Should I start a board for my foundation?

Two givers considering starting foundations: Amar and Bernard

Recently, I’ve met with two givers who have very different approaches to their foundations.

The first, Amar, is just establishing his foundation. He wants to do everything the right way. He sees many established foundations have boards, so he is considering having a board for his foundation. “What is the role of the board and how often should a board meet?” he asked me.

The second, Bernard, has had a foundation for a while. He has put together a board with six to ten members.

But one of his advisors explained to me that Bernard’s foundation has only one decisionmaker: Bernard. The board doesn’t get to vote. Bernard makes all the giving decisions himself.

I asked why, then, he had a board. The advisor explained, “He just calls board meetings so that he can share his views on giving with an audience.”

What’s the purpose of a board and how should you structure yours?

 

What’s the Bible say related to this?

What’s the Bible say that’s relevant to the question of whether to start a board for your foundation?

First, collect wisdom.

Proverbs 11:14 says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers” (NIV).

Amar has a heart to surround himself with wisdom. Proverbs 1:5 says that the wise “listen and add to their learning” (NIV).

Second, recognize that together is better.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV 

 

Steps to discern whether to start a board.

Based on the Scripture above, consider these three questions as you weigh whether to have a board for your giving.

Question 1. Why do you want a board?

How will that bring more joy to your giving? What are the advantages of a board? Most organizations that start a board do so for one, or more, of these reasons:

  • Accountability. To hold yourself to your own giving ideals;
  • Wisdom. To gain from others’ perspectives, strengths and gifts;
  • Fellowship. To experience the joy of giving with friends;
  • Diversification of Authority. To spread decision-making authority across a wider group;
  • Legality. To fulfill governance requirements.
  • The Inclusion of Loved Ones. To show loved ones that they matter to you and to instill vision in them.

 

Each of these reasons could bring joy to your giving. Let’s just take “wisdom” as an example.

First-generation wealthy Christians sometimes recognize that, just because they’re good at making money doesn’t mean they’re good at giving it away. They want help ensuring that they give wisely. Gathering a group of wise counselors makes sense.

If we’re not sure that we’re giving wisely, it’s hard to have joy in it. But surrounding ourselves with wise counselors give us clarity and that clarity magnifies the joy of giving.

As givers, we can too-easily believe that success in one realm (business) will translate to success in another realm (giving). I know I’ve been guilty of this.

But, unlike sports or business, giving doesn’t have a visible scoreboard. So there are few ways to know if I’m actually good at giving.

If you’re good at sports, you win games.

If you’re good at business, you make money.

“Unlike sports or business, giving doesn’t have a visible scoreboard.”

If you’re good at giving away money,…no one will ever know.

At best, others may know how much you gave; not how well you gave.

And then our human nature kicks in. Confirmation bias is our tendency to “cherry pick information that confirms our existing beliefs.” (Check out this piece from Farnam Street.)

Confirmation bias means that we tell ourselves that we made good decisions. In giving, we see the stories of impact or receive some data and feel good about the investment we made.

To have more joy giving, we need other wise believers to lovingly hold us accountable and offer objective guidance.

But does that mean that we need a board? Perhaps we just need accountability partners?

 

Question 2: How could I obtain these benefits without a formal board?

Boards can give us wisdom and accountability. But are they the best way in your situation to get it?

Boards Give… …but You Could Also Get It Through…
Accountability …sharing your giving commitments with a close godly friend or couple.
Wisdom …having a Board of Advisors, who give guidance without having giving authority.
Fellowship …joining a giving collaboration. At Generosity Path, we keep a list of Christian giving groups that meet to give.
Inclusion to Children, Loved Ones …inviting loved ones to participate in finding and vetting projects, or even have a set amount to allocate to projects of their own choosing.

Question 3: If I add a board, when should I start it?

Sometimes, wealth creators want control of their giving and would be horrified to see money, entrusted to them by God, given away to the wrong things. For these givers, a board is likely not the right answer.

Earlier, I mentioned Bernard. He does not let his board make any giving decisions today. But his will states that, when he dies, his fortune will be given away by a group of people whom he trusts. He doesn’t trust any one of them enough to put them in charge unilaterally. But he trusts the group of them to be the next-best thing to Bernard’s own judgment.

In passing wealth to future generations, sometimes the wealth creator wants to ensure no individual heir controls how their fortune is granted. This can be a good reason to diversify authority after one dies.

 

As you weigh the pros and cons, ask your Father, “What approach brings the most delight to you?” He promises in James 1:5 to give wisdom to those who ask him. Using the ideas above, ask Him to give you insight into whether—and when—to start a board for your giving.

 

To bring more joy to your giving, each post at joygiving.org takes a giver’s question (Situation), offers biblical guidance (Scripture), and, based on our thousands of interactions with Christian givers around the world, offers action items (Steps).

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