Call It What You Will, But It Is Fundraising — Isn't It?
Last week I was in Akron, Ohio, for a presentation and had the opportunity to visit with my good friends and incredible communicators Steve Caler and Doreen Vanchoff at band management and business development consultancy Caler & Co. Among their clients is the Akron Area YMCA, where they provide total communications support — including fundraising.
YMCAs have been pioneers in volunteer engagement and include volunteers in annual and capital fundraising. While there certainly are challenges inherent in this volunteer component in the Y world and beyond, it remains a vital component of effective fundraising — a volunteer (and especially a volunteer donor) brings a sign of commitment.
With the importance of sharing "the story," many Ys (and other organizations) began to call their campaign volunteers "storytellers," rather than solicitors. (Today, the term solicitor, even for a noble philanthropic endeavor, can have a negative connotation.)
But Vanchoff shared that she feels labeling a campaign volunteer a "storyteller" blurs what is expected of the annual-fund volunteers — that they ask for a gift. She struck a chord. I tend to use the term "ambassador" for a grassroots fundraising volunteer, but if at the end of the day we expect a volunteer to fundraise and make an ask, then let's be clear about it.
Getting people to ask for a gift is a challenge — and it can be a big one. But it is one that we have to overcome. We don't do that by trying to camouflage that expectation. We overcome it through better identification, recruiting, orientation, coaching and recognition of volunteers that we engage in fundraising.
We overcome it by holding true to the fact that fundraising — as a profession or volunteer avocation — is a noble calling. That without the staff or volunteers to invite philanthropic gifts, so many organizations would not be able to fulfill their vital missions.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.