Working with Volunteers
Setting up the Task Force
Any organization that hopes to succeed in raising money needs a Fundraising Committee or Task Force with a mandate of responsibility for fundraising.
The traditional model calls for all board members to take an active role in fundraising. This model seldom applies to grassroots groups.
For example, in many organizations, the board is unwilling or unable to do fundraising. In an umbrella group, the board members may be representatives of other levels of the group, and feel their first loyalty is to their home branch. If board members are consumers of your group's services they may have no interest or experience in fundraising. Board members may also be appointed by funders, or brought in for other expertise.
Even when the board is willing and able to fundraise, they typically have too many other responsibilities.
Fundraising cannot be left to staff alone, either. Special events, for example, can be so labour-intensive that it is not economical to pay everyone dedicated volunteers are essential. There are also fundraising jobs that must be done by volunteers only, such as visiting major donors (who can react quite negatively if a staff person visits them alone).
For all these reasons, grassroots groups need a special team of volunteers who will raise funds. At least one or two board members should be on this team to maintain the overall vision and act as liaison. Ideally, most of the other volunteers will be people with a strong personal connection to your services. This ensures their understanding and trustworthiness. They may be Friends of the group, sympathetic and willing. A legally separate foundation has also proven useful to groups as diverse as the Hospital for Sick Children and Casey House Aids Hospice.
The term `Task Force' is recommended in preference to `Committee'. This may just seem like semantics, but the psychology of the words is important. People think of committees as groups that meet for indefinite periods of time to formulate recommendations that other people will carry out. Task forces by contrast, have specific objectives to accomplish within a time limit, and are expected to do the work, not just talk about it.
Membership in the Fundraising Task Force (or whatever you choose to call it) group should imply taking an active role. The people on the central Task Force should all be leaders of sub-groups, and have the necessary teams of people to carry out the work.
A number of the key positions are outlined below. Not every group needs all these positions filled, of course, and others are not on the list.
It may also take time to develop the full complement of leaders, if you are starting from scratch. The list may seem so long that it appears impossible to find all the volunteers you need. Don't let that deter you from starting with whomever you can get first. Others can be added later.
Your first task is to figure out what roles you will need people to fill. Here is Lyn McDonell's list of Team Leader jobs:
Chairperson/Coordinator: A real people-oriented person who can help keep everyone else on topic and on time in a nice way, during meetings and outside them. Should be a good recruiter, and knowledgeable enough to provide advice.
Donor Groups Coordinator(s): Often it makes sense to divide the donors up into specialized groups. Examples might include donor groups such as clients, unions, service clubs, businesses, healthcare workers, and religious groups. If the groups are large enough, they may need to be subdivided (for example, health care businesses, local businesses, and banks). Different people take on the responsibility of coordinating activities to reach each group. Try to have people from the donor group head up each team. For example, a union is more likely to give if a union member approaches them.
Special Events Chair/Chairs: There may be several special events underway. The coordinators are part of the task force.
Grants Coordinator: This volunteer researches granting agencies, and assists in the preparation and presentation of proposals. People from the academic world are often experienced in this area (or interested in learning).
Sales Coordinator: If you sell goods (whether through an annual garage sale or by producing special T-shirts and posters), a volunteer organizes the process, including recruiting producers of goods, collecting goods to sell, and managing the pricing and sales.
Regional Liaison: National and Provincial organizations may want to pass on fundraising ideas to their local groups. The Regional Liaison person informs local groups, encourages their fundraising, and trouble-shoots as necessary.
Publicity and Promotion Coordinator: One volunteer may be a link to the work of a promotions committee which supports the fundraising through its efforts to obtain publicity for the organization and/or event.
Volunteer experts agree: the person and the job must fit each other well, if work is to be done happily. But are there different types of volunteers to watch for? Here's one way of identifying work styles.
The Old Boys' Network / Power Brokers
These high-powered, well connected people have clout, and, with due respect to charges of sexism, there aren't many women in these rarefied establishment circles yet. These people lend their names, or make a few important backroom contacts, and they give generously. They open doors, impress donors with their credibility, and collect favours. Almost every cause can benefit from their leadership and credibility.
