The good news, from the 2013 Giving USA report, is that volunteerism is on the rise. That has sparked some very good ideas about to harness that energy. (Read more – see Attachment 1). We will take the opportunity to get on our bandwagon about the importance of fundraising partnerships – including volunteers – and dispel a common myth.
First, the partnership.
Fundraising starts and ends with people, within and across organizational boundaries. At its simplest, it involves donors, volunteers and staff, bound together by their shared commitment to the organization’s mission.
The distinction among partners’ roles often gets blurred, which is a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, it can offer flexibility and synergies. However, overlapping roles also can cause confusion and other problems. For example:
- Should making a large donation be a board member requirement?
- What to do when a big donor feels entitled to decision making power?
- Your endowment manager (if he does well) may actually be your largest donor!
The trick is to make sure that people are clear about their roles in any given situation, because the “hat” you’re wearing will make a difference in how you’re heard.
As a board member, Howard once gave someone within the company a customized pentagonal dodecahedron (which looks like a squared-off soccer ball) with one of his many roles on each face: shareholder, CEO, son of the founder, and so on. Every time he came by to talk, Howard made him point to which hat he was wearing. Clarity is important, whether it’s in the for-profit or nonprofit sector.
Next, the myth.
Volunteers often are painted as selfless individuals. Well, yes, but… Volunteers, donors, and staff all have their own “gives” and “gets.” At the highest level, the “give” is attending to an unmet social need, and the “get” is a feeling of commitment and satisfaction.
It’s your job to figure what motivates your volunteers, and to find roles that are mutually satisfying. That will take some effort – “free” help isn’t really free – to recruit, assign, and support your volunteers. And don’t wait for National Volunteer Month (that would be April, by the way) to express your appreciation for their service to your cause.