Pledges on Paper

Dear Kim:  

A small family foundation run by a friend of our board chair promised us $10,000 at the beginning of the year and they have not yet paid it. Our board chair was recently told by her friend that the foundation probably wasn’t going to be able to pay because the market had wiped out a lot of their assets, but I can’t understand why they didn’t pay sooner.

I am the office manager and I have looked all over for any paper work related to this grant and can’t find any-no proposal, no letter saying we are getting the grant, nothing. We need the money and it is in our budget, but the board chair wants to pull it out and cut costs to balance the budget.   I think the board chair is a wind-bag and this money was never in the pipeline, but I don’t know what to do about it.  I am the office manager and don’t feel I have any power.  Our Executive Director doesn’t know how to proceed either and said she would be curious what you thought. 

~Stalling for Dollars

Dear Stalling:  

I am seeing a lot of donors use these last two months as excuses to do what they wanted to do anyway, which is say no to certain requests and shy solicitors to claim they asked but, “Oh, the market. Woe, woe.”  A lot of how you proceed will be determined by what result you want, given that the result of getting the $10,000 doesn’t look to be in the cards.  Do you want to embarrass the board chair?  The Executive Director?  The foundation?  Do you want to get better systems in place so that grants are not booked as income unless you have a grant agreement on file? If you make too much of a fuss you may simply embarrass yourself.   I know you need the money, but in the scheme of things, $10,000 isn’t that much, and the ED and Board Chair should be encouraged to think about how to replace that money rather than cutting costs.  The Executive Director needs to be more firm about systems and needs to talk to the Treasurer of the board about having a paper trail for pledges. If you have an audit, the auditor will help you design proper systems. The Treasurer could use this as a teachable moment for all the board to show why we insist on having written pledges.  I wouldn’t let it just go by without any discussion, but I would use your valuable time to insure nothing like this can happen again. 

Good luck!

~Kim Klein