‘Give, Get or Go’ Should Go

‘Give, Get or Go’ Should Go
September 29, 2015 Ron Wormser

“The job of the board and trustees is to raise money. They need to give, get or go.”

How often have you heard that, read it, perhaps even said it yourself, if not aloud then to yourself?

There is no doubting that “give, get or go” has been the dominate view of the role of boards and trustees for some time.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a prudent view, one that is in the best interests of nonprofits.

“How can you say that? All nonprofits need money and lots of it just to survive?”

Why can I and why do I say it?

I say it because the mission of any non-profit is not to survive but to serve the charitable purpose(s) for which it is founded. In contrast, private sector companies are in business to make money and increase shareholder value.

Thus, nonprofits are means to particular charitable ends. In the private sector, the end is the company and shareholder value and the products and services are the means.

The fundamental questions each nonprofit needs to continually ask itself are, “Is our organization able to effectively carry out its mission? Do we have, are we likely to have sufficient resources (human, financial and other resources) to effectively do what we exist to do? Or, would those we serve be better served if we joined with others with similar missions?”

“That’s borderline heresy!”

If it is, and it may be, that’s the problem. Survival has trumped mission in our sector, and it’s not served either those we should be focused on or ourselves very well.

That’s why I have concluded that “give, get or go” has led many to focus on the strategic question of survival rather than mission.

In lieu of “give, get or go”, I think our sector should consider reverting back to three other criteria which were dominant before money mania took hold.

Those criteria were “work, wisdom or wealth” and reflected a wider definition of the board’s role and of its members, particularly in ensuring mission relevance and strategic guidance and oversight of the organization and its leadership.

Then, boards were composed of a mixture of capabilities representing the 3 criteria, and there is every reason to think that today’s boards and their organizations would benefit from such a blend.

But the place to start is by focusing on mission rather than money, on service rather than self-perpetuation for the sake of self-preservation.

This commentary is copyrighted © 2015 by Ron Wormser.

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