This one is a bit trickier because, as a volunteer fundraiser, you’re sandwiched between the donors you’re soliciting and the nonprofit organization that you’re representing. Also, I’m not sure I really have the right to be critical of donors, since I am asking them to help me and my cause. But, since you asked.
On the donor side
- Quid pro quo giving. With donors, one problem can be the assumption of direct reciprocity: “I give to your organization, and you give to mine.” I do give to some of my friends’ causes, but because I care about the cause, and I don’t expect them to reciprocate, unless they want to.
- “I’ll think about it.” Hearing “no” from a prospect is some fundraisers’ worst nightmare. I dislike unclear answers even more. If your answer is “no,” I’d prefer that you be honest about it, so that I and the organization don’t waste our time, and risk annoying you with more requests.
- Disrespect for staff. Most donors respect volunteer fundraisers for giving their time to a cause they care about. However, some are downright arrogant and rude to paid staff, demanding special services or treatment (“Why can’t I have the best seats?”) as their due.
On the organization side
- Unclear messaging. Many nonprofits can’t seem to articulate their missions. As a fundraiser, I need an elevator pitch – a concise and compelling explanation of what the organization is all about. Nonprofits must appeal to the hearts and heads of donors, convincing them that they are a viable solution to an important problem.
- “Rat on your friends.” I hate rating and screening meetings, where the question always is “Do you know this person?” I value my friends highly, and wouldn’t even introduce them to some organizations because I know firsthand how poorly they treat donors. (I only hang around because I care so deeply about the cause.)
- Unhelpful staff. As a volunteer fundraiser, I rely on development staff to prepare me for calls. Bad briefing materials and inaccurate information can spell disaster. (One fundraiser calling on an assigned prospect was told that she had died. Ouch.) Being late for meetings doesn’t help. And, a chief executive who thinks the world revolves around him isn’t helpful either; it’s about the cause, not him or the institution.
I closed my donor pet peeves by stressing that I derive tremendous satisfaction from contributing to causes that I feel are doing important work, and doing it well. That holds for volunteer fundraising as well as personal giving, and – the fact is – the two often go together. That’s something to keep in mind, as you work with your volunteer fundraisers.