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June 25, 2022
Helping Volunteers to Be Among Your Most Effective Fundraisers
Book - Busy Volunteer's Guide
Key among the many truths highlighted in The Busy Volunteer's Guide to Fundraising is this: volunteers bring a special credibility to soliciting donations precisely because they aren't paid to do the asking; they do it because they believe in the cause.

Written by renowned fundraiser Kay Sprinkel Grace, this short book—it takes less than an hour to peruse—should be required reading for everyone committed to the organization's mission ”“ board members, senior managers, employees, and, of course, volunteers. It celebrates philanthropy and debunks myths while providing practical guidance.

Among its many experience-driven insights:
  • Nonprofits depend on volunteers to bring people from the community who share the organization's values into the fold.

  • Special events are not the most effective way to raise money.

  • Tax advantages are far down on donors' reasons for giving ”“ after mission, impact, leadership, and the chance to make a difference.

  • Most people feel joy in giving, and asking for gifts in person, once you've done it a few times, carries its own joy.
While some people may have an in-born knack for fundraising, the fact is most people, not just volunteers, need training in order to do the job right. Even volunteers who have raised funds for other organizations, and been trained by them, will benefit for training specific to yours.

Grace writes, "Training will let you test approaches with fellow volunteers in a safety zone so you'll have more confidence when you try them for real." Training volunteers together not only helps them learn how answer tough questions, it also creates bonds and sets the stage, when needed, for teams of volunteers to meet with prospective donors.

But before scheduling appointments with prospects, Grace observes, volunteers need to understand how their values align with the organization's mission. Similarly, prospective donors need to be cultivated, even those thought to be very busy and who, solicitors may mistakenly believe, want to cut to the chase to hear what you're requesting.

It's best to assume, she writes, that would-be donors want to be cultivated: "They want to get to know you, understand your organization, discover shared values, and learn how to be involved in your work." Approaching prospects too early can lead to them turning you down or giving less than they’re capable of giving.

Volunteers become effective fundraisers by being confident about asking. Grace reminds readers that that confidence stems from the following:
  1. You're not asking for yourself, nor on behalf of a needy organization. You're soliciting for a successful organization that is meeting critical needs, but which needs additional funding to further its impact.

  2. You aren't begging. The organization is stable, accountable, and meeting its mission.

  3. You're providing people with the opportunity to act on their values and "join you in strengthening an organization that is advancing the things you and they cherish and value in the community."
Finally, Grace makes a point that may do the most to release the energies of volunteer fundraisers by noting that the word charity no longer captures the essence of the nonprofit sector (even though the IRS designates nonprofits as charitable organizations).

"Today's philanthropists think of themselves as donor-investors...They're more demanding, metrics are increasingly important, and innovation is crucial," she writes. "Charity has always connoted a handout, not a hand up. We need to let go of that label. It makes us feel less effective than other sectors of our economy. But, in truth, we are effective."

The Busy Volunteer's Guide to Fundraising is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

April 2016
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