Tag Archives: volunteer fundraising

Yearend Giving: It’s Not Too Late

fundraising, FUNdraising Good Times, yearend giving, annual campaign, volunteer fundraisingCrazy as it seems 2015 is knocking at the door. Yes, we still need to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza and New Years Eve. But, really, 2015 is almost here. And the question is: how is your nonprofit fundraising? Whether you are an employee or a board member, here are a few steps you can take today to change your yearend financial outcomes.

Staff. Take the time to create a yearend appeal letter for distribution to those who have given to your organization in the past. Be sure to send to those you serve and those you met during the year. Always send to lapsed donors. Highlight the impact your organization has made in 2014 and most importantly share your vision for 2015. Ask for a specific amount. Include a return envelope. Create an online appeal that ties to your appeal letter. Review and refine your e-communication list. Test to make sure your online giving page is easy to use and easy to find. Take the time to plot out how you will use social media to encourage giving. Create the tools that board members, friends and volunteers can use to encourage those they know to give. Include sample text for email messages, tweets, and Facebook posts; links to specific pages on your website or blog (don’t forget your “donate now” page); and most importantly share photos and SHORT engaging videos. We all love images!

Volunteers. Now is the time to be proactive. It is easy to wait for staff to give you all the information you need: that is often a plan for not making the ask. Instead, decide for yourself which actions you will take between now and the end of the year to help raise funds for your nonprofit. Are there two people you can talk with, sharing your nonprofit’s impact, vision and fundraising priorities? Will you ask each to consider a gift? Here’s encouragement: too many people don’t give because they aren’t asked. Others give small gifts because they aren’t asked to make a larger gift. Or they receive a direct mail letter instead of an in-person ask, and their gift reflects the method of solicitation. Take the time to make a well prepared ask of a few people. Don’t be self conscious, there is no such thing as “making” people give. Ask for a specific amount for a specific purpose, be quiet and wait for their response. Asking in person is always important, but social media and email is another way to engage potential donors, especially if you are part of an active network. You can share your nonprofit’s social media campaign, you can create your own appeal, directing people to your nonprofit’s giving page.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Your community depends on you.

Image courtesy of taesmileland at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.


How to recruit fundraising volunteers

fundraising, fundraising planning, , 2014 fundraising, new year, fundraising tips, how to grow your fundraisingSuccessful fundraising requires qualified volunteer leadership. Whether you are launching an annual campaign or a capital campaign you need a campaign chair who is committed to your cause and willing to put in the time required to achieve your fundraising goal. The ideal chair makes your goal his goal. He is well respected, has a track record of leadership in local and regional fundraising campaigns, and the financial means to make a leadership-level gift. He is someone people cannot say “no” to, and he hates to fail. He allocates the necessary time to lead and manage the campaign, and provides pro-bono services. He is comfortable making the case and asking for gifts. He both attends and leads campaign meetings, bringing out the best in others, and encouraging all to give to their capacity.

If you are wondering where to find such an individual, we suggest looking at your existing relationships, starting with long-term donors and current major donors. Consider current and former board members and advisors. Reflect on the well-respected leaders in your community and create a list of those who might benefit from being involved with your campaign. Remember: not all volunteerism is altruistic! A commitment to your organization’s mission is critical, but self-interest could also be a driver.

Here are a few examples. A bank president may have lost a grandchild to domestic violence and wants to interrupt the cycle and save others from such grief. An alumnus may want to enhance her profile in anticipation of a future run for state-wide office. A business leader from another part of the country may be relocating her business operations to your community and needs to build relationships and goodwill. You may be surprised at what drives people’s intentions and who wants to support your fundraising.

As you recruit your chair, share your fundraising plan with him. Give him time to review your plan so he can determine if he has the time, connections, and willingness to make it work. Ask him who he wants to support his efforts: Let him invite others to join his fundraising team. He may have a circle of colleagues he works with who can “make things happen.”

While it takes time to identify, solicit, and engage your top fundraising leadership, your efforts will yield results. An engaged and qualified chair can do more for your campaign than an enthusiastic chair who lacks experience and connections.

