I’ll admit it: When it comes to fundraising volunteers, I’m an unabashed flip-flopper.
In my almost 20 years in the fundraising trenches, I’ve dealt with my share of volunteers who wouldn’t give and wouldn’t ask. Now, they said they’d give, and they said they’d ask, but they just never quite got around to doing either. Assigning good donor prospects to these volunteers would just go to waste, and I’d wind up calling them myself.
So I asked myself, “Self, why are you putting me through this rigmarole only to lose six months of traction and have to make the same calls I could have made in the first place?” Answer: “Fughetaboutit! I’ll just do it myself.”
But then I encountered a really great volunteer. She gave and she asked, and she did both very well. She moved the organization light years in the amount of time I would have moved it a few inches.
And that’s what a great volunteer can bring to your organization. It’s up to you to find them and support them like gold because, well, they are. Here are six strategies to consider:
- Your best donors are the pool for your best volunteers. We err in thinking that because someone is a big-time donor that we shouldn’t bother them to volunteer as well. Bother them. They’re invested. They’re believers. And they’re your first best source.
- Following Tip #1: Never, never, never allow volunteers to ask for gifts when they haven’t first given themselves. Some kind people believe that they are doing you a favor by volunteering their time but not their money. They’re not. Trust me, when these volunteers show up on a call, they have a neon sign on their forehead that reads: “I haven’t given, but you should!”
- The Rule of One. Don’t ask a fundraising volunteer to do more than one thing. Ask them to open one door, set up one visit, make one ask, etc. Follow that one thing through to its conclusion before asking them to do the next thing.
- Precondition success. If you’ve got a good, but scared, volunteer, give her or him an easy call to make first. Choose a prospect you know will step up. Heck, call that person yourself in advance of your volunteer’s call to grease the skids if you have to. Give your volunteer the opportunity to taste the sweet nectar of success.
- Face the fear. Yes, this is scary stuff! If you sense your volunteer is scared, ask what she or he is scared about and work through it together.
- Less is more. To get the most of a good volunteer, you need to devote time, energy and sweat equity into that person. Only do that with the ones who will get the job done. Managing three good volunteers well will get you much farther than managing a committee of 10 so-so volunteers poorly.
Give these strategies a try the next time you are looking to engage volunteers in your fundraising endeavor. Over time, you can turn what can be a fundraising liability into your biggest asset.
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About the Author
James Plourde CFRE
James is always willing to ask the needed questions, helping his clients clarify their path and giving them the confidence to proceed.