Identifying Productive Volunteers

Posted on 03/01/2022

Asking for money doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. Even professional fundraisers struggle sometimes when it comes to soliciting donations. This presents an extra challenge for institutions that have a large number of prospects and a limited number of gift officers to reach out to them. Fortunately, volunteers can be a good solution to this problem and a great way to expand your advancement team’s bandwidth.

Research shows that institutions that engage volunteers in their fundraising efforts achieve higher levels of participation and generate more revenue. Volunteers can be effective solicitors for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they can make a personal case for support based on their own investment in an institution. Also, donors often trust a “peer” more than they would a member of the institution’s paid staff.

To benefit the most from fundraising volunteers, it’s important to identify the right people to support your efforts. The wrong volunteers take more time and energy from the advancement staff than they return to the organization in fundraising results. When that happens, nobody wins.

As you recruit others to expand your fundraising reach, try to identify volunteers who will enhance your efforts rather than hamper them. With that goal in mind, here are five characteristics to look for in good fundraising volunteers:

  1. They are donors themselves. Not every volunteer needs to be a major gift donor, but it’s important that they are already supporting the institution consistently. Their own experiences and giving will not only help them to see things through the eyes of their prospects but will also empower them to use the term “join me” when making an ask.
  2. They have been recommended by others. Current volunteers can be a great source of leads for others to recruit for your team. Your volunteers will know who has the clout in their class to serve as the most effective reunion giving chair or who is the most active on social media to be the best ambassador for a giving day. Asking for recommendations can provide a wealth of information on who might be worth approaching.
  3. They are employed in fields that require client interaction. People who work in sales are often good fundraisers because they are already comfortable making an ask. Individuals who have client-facing professional responsibilities also have the communication skills necessary to work with your prospects.
  4. They are involved with other organizations in your community. Board service at other institutions can provide insight into whether volunteers already have some experience with peer solicitation. These volunteers also understand the fundraising process and can typically make a strong case for institutional needs when speaking to potential donors.
  5. They have raised their hands. Some of the best fundraising volunteers are the ones who actively seek out the role. Since asking for money is not easy, volunteers who tell you they want to be part of your team are usually already comfortable with soliciting their peers. With this in mind, make sure to offer regular and visible opportunities for volunteers to self-identify.

Relational fundraising can be highly effective in motivating donors to increase their support and help your team expand its reach. The most successful fundraising volunteers can supercharge your annual giving efforts, but you need to know how to find them. Recruiting the right people for your fundraising team can take some time, but the return on that investment is likely to be worth it.

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