5 Ways to Warm Up Staff and Volunteers to Ask
It just needed a little warming up. My garage door, that is. I had successfully survived the polar vortex so far and was heading to an early morning breakfast visit with a foundation leader.
My garage door wouldn’t budge. When I called my friend to share that I would need to reschedule, he made a suggestion: Use a hair dryer. I did. For the next half hour I patiently warmed the door, ever slowly, with a hair dryer.
I can be a lot like that door — and I think most of us are. We need warming up. Warming up to new concepts and new ideas. Warming up to things that may make us a bit uncomfortable.
It is the same with fundraising. Volunteers and staff usually need warming so that they can effectively make a gift request. They need baby steps. We all need to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. One step at a time. One win at a time. Building confidence and growing to even greater things.
Here are some steps to warm up staff and volunteers to effectively secure gifts.
Don’t make it complicated; give them the background and resources that they need. Help them understand that while everyone won’t say yes, every visit or contact is important in spreading the mission. Provide outlines, and allow for practice. Go with them whenever possible, especially on the first few calls.
Don’t ask too much
Don’t ask them to do too much. Whether it is asking, cultivating or thanking — relationship building takes time. Don’t overwhelm your staff or volunteers. Make it something that they can handle. Begin small — you can always add on. Allow them to select who they contact. Most of us feel most comfortable visiting with people we already have a relationship with — which is most successful.
Focus on cultivation
Begin with thanking. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t enjoy making a thank-you call or visit. Even with an annual-giving program, develop a culture of long-term relationships. By taking the right steps with the right prospective donors, they begin to self-identify their interest.
Make it relationship-based. It is not about the money — it is about helping the donor make a difference and experience the joy of giving.
Timing is everything
In campaigns, asks have time frames. This is good — and potentially bad. It is imperative that the prospective donor is ready for the ask — at whatever level. And outside of campaign regimen, the time will come when you know you’ve got to ask. Hopefully, when the donor is ready. Although, it can also be smaller asks along the way as you build a relationship and a shared vision.
Make it a big deal — because it is. Celebrate every time your volunteers or staff members secure a gift. (Be sure that the donor understands this excitement and the impact that they make too!) Success begets success. Success builds confidence in your volunteers and staff for their next ask, and it also builds a stronger relationship with your donors, who are now invested.
Never forget your role as a coach in helping your team to “warm up” to its role in philanthropy. Effectively asking for a gift is a special calling and one to invest in and celebrate!
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.