For many non-profits, just finding enough staff and volunteers to keep day-to-day operations and established programs running can sometimes be a challenge. And that doesn’t even take into account the people needed for fundraising efforts. Sometimes this aspect of the organization can seem to take on a life of its own, and agencies may move to hire additional staff to spearhead it.

However, instead of hiring, some groups turn to their volunteers to assist with the task of fundraising. In many cases, volunteer fundraisers can actually be more effective than paid staff. Although it is hoped that staff members are onboard with an agency’s mission, your best volunteers are donating their time because they are passionate about your cause. They will view fundraising as meaningful work and can inspire others as they lead by example, encouraging them to also give of their time and monetary resources.

It’s All About the Ask

In general, people do not relish the idea of asking others to donate money. On the flip side, however, most people will not give unless they are asked. One key to successfully using volunteers is to carefully recruit them for this job. Think networking on multiple levels. This is your opportunity to choose individuals who may be able to reach people to whom you may not otherwise have access. You may want to find one person who can network between individuals in the community, a businessperson active in the local chamber who can connect with other business owners, and a third individual who has contacts with other charitable organizations in the area. (Entrepreneurs are likely candidates for fundraising, as their schedules are generally more flexible than others.)

Talk Less, Listen More

Another aspect to consider when recruiting volunteer fundraisers is personality. Here’s where it gets a little counterintuitive. Most people would think that a talkative, outgoing individual would be most successful as a fundraiser. However, the opposite seems to hold true. Those who have the most success in swaying others to their point of view are listeners. By talking less and listening more, fundraisers are able to key in on what prospects are saying and adjust their pitch accordingly.

Training is Key

After selecting your fundraising volunteers, make sure to offer them training. Remind volunteers about your organization’s mission, and let them know about your fundraising plans and how they fit into them. Make sure to prep them on the basics of fundraising. Stress the fact that they need to ask for a donation, voice their thanks when donations are given, and also let volunteers know to be courteous and gracious if a prospect decides not to donate. If the volunteer is working face-to-face with prospective donors, be sure to coach them on aspects such as eye contact, manners, body language, personal space, speaking style, and personal appearance. You may even want to role-play during your or ientation session. Also give them specific instructions for any tasks they will be expected to perform, such as filling out a receipt, working a cash register, or using databases such as eTapestry and VolunteerHub.

Although phone or face-to-face solicitations are the first things that may come to mind when fundraising is mentioned, there are, obviously, many other facets involved with this activity. Make sure to include qualified volunteers in these activities, too:

  • Grant writing Although you will need to supply the pertinent information and edit the draft, a volunteer skilled in writing may relish the challenge of grant writing and free up staff time in the process.
  • Email and/or letter campaigns
  • Marketing/public relations Allow a few qualified volunteers to take over some of this load. Let them write press releases for the newspaper and secure event advertising in community circulars and church bulletins. Skilled volunteers can also design flyers and/or do the legwork on the production of t-shirts, water bottles, etc. to publicize your event. They can even look into securing public service announcements on local television or radio stations.
  • Special events – It goes without saying that large events require lots of volunteers!
  • Thank you notes Handwritten thank-yous (or at the very least form letters with a handwritten note at the bottom) really show that your organization appreciates a donors gift. Although it is time consuming, donors will remember that you went the extra mile and may be more inclined to give the next time you approach them.

The Payoff

This list, of course, is not complete, but hopefully it can inspire you to think of even more ways volunteers can help you fundraise. Recruiting and training your volunteer fundraisers may require a time investment, but you may be surprised at the returns on your efforts.

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