Here are the top three things to remember in regard to fundraising leadership. First, leadership is critical to the success of any fundraising effort. Second, fundraising must be volunteer-driven, with strong, experienced leadership. Third, people give to people.

Leadership is key to fundraising readiness: we invite you to assess your fundraising readiness for free at www.saadandshaw.com

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nonprofit success: more than “feel good”

Part two of a two part interview…View part one here

Mike Bruns www.fundraisingggodtimes.comSuccess in business is not enough. In fact, nonprofit involvement –and giving – can be a greater “buzz” than continued business growth. “After becoming reasonably able to share, a person realizes that the buzz you get from sharing can be greater than the buzz you get from daily life in business. Ten percent growth year-after-year doesn’t always equal the buzz of giving ten percent to the community.” That’s the experience of Mike Bruns, founder of Comtrak Logistics, a national transportation and logistics company headquartered in Memphis.

“The true donor misses the boat if they don’t get just as much back in their heart, meeting people and making friends,” Bruns continued.  “Involvement brings satisfaction – it makes the donor feel good.  I was chair of Youth Villages for so many years, and they did as much for me as I could ever do for the organization.”

Youth Villages, also headquartered in Memphis, is a leading national nonprofit dedicated to providing the most effective local solutions to help emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully.

“Youth Villages grew as a result of a wonderful culture, incredible leadership team, and a management team that knew this was a business. Nonprofit is more than a feel-good. Many stall out because the person who started the organization didn’t surround themselves with good business people. At Youth Villages the leadership surrounded themselves with business people who helped them run the organization like a business, but not at the expense of their passion. They serve 60,000 young people and they measure everything.  ‘Feel good’ doesn’t last long if the business model doesn’t work.”

That goes for the board as well. The biggest challenges Bruns has experienced arise when board members don’t know what is expected of them. “That has to be done on the front end. You can’t read a board manual to people. You need to explain their job description, financial expectations, and share with them why they were recruited. They have to become involved with the organization and passionate about it. Board members who are engaged and feel a part of something come to meetings. This solves the problem some boards have where they spend almost half their time worrying about the best time to get attendance. As board chair I focused on getting engagement. So many boards operate without engagement.”

Bruns closed with his perspective on board members’ reluctance to fundraise. “When a board member is not prepared, and is not personally passionate, the gifts he solicits become a ‘trap’ wherein he now ‘owes’ an equal gift to the donor’s nonprofit of choice.” The solution: “Be prepared and sell the nonprofit on its merits; then people give to the organization and not to you. You then are free to make your gifts based on merit too.”

Shine a light on your fundraising

Team building – a secret to fundraisings success

Part two of a two-part series

TeamworkIt’s all about leadership and team building. You’ve heard the refrain, but what does it mean? In terms of nonprofit fundraising there can be no greater mandate than leadership and teamwork. Scarce funding for staff positions, stiff competition for the philanthropic dollar, and an abundance of wishful thinking leaves nonprofits at risk of not meeting their fundraising goals. Building and supporting a volunteer-led fundraising team is one way out of the vicious cycle imperiling too many organizations.

Your fundraising team should be comprised of leaders who are committed to ensuring your nonprofit has the money and resources it needs to deliver on its mission. It should include your volunteers, staff, executive leadership and board members. All members should work from a fundraising plan. You can have a simple plan or a complex plan. The most important thing is to work from a plan with agreed upon financial goals, timeframes, and defined roles and responsibilities. For a team to function, everyone has to know their role, and be qualified to fill it. Invite people to join your leadership team based on their understanding of what you are trying to achieve and how well they can help implement your plan.

Your team will set the tone, policy, and direction of your fundraising and monitor its progress. The committee should be led by a fundraising chair or co-chairs. These volunteers should be supported by the institution’s chief development officer and executive director. If you don’t have a fundraising chair, you need one. Take the time to review your fundraising plan, identify who could best help you meet your goals, and then find the right person to talk with your potential chair, inviting him to provide leadership. Be sure to show him your fundraising plan: people are more likely to say yes when they see you have a plan in place to meet your goal.