Use them only for maximum impact. Don't expect them to come to board meetings, actively serve on committees or do tasks such as stuffing envelopes or decorating the gym.
The Old Hands / Expert Advisors
Experienced volunteers who share their expertise can help you avoid reinventing the wheel. These advisors help out in publicity and media, accounting and financial management, law, fundraising and staging events. Don't waste their time on trivial details.
The Clones / Managers / Organizers
People you trust almost as much as yourself. They see a task, make intelligent decisions and get it done quickly. Then they come back with new ideas. Rare but valuable. Give them freedom to act, not rules to follow.
The Drones / Workers
Is this a rude title? Only in a society that doesn't value hard work! Bees could not make honey without a legion of drones. Everyone is a drone from time to time in their lives, even while doing very responsible work elsewhere at the same time.
These workers are task-oriented. Ask them to perform a task and they will. But when they're finished they stop and wait to be told what to do next. They may stuff envelopes or take major responsibility for a precisely defined campaign. Don't wait for them to approach you: they won't. But if you fail to ask them to do a job, preferably one that fits their talents, they may be insulted.
The Decision Makers
These verbally oriented people would rather talk than do. When they're good at it, they can ask the vital questions and make brilliant decisions that create clear policy, workable strategy, and rational plans.
When they're bad, the meetings last forever and the group never acts. Don't use good meeting goers for any other task they'll submit recommendations instead of doing it!
Decide who you need
Using these categories, make a list of all the volunteers needed to complete a specific task, whether it is holding a fundraising auction or preparing a corporate campaign. Prioritize the list, showing who you need first.
Next, determine what skills are available among your current team. Groups are often surprised to discover just the expertise they need among current and former board members, volunteers and clients. People may have hidden experience half-forgotten from another time in their lives, such as selling Boy Scout apples or Girl Guide cookies. At first they may not realize how relevant their experience might be from working on a church stewardship campaign, a union organizing drive or a student summer job in sales. They may be ready to take on more responsibility.
Take a Human Resources Inventory
Identify the missing elements in your Human Resources Inventory. Divide your current volunteers into their types.
People may have different types of involvement for different activities. For example, a person with computer experience may be an Advisor in that category. In Special Events, the same person might not have experience, and could be a Worker directed by someone who knows what they're doing.
Ask your volunteers what types they think they are, and whether they think they are in the right assignments. If they are in the wrong assignment, show which one they should be doing.
Job Descriptions are needed for everyone
Job descriptions can help identify the skills needed for each strategy.
Having a written description of the different jobs that need to be done is a good recruitment tool. People appreciate having on paper an outline of what their responsibilities are.
When you set up your teams, there are special characteristics to look for. Try to find people with:
Clout: Respect from others, and the power to get tasks done.
Enthusiasm: Feeling good about what you do is contagious. If the leadership is doubtful, the job can't be done.
Action makers: Doers aren't enough. People who try to do all the work personally quickly become overburdened, and slow other people down. Try for people who are good at delegation.
When approaching people with whom you have not previously worked, do not ask them to take on assignments that last a year or longer. Start with three months or less! This gives you both a chance to decide if you want a long-term relationship. It is much easier to sever the connection with volunteers who are not performing well after a short `trial marriage' than during open-ended terms of office. All paid jobs begin with a probation period. So should volunteer jobs.
Talented people may be hard to recruit. Put the emphasis on the end results the fundraising accomplishes, that is, the people helped. De-emphasize the financial target and the difficulties of the work to be done. The volunteers must be excited about what the money will do specific, measurable, human results, not by budgets and organizational needs. If possible, introduce the volunteers to the people being helped, or show them the facilities first-hand, so they really understand the need.
Choose the first task a volunteer takes on carefully. It should lead to quick success. Satisfaction will bring the volunteers back to try again.
Pair new volunteers with experienced ones, using a buddy system. The companionship lessens the loneliness of some tasks.
Where Do You Find Top Fundraising Volunteers?
Now that you know what you need people to do, you can start recruiting.
Star fundraising volunteers are rare. But almost anybody can be adequate with a little training and support. However, here is a list of people who have special reasons to be exceptionally good.
