More About Using Board Members & Volunteers

December 24, 2007

Lets talk a little more about getting donors (and board members) involved in your nonprofit. I think that it is important that we do not take a too narrow view of fund development. Every nonprofit has a lot of different needs that vary from simple volunteer tasks like sorting or answering phones all the way to creating an IT infrastructure, crafting a marketing campaign, or advocating on behalf of the organization. Wouldn’t it be incredible if a nonprofit started to view volunteers, donors, and board members all with the same value? How often have the lines been blurred between all of these different areas? A good nonprofit will learn how to use these vested individuals in greater depth.

A reader wrote a great comment in response to my posting, Using Board Members to Fundraise. I think that you can change “board member” to “executive volunteer” and get the same result.

“My claim is that to maximize your board’s effectiveness (at fund raising or whatever else) the organization needs to look at things in reverse. ‘Who are my board members, why are they here, and how best can we use what they bring?’”

This represents a profound shift in thinking. What would happen if a nonprofit really thought this way? I think that it would result in some incredible partnerships, new programs, and increased donations.

I really liked the questions that were asked in that post but I might rephrase the question just a little bit. I think that if a nonprofit can really use it’s board members greatest skills they would get a lot further. But, I think that it is important that in doing this they do not lose track of their mission. So my rephrase would be, “Who are my board members, why are they here, and how best can we use what they bring to further the mission of the nonprofit?” Maybe that redirection to connect the volunteer work with the nonprofit’s mission is what makes a good fund development staff member.

One last thing. When you start down the path of engaging volunteers in their passions and their skills start small. It is going to take time to create the working relationship between your nonprofit and that specific board member or volunteers. I have known a lot of volunteers that come in really excited and want to do 100 things and they don’t end up doing 1. But the most profound impacts that I’ve seen have been board members that came in to do 1 or 2 things and followed through. Make sure you sit down and talk with this volunteer about what they can do and what they want to do. Before you do anything else go back to your organization and talk to them about what the organization needs to do to be able to use those skills and abilities. Make sure to follow up with the individual (in person or by phone) and talk about how the partnership will work and what the organization is doing to support their work. Continue to check in to thank them, see what kind of additional support this volunteer might need, and see how the project/task/involvement is going. If they want to engage in a deeper way or do some additional things make sure that it will not stop them from being able to finish the task they are on. You can tell them the organization is not ready yet or the need is greatest with the work they are doing right now. Only tell them that if it is true. Explain to the volunteer why you are not ready yet.

Do you have any examples of using volunteers well or and comments? Let me know I think we are starting a great conversation on this topic. Be sure to read the comments as some really insightful things have been said.


No need to fear

November 26, 2007

I have talked with a lot of different people about fundraising for their organization. One thing that I have continued to find is that there are a lot of misconceptions about fundraising. I think that everyone has heard all of the horror stories about going door to door and asking you friends and neighbors to give more money than they have ever given before.

My experience with fundraising has been very different. More often than not I am working with individuals or organizations that have already expressed an interest in supporting my cause and I am not asking my friends for money or support of any kind. Fundraising can be a really positive experience and allows non-profits to continue to and increase the work they do.

When getting started my first piece of advice is just do it, people want to be asked and if you do it right it can be an incredible experience.