Other potential members for this committee include board members, current major donors, community and business leaders, key stakeholders, your finance director, executive director, development director and program staff.

Your fundraising chairs should convene and lead your monthly meetings. Team members should report on specific actions they have taken, solicitations, proposal submissions, and new potential donors and funders who have been identified. Staff should provide reports showing progress against goal, number of gifts received, average size of gift, largest gift, and specific information that allows the team to make proactive fundraising management decisions.

Team meetings shine a light on what people are doing and not doing. It holds board members, staff and volunteers accountable to each other. It takes away excuses and when things are going well it creates an excitement and momentum that is contagious.

Raising money is too important to go alone. Build and nurture your team.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”  They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.

Who will solve your fundraising problems?

Team building – a secret to fundraisings success

Part one of a two-part series

A group of Individual Placement members enjoy ...

Will hiring a fundraising professional solve your fundraising challenges? Is it your secret wish that someone will take care of fundraising so you can focus on the “more important” work of your nonprofit? Perhaps you seek a million dollar bequest from an unknown admirer.

Here’s the real secret to sustained fundraising success: create and support a fundraising team that meets regularly and “owns” your fundraising. That’s it. You can’t do it on your own. No one person can solve all your challenges. You have to build and grow a team that includes your volunteers, staff, executive leadership and board members. Your team should be comprised of leaders who are committed to ensuring your nonprofit has the money and resources it needs to deliver on its mission.

Here are the benefits. A fundraising leadership team helps create accountability and transparency. Members are accountable to each other. Each member knows the commitments, roles, and responsibilities of all other members. There are no secrets. If there is a lull in gifts received, the full team knows about it. When new gifts are received, members know about it. When fundraising management reports are shared at each meeting, team members can monitor the progress of fundraising activities, ask pertinent questions, and work with each other to create new strategies and work-arounds.

Your team should meet on a regular basis to report progress and challenges. Members should work collaboratively to help your organization reach its fundraising goal. They should be empowered to make decisions, and the decisions made by this team should be respected and implemented by fundraising volunteers and employees.

With a strong fundraising leadership team, the actions of staff, board members, and volunteers are open to review by team members. Financial progress and expenses are reported regularly at these meetings. Members have the opportunity to share information and coordinate their activities.

When you have engaged qualified volunteers to assist with fundraising, you will be amazed at the solutions they come up with. The key to an effective fundraising leadership team is for it to be volunteer-led with support from staff. That means the fundraising chair leads the team meetings, not the executive director or chief development officer. It means that staff support the work of the fundraising chair by producing and distributing fundraising reports and taking and quickly distributing minutes that accurately capture action items and next steps. If you have selected a qualified fundraising chair and clearly defined his responsibilities, you will be amazed how he can assist you in meeting your goals. He can do this because he has made them his goals. He is no longer helping your organization; he is now orchestrating and attracting people and resources for something he believes in.

Next week: team membership and meetings

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”  They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.

Volunteer Management – Ten Things to Consider

Volunteers make all the difference in the world!
Here are 10 things you – as a volunteer coordinator – can consider as you grow your program.

  1. Have you developed a volunteer engagement, management and recognition program for your division?
  2. Are volunteer roles and responsibilities for your program clearly defined, documented and updated?
  3. Are you tracking past, current and potential volunteers and how they can be – or are – of service? Are you tracking their interests, relationships and birthdays?
  4. How do you communicate with your volunteers?
  5. How do your volunteers communicate with you?
  6. How do you inspire and motivate your volunteers on a consistent basis?
  7. Have you developed an ongoing support and training program to support and grow volunteer involvement?
  8. Do you encourage volunteers to make a financial gift to your organization?
  9. Have you developed a volunteer manual to help guide and orient your volunteers to your organization and the needs of the community?
  10. Do you have a “buddy system” that pairs new volunteers with more experienced volunteers?


Stop. Look. Listen.

A program for board chairs, executive directors, college presidents, directors, and CEOs.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of your nonprofit. Even if you have a large staff. At the end of the day, volunteers can take you to places you haven’t even dreamed of.  Our “stop, look and listen” program can help unleash the creativity and power of your volunteers.

