in order to transform a carbon-copy school into one of the greatest universities in the country.

The reporter then asked what a president should expect from a trustee.  The reporter asked Riston to be quite explicit, right to the point. 

“I don’t even need much time to think about it.  My response is: ‘Work, Wealth, and Wisdom.  Preferably, I want all three, but if I must, I would settle for a minimum of two out of the three.’”

The strong, effective, influential, and affluential men and women – the four “W” variety – are becoming increasingly difficult to recruit.  Your board profile provides one of the vital signs of the organization’s health, an unshakable index of your ability and vitality to grow and develop.

Potential board members who show promise and resolve should be pursued and romanced with the same ardor you place in engineering a large gift.  These dedicated 4-W board members are a treasure to be coveted.  A board of dogged determination and dedication can accomplish any objective for your organization.

Major donors give their largest gift to those institutions where they serve on the board or in a volunteer capacity.

It’s a plain fact that familiarity begets involvement, and involvement begets commitment, and commitment begets giving.  Often sacrificial giving.

The more people know about your organization and the more involved they are, the more likely they are to be committed to your great aspirations and grand designs.  Involvement provides a quantum escalation to a mega gift.

It doesn’t necessarily follow that everyone on the board will make a stretch gift.  But you’ll find your most sacrificial gifts do come from people on boards or those who have served in some official capacity in the past.” –Jerold Panas


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