Training Your Nonprofit Constituents to Fundraise
In a nonprofit, we work in a complex maze of dynamic interactions, both internal and external in scope. Administration, staff, board, volunteers, donors and community, for example, are engaged daily in the progress of a nonprofit. When the subject of fundraising comes up with these nonprofit constituent groups, I am amazed how fast the room goes silent. I constantly preach that everyone associated with an organization needs to own fundraising as part of their job responsibility whether they believe that statement or not.
It is all about generating time, talent and treasure. Without treasure, the organization cannot function. Without adequate resources, programs suffer, or they are eliminated, which lessens the opportunity for program success stories to be told in the fundraising arena. A mandate for fundraising is training various constituent groups in different ways.
As an adjunct professor for a university, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to train various constituents on the art and science of fundraising. Many individuals are either afraid of asking for funds or feel it is someone else’s responsibility. I place fundraising in the category of public speaking, one of the things many would rather not do if they had a choice.
The fact is everyone must ask for funds as it provides the fundraiser with deeper awareness and knowledge of an institution’s programs and services. The more one knows about an organization, the better one is prepared to be either proactive or reactive with potential supporters. Since there are various types of nonprofit constituent groups, how are various components trained to solicit for funds?
In an article titled “Should Your CEO Be Involved with Fundraising?” points out that many nonprofits have weak boards, few major gifts and a top administrator who would rather have a root canal than make a solicitation call on a wealthy prospect. You need to convince your CEO to become a team player with your development department. The top administrator must set the fundraising climate.
There are many individuals or corporate donors who will feel slighted if the solicitation doesn’t come from the CEO. Dr. James Powell, in his book, “Pathways to Leadership,” emphasizes that if you are not willing to raise money, you shouldn’t be in the CEO position. It is part and parcel of the job. The development director must help place the CEO in a position to succeed in fundraising. The organizational leader must be trained, along with the development team, to get out of the desk chair and go out the door to obtain gifts.
Another key group that must generate financial support is your board. In the article, “6 Quick Lessons on Teaching Your Board Members to Solicit Gifts,” notes that volunteers must be trained to obtain funds through face-to-face solicitation. These volunteers must be trained to solicit through storytelling. They need to note that asking is a conversation, an exchange of ideas and stories between two or more people. Nonprofit pros need to teach, guide and coach board members to help with fundraising. Their job is not to ask for a gift but to seek an answer from a prospect.
Amy Eisenstein states that the use of volunteers in fundraising is to generate sincerity and passion to a cause. They bring networks and relationships, plus time and skills to the fundraising table. How you use volunteers as fundraisers depends on their skills and characteristics along with the ability to solicit others. Solicit volunteers first so they can experience the process firsthand by a seasoned professional. Create a list of ways for volunteers to help and train them using their individual abilities and interests. Provide volunteers with specific instructions and doable tasks.
When you train others to raise funds for your nonprofit, you must understand the various constituents you are trying to reach. Each constituent is different and has unique needs. For example, one group I work with is the ministry. Many of the following tips can applied to different groups and situations when training them to solicit for funds.
- Be enthusiastic.
- Ask people to join your team.
- Remember generosity is contagious.
- Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Show how you saved money.
- Provide the principle of giving and receiving.
- People love to save money.
- Set a Fundraising goal.
- Set a deadline to achieve your fundraising goal.
- Celebrate when fundraising success is achieved.
When you train various constituents to fundraise, understand that you need to use various training techniques. People are visual learners. Let them see how solicitations are made. Practice soliciting with others. Make sure you have the appropriate materials to present. Prepare well and be ready to handle a variety of solicitation responses, both positive and negative in scope. The more you experience the process of asking, the more confident you will feel.
The truth is, asking for funds must be a team sport. Everyone internally and externally within a nonprofit organization can play a part in organizational revenue success. At the end of the day, fundraising begins and ends with the CEO or administrative leader. I hope your leader understands raising the largest gifts cannot be assigned to someone else. Too many other CEOs are raising dollars each day in competition with you. Prepare to get in the game and don’t waste another day. Your present and future nonprofit organizational financial health depends on you!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, educator and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 10 years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 26 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 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 done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.