Find top volunteers among people who:
[ ] have moved to the community recently
[ ] have received promotion to senior management positions recently
[ ] may run for political office
[ ] have retired recently or are `at liberty'
[ ] volunteer as a major life activity
[ ] have recently graduated
[ ]Volunteer Job Description Form
[ ] work in sales, media, advertising, PR, journalism
[ ] are your clients/audience or their families
[ ] have been trained in fundraising by other nonprofits such as the United Way, or university or hospital campaigns, who want to work with you because:
Where can you look for good fundraising volunteers?
[ ] Current volunteers2
[ ] Friends of staff, board, and current volunteers
[ ] the local Volunteer Centre
[ ] school Life Experience courses
[ ] community service programs through probation and parole, John Howard, Elizabeth Fry or the Salvation Army (especially for manual labour)
[ ] school job centres
[ ] personnel offices of big companies or government
[ ] Unemployment Insurance Centres
Develop a recruiting team
Get volunteers who are good at recruiting to handle this important task. Find those people among:
[ ] personnel professionals
[ ] people who are owed favours
[ ] powerful people who volunteers want to please
[ ] people who like people
[ ] people who are good at delegating
21 Questions for Volunteer Recruiters
Before you recruit
Are you clear about the goals of your program?
Why do staff want volunteers to be involved in your program?
Have you written up clear, concise job descriptions for the volunteers?
What problems do you think might arise from having volunteers in your program?
What suggestions do you have for circumventing these?
What kind of training/orientation will you need to give your new volunteers?
Who will be the contact person(s) for the volunteers once they are the program?
What provision will be made for on-going contact/support/problem-solving with volunteers?
How many volunteers will you need?
How long a commitment will you demand? Will you be able to work short-term volunteers into your program?
What special skills, qualities or qualifications must your volunteers have before they enter your program?
How will you handle potential volunteers who won't fit into your program?
What do you want to achieve in the initial interview?
Does your registration form supply you with all the information you'll need?
How will you conduct the initial interview?
Have you made provision for preparing clients for the volunteer's involvement?
Have you made provision for accurate recording of: name/phone number/address/ emergency contact/schedules/hours worked/skills (used or learned)/responsibilities?
Are you prepared to provide references, perhaps certificates of recognition?
Victoria (British Columbia) Volunteer Bureau, June 1993
Provide a solid orientation
Orientation is crucial to ensuring that everyone is on the same track, perceiving the need accurately, and understanding the current situation.
At an orientation, outline the responsibilities of key volunteers: planning, recruiting others, coordinating activities and monitoring progress towards the fundraising goal. Ensure that volunteers know the level of support they will have.
How will your group communicate? How often will they meet? In order to enable volunteers to be effective they must have information and perspective. Meetings and communications material enable people to gain this.
Don't assume that everyone knows how to organize meetings well. This is a skill that must be learned and constantly sharpened.
More Information on Good Meeting Management
Meetings, Bloody Meetings is an excellent film, made by Monty Python star John Cleese. In a humorous way, it expounds excellent points. Though it is somewhat dated now, and oriented towards British business people, it's still worth seeing and can be borrowed from many public libraries. Ask for International Telefilm's Meetings, Bloody Meetings and More Meetings, Bloody Meetings.
Firmly throw the ball to your Fundraising Task Force. Talk in terms of a team. Encourage peer group support. Positive social experiences enable the development of good and productive working relationships. Discourage one-man bands (male or female).
The Stages of Planning a Campaign
The Fundraising Task Force must plan through the following stages:
Encourage positive attitudes
Turn the amount from a need to a challenge. Don't let people moan and groan too long about fundraising. Typical excuses Lyn McDonell has heard include:
Instead, point out the benefits of fundraising:
Encourage positive attitudes in others by your own attitude. Make the fundraising team the group to work with, the place to be, etc. A can-do attitude is contagious.
It is rare, but the fundraising team can have so much fun, and find it so rewarding that people actually compete to be chosen as members. Being selected a leader is not seen as a chore to be avoided, but as prestigious proof of your talent. At least one group has enough applicants for top volunteer positions to interview them and choose the best. What a goal to shoot for!