Stop. Take time to get to know the people who volunteer with your organization. By volunteers we mean all volunteers, not just board members. For example, look at who donates food, who makes sure your gala runs like clock-work, the men who provide security for evening meetings, and the college students who serve as mentors.  Stop and visit with each, one-on-one. Learn their passions. Listen to what they have accomplished in their personal and professional lives. Seek to gain an understanding of their impact, their likes, and where they want to go personally and professionally.

Getting to know the people who invest their time in your institution will pay dividends for years. Here’s a truth – most people who volunteer have lots of ideas about how things could be improved. Most are not shared in open meetings. They are shared one-on-one. When you are the person they share their opinions with, you can help blend them into your vision, making it more powerful; or help it come to life in a better way. The opinions may be about how a program is run; about another organization you can collaborate with; or a business looking for a nonprofit to partner with.

But, you won’t know until you take time to develop relationships. For example, when you have coffee with Mary, briefly share your vision and then ask for feedback. Stop talking. Listen to what she thinks, how she sees things, her ideas, and how she can help. As you listen to how your volunteers respond to your vision, you will find they are a gold mine of ideas and resources. But first, they have to buy into your vision. And they can’t do that if they don’t know you.

Here’s another tip: Don’t let stereotypes cloud your thinking. For example, you may think the board member who is a vice president at the local bank can be of greatest assistance, but, maybe it’s the long-term volunteer for your annual dinner. She may know everyone and be able to open doors you didn’t know were there.

As you look around you will see that your organization is rich in connections and relationships. If you show that you care and are willing to reach out, most people will reach back.

Your volunteers are your most precious asset. Take the time to stop, look and listen. Your organization will go far.

Reduce your fundraising stress

If you are responsible for fundraising for a nonprofit you know the meaning of the word stress. It comes with the job. Too often the pressure is on you – and you alone – to ensure fundraising goals are met. You may be a Vice President for Advancement for Advancement with a college, a development coordinator for a local theatre, or the CEO of a national organization. All feel the pressure.

Here is a way to reduce your fundraising stress: build a corps of fundraising volunteers. Engage your board members – one at a time – asking for help with fundraising. You can see changes by the fall.

Week One. Think about who is on your board. Who is most engaged? Attends meetings regularly? Asks meaningful questions? Who gives a meaningful gift each year? Write down the names that come to mind.

Week Two. Set a meeting with each board member who came to mind during week one.  Set it for week three. Write up your fundraising priorities for the balance of the year. How much you have to raise, and what the funds will be used for. Write up where you believe the money will come from. Are you expecting revenue from a special event? One or two grants? Gifts from individuals? Your new online giving program? Direct mail? Write down the amount you expect from each source; the names of individuals, foundations or corporations you believe will give; and dates of special events, or when your direct mail is scheduled to drop.

Week Three. Meet individually with each of the board members you identified in step one. Let’s say the first person you meet with is named Elaine. Share with Elaine the information you wrote down during week two. Share how you plan on pursuing these funds. Ask “what are your thoughts?” Do you think we can reach our goals? What am I not seeing?” Listen for her response. Ask another question, “Elaine, would you be willing to help with one of these projects?” Don’t rush to fill the silence. Listen. Elaine may say yes, or she may say no. But, you have just asked her to help solve “your” problem and in most cases she will offer suggestions for how she can assist, or other ways that you can proceed. Take notes.

Week Four. Write to Elaine and follow up on your meeting. Thank her for her time and for her suggestions. If she made specific suggestions for how she can help, include these in your email or letter. Ask if there is someone outside of the board she would like to involve in her project. Let her know you are available to support her.

Try it and see. Let us know what happens.

Volunteers: The Key to Nonprofit Success

Fundraising: Nonprofit board roles and responsibilitiesPart 5

Volunteers are at the heart of fundraising. They make all the difference in the world. They are passionate, connected, creative, and talented. And they need to be managed. Ask anyone who has served as a fundraising volunteer and you will quickly learn what made their experience great and what fueled disappointment. Perhaps you, as a volunteer, have experienced the joys and the pitfalls.

