It has been a unique week. Meeting with development professionals is always filled with surprises, but I have to tell you I was floored with the number of development pros trying to do it on their own.
I met not one, not two, but three development directors who were one person shops in a single week. While that in itself is not so surprising among more than 2 million nonprofits in the United States, what was unusual was that all three were trying to do it all on their own. They wrote and designed their own appeals. They met with major donors. They organized events. When I say they did it all on their own, I mean just that… and how sad it was for me to see these three people burnt out, exhausted and ready to pack it up.
For all the right reasons they were working harder than anyone in the organization, but they had not figured out the most exciting thing about fundraising for a nonprofit… TEAMWORK.
Nonprofits have one thing that most companies do not have: “the cause”. You don’t see people lining up at local businesses ready to work for free. You don’t see people attending a dinner with a for-profit business owner and writing them checks without expecting anything in return. Non-profit leaders need to harness “the cause” to rally a team of people to help them reach their goals.
How to rally a fundraising team:
1. Maximize existing staff. Reach out to other staff members and ask for their help. All co-workers need to know to get started is that their job will be to help you thank donors.
2. Utilize donor database to full potential. Let your supporters know you are looking for a few volunteers. Create short job descriptions and start recruiting volunteers who have some experience in those areas.
3. Mirror others who are successful at other charites and reach out to the busiest people. Rest assured it is the volunteer who is the busiest who will carve out the time to help you succeed.
4. Rally your team by hosting regular prospect review meetings. Identify staff, volunteers and board members who have relationship with prospects on your file who need to be thanked, cultivated and asked for support.
5. Give out great titles! You cannot pay them great money, but you can give out great titles and job descriptions. Make every volunteer position sound exciting and make every volunteer feel appreciated.
6. Make sure every position has a timeline. People often think “volunteer” means forever! So putting volunteer positions into packages which take certain amounts of time are more likely to attract volunteers (e.g. asking someone to help thank donors for just a 10 week block)
7. Use social media to recognize volunteers as well as recruit new ones. Tag, friend, tweet and shout out to every volunteer. Remember, eagles fly with eagles. Volunteers will network with other volunteers and can become your top recruiters.