Working with Volunteers to Secure Leadership Gifts

Posted on 11/01/2020

A strong group of leadership donors is crucial to the success of any fundraising operation. While more modest donors will always make up the bulk of your supporters, leadership donors provide an overwhelming majority of dollars, sustaining the health of your institution in an undeniable way. But leadership gifts do not generally arrive without effort, and prospecting and then soliciting these special donors require resources—proper research, proven tools, and people to execute them.

One of the most effective tools is, in fact, people: your volunteers. Whether you have just a few dedicated supporters who are happy to help when they can, or an established network of volunteers with set roles and expectations, these individuals can expand your prospect list, help target your efforts, and even close a gift. Deciding to call upon your volunteers to help with leadership gift solicitations is just the beginning (and the easy part!). Identifying how to put them to work is more complex and requires some consideration and preparation.

To help, we’ve compiled 6 ways you can begin to engage volunteers in the process of securing leadership gifts:

  1. Sharing names and contact information: Alumni volunteers likely have their own networks that extend beyond your existing prospects. Ask them to share names and information for individuals they consider to be leadership giving prospects.
  2. Reviewing lists (and updating contact information): Volunteers can be very effective at reviewing your prospect lists and indicating who they think is worth pursuing, and if contact information needs to be updated. Consider assigning lists by class year, current region, major/school, or extracurriculars and other affinities.
  3. Providing introductions: Once you have your prospect list, the hardest part is often getting in front of the potential donor in the first place. Volunteers can help make connections to people in their networks, opening the door for you to develop the conversation and donor relationship.
  4. Personalizing materials: Provide sample copy for your volunteers to use when reaching out to leadership prospects, but encourage them to edit and make it theirs. Their own voice, with your message, can speak loudly.
  5. Making asks: When appropriate, allow your volunteers to make an ask themselves. A gift request can be more persuasive when it comes from a peer or someone in their network—especially when the solicitor is inviting the prospect to join them in their leadership level of support.
  6. Hosting leadership events: This can be as simple as having your volunteer invite a certain number of guests or advise on a great event location in their city, or could be as involved as coordinating the entire event by leading a planning committee.

The next time you are overwhelmed by your team’s leadership gift to-do list, remember that your volunteers can help. Recognizing how best to leverage their connections and talents, and understanding what you can—and cannot—expect from them will help you with your efforts, and ensure you are maximizing opportunities to secure impactful leadership gifts.

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