Here are some things to keep in mind. As an organization, make sure you know exactly what you want people to do before seeking volunteers. Create a one-page document outlining “roles and responsibilities” for each type of volunteer you need. Outline expectations for event volunteers, members of the phone-a-thon committee, or the corporate sponsorship committee. It may sound like a lot of work, but if people don’t know what you are asking them to do, it is hard for them to hit the mark.

If you are asked to help with fundraising, ask questions before saying “yes.” If you are not provided with written roles and responsibilities, request them. Here’s how to say “yes” while setting boundaries around your involvement:  “That sounds like something I can do. Would you write up your expectations, and any dates I should be aware of? I will review and confirm.”

When you say “yes,” treat your volunteer commitments as seriously as you treat your personal and professional commitments. Apply your talents and creativity, ask questions, engage your network.  You can provide valuable resources and leadership that are beyond the scope of staff.

As a volunteer you can make a difference by providing printing, web design services, meeting facilitation, a reduced or no-cost lease, food, legal services, transportation or products/services directly related to the organization’s mission. You can host a gathering at your office introducing the organization to your peers and encouraging them to give money and pro-bono services.

As a staff member, you need to be prepared to manage volunteers and respond to their requests and ideas. Allocate time for this. Be prepared to change how you do business. Volunteers may make requests that stretch your resources and your thinking. You may feel frustrated. That’s natural, but unhelpful. Be prepared to partner and to change.

Volunteers can take you to new levels; they can open doors that staff only dream of. Be prepared. Clearly communicating roles and responsibilities sets a framework for accountability. From there you can negotiate as volunteers bring new ideas to the table. You can choose to think of volunteers as “prima donnas” who take up your time. Or you can consider their requests and ideas as reasonable responses that arise out of their desire to help you. If your organization allocates adequate time to managing and supporting volunteers all parties can benefit.

© Copyright Saad & Shaw.  Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

Are You on Board?

Fundraising: Nonprofit board roles and responsibilities – Part 2

You’ve said “yes,” and now are serving on the board. What is expected of you? How do you demonstrate leadership? While we don’t have a crystal ball, we can provide guidance regarding your fundraising-related roles and responsibilities.

For many nonprofits fundraising is often the major method for securing funds and resources. As a board member, your leadership in this area makes a difference. Your roles and responsibilities fall into two general categories: policy and oversight, and giving and securing funds.

As a board member you will be asked to set fundraising policy. This includes items such as approving plans for a special fundraising campaign, and setting gift acceptance policies. For example, when the university you serve decides to launch a $150 million fundraising campaign, that will come before the board for approval.  You will want to ask informed questions such as, “What do the results of the feasibility study indicate?”Or “How many lead donors have been identified?” In the area of gift acceptance policies you may be asked to determine whether the organization will accept gifts of land, or cash gifts from gun manufacturers or tobacco companies.

You will also want to promote accountability and transparency. Support the adoption and implementation of policies related to conflict of interest and whistle-blower protection. Produce and distribute an annual report that shows how the organization uses the funds it receives. File your federal 990 on time. Communicate how the organization meets public needs and be willing to modify programs to help ensure best use of resources.

On a day-to-day level you will be responsible for understanding the institution’s fund development plan and in helping to bring it to life. For example, if the current focus is strengthening individual giving you will want to participate in house or office parties your organization hosts so you can meet new potential donors and supporters, and share with them the important work of the institution. As a board member your hospitality and words carry meaning and influence.

You should know the executive director’s or president’s vision for the institution. Talk with her. Ask questions. Then share that vision with other board members and most importantly with those who can provide funding and resources. Join your executive when she meets with leaders of local foundations or corporations. Meet with her in advance to understand the purpose of each meeting and then participate, showing support for her leadership and answering questions as appropriate.

Most importantly, make your own gift. Make a meaningful gift every year. Ask the company you work for to make a gift or sponsor an event. You have to give and advocate. Set an example. Stretch a little. Your community needs you!

© Copyright Saad & Shaw.  Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.