A fundraiser at a national environmental group would like to know how to recruit volunteers to raise money. She asked to remain anonymous.
I work for a nonprofit that is currently fiscally sponsored by another organization but is looking into getting its own 501(c)(3) status. The board we have now is strictly an advisory board, since our fiscal agent has its own functioning board.
Undoubtedly, if we decide to spin off, we will need to create our own board. Meanwhile, our advisory board is not active in fundraising because they were recruited for their professional expertise in the areas we work in, and that means staff is doing all of the fundraising.
We are well-loved in the community and have a healthy number of major donors and friends. My question: What is your advice on starting and managing an adjunct volunteer development committee that can help us raise funds, but is not an official board, during this time of transition?
Your volunteer group can be your “farm team” that helps populate your new board. The trick will be to pick out two or three fundraising methods that match your mission and the talents of the volunteers you recruit.
For instance, if you have tech-savvy folks committed to your mission, you might want to take a digital fundraising approach. If you have business executives who like to entertain, then golf may make sense. Are you an innovative charity with measurable results that would appeal to a foundation? If so, can you recruit volunteers who can and will write grants?
In addition to the volunteer group, you need to start an annual fund if you haven’t done so already. Whether solicitations are carried out through the mail, online, in-home meetings, or some combination of methods will depend on who you currently have on your advisory board and who you can recruit.
Your mission ideally should be reflected in your fundraising methods. A wine-tasting event, for example, would not be a good idea for a group offering an alcohol-treatment program.
We call our development committees “partnership councils.” (We have found it’s the kiss of death to use the words “advisory” or “committee.”)
The goal is to recruit people who will help you connect, motivate, and partner with new business, government, and community leaders who will support you through generous gifts. (Often such leaders do not want to be on a board but will help you in this way.)
Rule No. 1: Your first two recruits are critical. Aim for the most influential people you can find. There is no ask for money. Tell them you want their time, talent, and leadership—treasure comes later.
Then partner with them to identify four potential council members. Have them make a call or e-mail those people to open the door for you. The more influential the initial members of the partnership council, the more likely it is that others will meet with you.
Rule No. 2: Take your time. Visit all of the prospects in person, and work on establishing trust. Talk about personal topics 60 percent of the time and about your organization’s mission 40 percent of the time. Listen carefully to what they say about their interests, their family, and other nonprofit activities. You may visit them more than once before asking them to join your partnership council.
Often partnership councils create their own fundraising program and goal. In other cases, they defer to the organization’s needs, whether it be to add staff, open new offices, or hold an event. Once you have 12 to 18 council members with at least two strong donors or volunteers recruited from your advisory board, it is time to move to the solicitation process. Council members should be comfortable reaching out to others to help you achieve your fundraising goals.
Rule No. 3: Deliver ‘wins’ to members of your partnership council. There are three types of wins: personal, professional and spiritual. As you get to know these stakeholders, you will uncover what motivates them to be a part of your organization. Pinpoint rewarding outcomes and activities to these motivations to insure that they become longtime supporters.
What other advice would you offer? Use the comment link below to join the discussion. And if you need advice on a thorny fundraising problem or issue, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Compiled by Holly Hall.