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Activate Your “Love” Hormone

Updated: May 8, 2023

Take Away: Make your own gift first and increase fundraising success.

Would you let your kids go hungry, expecting others to feed them? Of course not.

Would you, as a board member, ask others to support your cause when you don’t? You wouldn’t.

Making your own stretch gift, before you start fundraising is best practice. A “stretch” gift means giving at the upper level of your capacity, more than you would give if you were not on the board. Your nonprofit may have a minimum board contribution level, $1,000 to $100,000 or more. Or your organizations might have a “give or get” policy, allowing you to meet your commitment by giving that amount yourself, getting gifts from others or a combination of the two.

Benefits of the board giving are obvious. Your nonprofit needs money and board giving may represent a substantial chunk of its operating budget. Foundations will be more likely to support your nonprofit if 100% of your board members give. As with children, why should they award grants to a cause its own board won’t support?

Benefits of making your own gift before asking others.

Here are five ways that making your own gift first can power up your ask and make you a more compelling and successful fundraiser.

  1. Empathetic–If you’ve struggled to make your own pledge, you’ll be more understanding, giving your donors space and time needed to consider their contributions.

  2. Focused–You’ll know who to ask. Focus on the donors who contribute within your dollar range.

  3. Committed–You’ll be braver, conveying the courage of your convictions when asking.

  4. Happy-You’ll feel good. Studies find true acts of generosity trigger the release of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” in your brain…you may even live longer! *

  5. Creative–You’ll get creative, possibly using approaches that worked for you inspire others. Perhaps you set up automatic monthly deductions or donated highly appreciated stock. I once found myself short on cash but rich in beads, so I threw a jewelry-making party. For $25, my friends got all the beads and supplies they needed, had fun and left with fabulous jewelry. I donated the proceeds to my favorite charity.

Nonprofit staff also benefit from making their own gifts before asking others.

“Wait!” they say, “We make no money and work ridiculously long hours. That’s our contribution!”

That’s true, but to create a culture of philanthropy, everyone should give, at whatever level they are able, even if it’s just $1 a month. No one expects the staff to match their board’s giving. But when every employee gives, it sends a powerful, even inspirational message to those with greater means.

Give yourself. Give as much as you can. Give before you ask others to. Lead by example and you will find that you’re a better asker, and leader, than you ever imagined you could be.

You’ll find more fundraising tips and techniques inNonprofit Hero, Five Easy Steps to Successful Board Fundraising, available on Amazon, or for free from your local library. And via my blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Schedule a game-changing board retreat that’ll turn your volunteers into Nonprofit Fundraising Heroes, contact  

*Renter, Elizabeth. “What Generosity Does to Your Brain and Life Expectancy,” May 1, 2015.

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