Recruit Development Committee Members Like a Coach
I love Septembers—footballs finally are back in the air. (I wish both of my alma maters, West Virginia and Marshall universities, well this season.) Dana Holgorsen and Doc Holliday, head coaches of the respective schools, spend part of their years coaching teams on the field, and other times, recruiting future players.
If they do not recruit well, their teams will not have winning seasons. In the nonprofit world, a losing fiscal year could mean a reduction in programs, services and staff. If you have too many losing fiscal years, you could end up looking for another position at another nonprofit.
In my experience, for most nonprofits, the development committee is one of the most important committees, but traditionally has the weakest membership assigned to it. If the chief development officer assigned to this committee has a head-coach mentality and knowledge of how to recruit, the individual pieces of the development committee will be successful over time.
In addition to top committee leadership, you need depth of leadership. Like football players, key volunteers can get sick, tired or burned out, or be victims of term limits. The institutional CEO, chief development officer and board chair must work together to recruit key development committee coaches and players (i.e., volunteers) and inspire them to greatness.
As staff liaison for development committees at many stops, I always believed in the three-prong approach to creating them. This committee should have an annual gifts subcommittee, major gifts subcommittee and planned gifts subcommittee.
The attributes of potential members for these committees are as follows:
Annual Gifts Subcommittee
Members should have an array of expertise in direct mail, special events, marketing, programming and sales. Their focus should be on the creation, implementation, maintenance and critique of annual fundraising-related programs. Their psychology is based upon acquisition of annual donors, plus retention and enhancement of annual gift vehicles.
They should have volunteer experience with other annual giving programs at nonprofits. Members should understand the role that annual gifts play in an organization and understand that annual giving is usually the front door to long-term institutional giving.
Major Gifts Subcommittee
Members of this development subcommittee should have expertise in sales, marketing and relationship building, and an understanding of the development process and the complexity of institutional priorities. Their focus must be on the cultivation and generation of ongoing engagement in the organization. Members should be hungry, curious and results-driven.
Their goal is to cement donors to their organizational involvement and secure ever-increasing gift sizes. Many different types of individuals can be recruited, but all must be totally devoted to generating significant time, talent and treasure. They must be masters of the 30-second elevator speech!
Planned Gifts Subcommittee
Members of this committee should be skilled professionals in their career paths. They must have kind hearts and knowledge of specialized gift types. They need to have sales expertise with a targeted focus on specific populations, and be interested in making a planned gift.
Individuals who make excellent subcommittee members are usually attorneys, accountants, trust officers, financial planners and private bankers. The key with this group is providing the right programs, information and opportunities to individuals who totally trust the organization and will make legacy gifts.
The development committee, as a whole, must have leadership that can play a major role on the board, while understanding complex institutional internal and external mechanisms. These leaders need to be global thought leaders and have close relationships with the CEO of the organization. They need to be accountable for results and work closely with the organizational chief development officer.
You will find recruiting the right members for the development committee and related subcommittees very hard to do. If you can recruit a few key volunteers, others will follow. Volunteers, like players, want to play for winning teams and organizations. You want your organization to develop a community reputation for having an outstanding board and development committee. You have turned the corner when outstanding potential volunteers call you to serve (instead of you calling them).
The kickoff to another fundraising season is now upon us. How do your volunteers stack up?
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.