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December 3, 2021
Fundraising Success Is Often Tied to Recruiting the Best Volunteers
By Robin L. Cabral

Robin Cabral
Robin Cabral
Since volunteer fundraisers are critical to nonprofit success—because they serve as the ambassadors of your fundraising efforts—the way you recruit them will have a decisive impact on your ability to flourish.

Simply put, finding and recruiting the best volunteers can make or break your fundraising success. Volunteers are critical to fundraising in a number of ways:
  • They can be the “workhorses” behind your fundraising efforts. For example, in organizations that have limited staff, volunteers can provide the extra staffing power to get things done that wouldn’t ordinarily get accomplished. They can be that set of “extra helping hands” in a way that doesn’t distract from management.

  • They can be strong ambassadors, who can help open doors and make direct requests to their networks. For example, board members serving as ambassadors can network with their contacts and make introductions to organizations they are passionate about without having to solicit for contributions directly.

  • They can also serve as advisors, sharing their expertise and guidance in a way that can move your organization’s mission forward.
In some cases, if you put it out there volunteers will come, but it often pays to be more proactive in recruiting them.

Below are steps you can take to recruit strong volunteers to staff your fundraising efforts.
  1. 1. Determine the skills and experience that you need to move your fundraising efforts ahead.
    Once this list is compiled, you should develop a job description that encompasses the skills and experience, plus responsibilities and expectations, of volunteers.

  2. 2. Once you have a job description listing skills, experience, responsibilities, and expectations, you should then develop a list of prospective candidates.
    While using a passive approach of sending out a blanket email may work, you can’t be guaranteed of attracting the ideal candidates that you are seeking.

  3. 3. Next, sit down with top volunteer leadership, other volunteers, or staff and use the same method that you would use to identify your top donor prospects ”“ a rating and ranking session.
    Take your list of candidates and ask the volunteers in attendance to rate and rank each volunteer based on a numerical scale of skill set and interest in the cause (same as would be done for capacity in a donor prospect rating and ranking session). Once you have numerically rated each one, then those who are rated and ranked the highest numerically will become your top volunteer prospects.

  4. 4. Once you have the list of top volunteer prospect candidates developed, then you need to utilize a “peer to peer” approach for asking volunteers to become involved.
    I hesitate to suggest staff for this approach as all fundraising, including volunteer recruitment, should model the “peer to peer” approach that we so seek (i.e., volunteers should ask volunteers). And, the fundraising adage also applies here ”“ you have to “ASK” to “GET”. You need to actively ask people to volunteer, particularly for top organizational positions, rather than rely on more passive approaches. Let’s face it, did we ever find anyone who responded to an email saying they would like to be president of your association!? Probably not.

  5. 5. Once you have recruited your team of volunteers, be sure to provide them with an orientation process to acclimate them to their roles, the organization, and expectations.
    Orientation should include information about the organization including its history, mission and vision, its operating structure including both governance and staffing, programming, financials, and an overview of its fund development and the many different ways that volunteers can assist within that structure.
Volunteer who help raise funds for your nonprofit deliver an important message ”“ that the mission and purpose of the organization is vital enough to justify their freely given time and effort. Harnessing this enthusiasm should be on every nonprofit's to-do list.

Robin Cabral, principal of Development Consulting Solutions, is a certified fundraising executive who works with mid-sized nonprofits to build capacity and improve fundraising results. Email her at or call 508-685-8899.
February 2019
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