Celebrating Your Volunteers
A dependable revenue stream that grows — ah, paradise!
Have a fundraising challenge you want to crack? Weary of doing the same old, same old yet hoping for different outcomes? Do you want the over-the-top results that come from superior strategy?
Email me with your particular problem, and I'll arrange a quick consultation offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
Heads up! This is a feel-good story. No deep drama or cliff-hangers precipitated by organizational dysfunction. Whew, what a relief.
Chuck reached out to me last week just to share with me how much he loves his work and especially his efforts supporting a cadre of volunteers.
Chuck is the development officer for a youth charity in the West. One of his tasks is the management of about 40 volunteer solicitors. This organization has a long tradition of using volunteers to personally reach out to donors as a part of its annual fund.
It's been a while since I encountered such an organization. Having been bred on volunteer fundraising in my own career, I strongly believe that the best way to raise money is with committed volunteers reaching out to others. Not that employing volunteers doesn't carry certain risks. More on that at a different time.
In Chuck's case things are going relatively smoothly. Many of his 40-plus have participated in this annual ritual for more than 10 years. It's that longevity that was the subject of our conversation.
When you've done something year-in and year-out, it eventually becomes automatic, even second nature. It can also become mechanical and devoid of passion. Get the gift. Move to the next person. Make the goal.
Without a focused interest in the prospective donor as a person, seeking gifts for your favorite cause can easily become a lot like bill collecting. After all, you're prospective investors have likes, dislikes and passions all their own.
Chuck wants his volunteer crew to always be at the top of its game — full of passion and commitment.
Passion, commitment to the cause — these are the rock-bottom essentials in effective fundraising. It's really not about the "skill' of asking. If you have the fire, and have made your own gift, it doesn't take much skill coaching to be successful.
Each year, Chuck goes to the effort of bringing all of his volunteers in a dinner meeting/retreat, which is the kickoff of their efforts. Most of what transpires is what you'd expect. There's the greeting of old friends. The assignments and solicitation materials are distributed.
Food and drink lubricate the gears.
The focus of the evening is when Chuck takes the podium to personally thank the volunteers for their continued effort. As a thank-you, he introduces a motivational speaker he has brought in from the outside.
He spends a little money to bring in someone good. Someone who can relate to the crowd and inspire. Someone who comes at it from a different, sometimes unconventional, angle.
The volunteers love it. They get to touch and feel something — and someone — different, exciting. They get a fresh perspective, not merely the company line.
They leave the evening knowing that they're really appreciated. It's not about the free food, the trinkets or even the platitudes. They love hearing a message that rekindles the fire, their real reason for being there. It's even better that it's a third-party endorsement. There's nothing like it.
When I was speaking with Chuck I sensed his love and gratitude for his crew. He's been there only five years even as a number of the volunteers are counting their 20th.
Kudos to Chuck and those dedicated development professionals like him. Those who know — and believe — that it's about people, not money. Odd thing about that — he's exceeded every annual goal since he's arrived.
And, of course, kudos to those individuals who give of their time and resources unselfishly for the good of others.
I extend my thanks to Chuck for reaching out.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me (info@TheEightPrinciples.com), and I'll arrange a brief consult providing you with practical guidance. I'll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
Reach Larry on social media at: