Over a decade later, I still remember this quote from a fundraising study.
“Fundraising is not something I enjoy doing. I don’t like having to ask people. And the problem in this community is that this is a very involved community of people, and you just get to the point where you feel, ‘I can’t ask my friends anymore.” – Anonymous Board Member
You may have heard something similar before. You may have even felt it yourself. I’ve heard this more times than I can possibly count.
The problem isn’t fundraising. Actually, fundraising should be enjoyable. The issue is HOW we’re fundraising.
The board member quoted above may have experienced what is sometimes called the “Go and Get It” model. This approach isn’t sustainable and leaves many with a bad fundraising experience. Still, many nonprofits have a hard time breaking the cycle and moving to a more relationship-centered approach.
Her are a few things to keep in mind that will help you create a more enjoyable and effective experience for volunteers who serve on your board and development committee:
1. Don’t Force People to Leverage Relationships
It’s not a pleasant experience on either side when someone feels pressured to use a personal or professional relationship for a gift. You may have heard the phrase, “We should hit them up for a gift.”
Would you feel valued if knew an organization talked about you that way? Of course not. That type of language and attitude signals the gift is more valuable than the individual.
Expecting volunteers to start giving you names should not be the first thing they’re asked to do as a member of the board or development committee. Before you start asking for connections, make sure volunteers build a solid understanding and passion for the mission and vision of your organization. Most board and committee members also need proper fundraising training to enhance their comfort level and give them the tools to talk to prospective donors about your organization.
Building a group of people to can effectively help your organization money takes time and understanding the uniqueness of each volunteer and donor. Remember, “Volunteers are chess pieces not checkers pieces” as the fundraising legend Carol Weisman says.
2. Understand the Purpose of the Development Committee
Speaking of training, equipping your volunteers is key. It’s crazy to think we can assemble a group of volunteers who have little or no experience in a subject yet somehow expect them to be comfortable with and effective doing it. Isn’t that how we treat our board and development committee members sometimes?
It’s very easy to go straight into the weeds with your development committee. Asking them to help with tasks like submitting names, asking for sponsorships, and following up on invitations.
Start by training them in what the purpose and role of the development committee is first. The committee is responsible for providing direction and oversight in the organization’s fundraising strategies, and they need a fundraising professional to help make good informed decisions. This means there must be a plan with clearly defined goals and metrics. That plan must be continuously monitored, discussed, and tweaked during the year.
“Don’t mistake activity for achievement. To produce results, tasks must be well organized and properly executed; otherwise, it’s no difference from children running around the playground – everybody is doing something, but nothing is being done.” – John Wooden
3. Show Volunteers What Good Fundraising Looks Like
Have you read or known about a place for a long time then when you finally go there you have this incredible eye opening experience?
Fundraising can feel like that to volunteers. Show them what it looks like to build donor relationships or get to know new or prospective donors.
Take a board member with you on a donor visit. Show them how you prepare, have the conversation, and how you follow up. Do the same thing when getting to know a new or prospective donor.
You can also role play or conduct exercises in development committee meetings that help them see and experience these types of activities. One such exercise could be how to make thank you calls or how to make an introduction to the staff.
Does this seem overwhelming or daunting? You can do it. Let’s talk it through.
As always, THANK YOU for reading. Have a great day!
All the best,
Kenny Sigler, CFRE