People who are nervous about taking on new assignments will be reassured by knowing that there's a process of orientation and training for volunteers.
Know your dollar goal
Set an overall goal. How much money must the agency raise? This has to be clear or nobody will have a sense of the scope of the task.
How do you decide on the amount for the goal? Usually it is based upon the agency's plans. Fundraising goals are the amount needed to enable the organization to do what it wants to do for its community or communities.
Knowing what you want to do and how much it will cost is the first step to setting fundraising goals.
Other factors which affect goals are:
Knowing how much you could raise is a factor in setting the goal, but not the only one. The need must be the driving force.
Translate expense dollars to program benefits
Define the dollar amount in values that outsiders can understand. What can your agency achieve with that amount of money? How can it benefit people?
Donors want to know how their money will be used. Remember: People give to people.
Transforming dollars into benefits is more fully developed in the chapter titled What's the Money For?
Identify potential donor groups and how you will reach them
Establish the best audience(s) for your fundraising by looking at those your agency comes into contact with, serves, or involves. Identify like-minded groups. Then consider the types of fundraising you can initiate.
Relate the donors, the volunteers and the appropriate techniques. Then assess your strengths and weaknesses in reaching each group and using each strategy.
Although these points are more fully covered elsewhere in this manual, the following quick summary charts provide an unduplicated check-list to help you match the right techniques to the right volunteers and donors.
Draw lines connecting the correct techniques to use to reach different types of donors:
Remember to identify ways in which existing activities can be enriched with fundraising. For example, at a conference or event, add a raffle, or an auction of sentimental items, or a speech directly appealing to the group for funds.
Look for ways to connect fundraising with the group and its sponsors in a meaningful way. A company might sponsor a work-a-thon where money is raised from the public for each disabled person involved in demonstrating his/her abilities. For example, they could construct a wheelchair ramp into an important public building that didn't previously have one.
Assign tentative dollar goals to each method/donor group
Decide on firm financial goals later. At this stage, just estimate for basic planning purposes. Get reaction to these from others.
The amounts depend on any experience you have had, resources available to invest, the size of the group you want to reach, and so on. If you haven't any experience with a particular fundraising method, research what other groups have learned about it.
Personal interests may also mean that volunteers want to put more energy into an approach they enjoy, even if it is not the most efficient.
Leaders develop a calendar, plan, and budget for each strategy
Create a separate plan for each activity. Your Fundraising Task Force coordinates them all.
Each leader draws up a human resource plan for each effort for which they are responsible. Recruit volunteers on the basis of how and when skills are needed to fit into the overall effort.
Good campaigns take long preparation before they can be executed smoothly. At a well organized special event, people will comment on how much money was raised in just one evening, forgetting that it took 9 to 12 months of preparation.
Develop orientation for fundraising volunteers
Each volunteer should receive a brief written kit to cover all the important questions s/he might have. Don't overdo it, or it will never be read. Each should also attend a meeting, either in a group or one-on-one, to let them know about the team effort.
A good orientation:
Prepare the communication tools to support each one of the strategies
Materials such as a brochure, an annual report, and factsheets interpret the program to volunteers and to prospective donors.
They may include:
Evaluate your goals, strategy and identify ways to improve next time
As your fundraising activities unfold, find out what goes right and wrong. Record what people would do differently next time.
Evaluate continuously throughout, and at the conclusion of, the process. At the end of the fundraising activity or campaign, ask:
Recognize fundraisers and donors
`Bread-and-butter letters' to donors
Mail a receipt for income tax purposes to the donors within 48 hours of receiving the donation. Include a thank-you letter. Start at once to cultivate the donor for the next approach. Keep him or her up to date on the progress of the project in which they invested.
Here's how to make a volunteer feel good
Send a short letter to the:
Give the volunteer:
Give lots of rewards
Reward many people, not just the top performers who may have an unfair advantage. Give rewards such as:
When should you reward volunteers?
During the work:
After the work is done:
Anytime goals are surpassed.
How much should you spend to thank volunteers?
NOTHING! Volunteers often resent seeing money needed for the work you do spent on recognition.
If an expense is involved, make sure it has been donated.