In today’s episode, we are talking about how to Deploy Your Team. This is where the momentum really picks up. Often, when you’ve been fundraising for a while, you’ve done the first two steps where you knew your vision and then went straight to asking for money. You jumped from steps 1 to 6 to 7 which gets you a little way, but then you run out of contacts, you run out of resources, and then your fundraiser dies. This FREEDOM process we are talking about here is to help you never run out of resources or contacts.
How do you know your team is ready?
It is important to walk through some training with your volunteers. You must sit down with your key volunteers and discuss what each of them is going to do versus what you, as the staff member, are going to do. We call this the volunteer-staff partnership. This allows for you to be that much more effective because you aren’t stepping all over each other’s stories and you’re presenting a united front. If you have a full staff, typically the executive director and development staff are responsible for fundraising efforts. When I’m talking about staff, I’m talking about paid positions. If you have a board member who is playing that staff role, I want to caution you to keep in mind that board members are volunteers.
Staff is responsible for knowing the statistics, the details of the organization – where does the money go, how are you going to spend the money, what impact are you actually making, the patient stories, the constituent stories– any results-driven stories come from staff. The volunteer story is all about their personal experience and why they give their time to the cause. This is the story they should share with the donor. The volunteer should schedule the appointment, has a relationship with the person across the table, and if possible, make the ask.
Should your key volunteer “run the meeting”?
You have to sit down ahead of time and talk about the person with whom you’re meeting. Are they going to be a sponsor? Are their staff members going to work at the event? You need to understand the intention of the meeting in the first place, but I always want the volunteer to “go first.” Walls come down immediately and the environment becomes more comfortable. Plus, they were involved with the development of all the materials so they know all the details and can walk a potential donor through it all. When your volunteers are empowered, there’s a chance you are going to say very little during this meeting. You are there as “information” because you know the organization, you know how to collect the money, you know how they (the donor) will get the recognition, etc.
In your book you mention that titles are important, what do you mean by that?
I love titles because it gives people language. As a volunteer, you will feel so much more empowered when you can say, “I’m the chairperson of this event.” Instead of just telling people they volunteer with an organization, they are actually given a title that puts them in charge of their area. This is why I like making up titles because it makes someone feel like they have ownership, and no one is going to step in my space. I even had a “thank you chair” and that person was in charge of writing thank you cards. I had a print chair who actually worked for a printing company. Since she knew paper, she knew colors and understood stock so she could make decisions on what to print the invitations on. She thought about the logo being embossed, the kind of envelope the invitation was put in – she was able to think about all the details in a much different way than someone without the knowledge.
One other thing I want you to think about is the bio for your volunteers. If you go to a board member’s website and look at their bio, you want them to talk about your cause and if they don’t have a title, how do they tell people they volunteer for your cause? When you give your volunteers titles, they become spokespeople for your cause.
How are volunteers like donors?
Statistics show that you are twice as likely to give to your cause if you’re a volunteer. If you are volunteering for your cause, you are going to think about giving. You’re asking everyone else to give, so why wouldn’t you give too? You want your volunteers to first and foremost decide how they want to give. They may not have the financial means to give, which is why they are volunteering in the first place, and that’s ok. But I want you as the leader of your organization to have those conversations about what you want your volunteers to do.
Once the team is running, now what?
One of the major things I encourage is ongoing communication. I want to make sure people are continuously communicating with each other – have meetings, whether it’s once a month or once a week to keep everything churning. Each person on the team has a chance to report in on what’s been happening since they can’t always do it in real-time. This keeps everyone on the same page.
I think it’s so important for us to understand that people need direction. If we don’t tell them we need them to go out and schedule meetings or to help open up doors, they won’t do it. They are waiting for you as the staff lead to empower them and to say, we need you to step up. And if they can’t do it, find someone else. But at least the expectations are clear on what the role means. Your volunteers want to be a part of your cause. People want to be a part of your cause. They will do as much as you ask of them. If the role means they are going to have to invest several hours a week or month, be very clear about the expectation of that role entails. Don’t sugarcoat it – get someone who is willing and able to invest the time needed to ensure your signature fundraiser is a success.
We know being a nonprofit executive is a lonely job and we want you to know that you are not alone as you work toward your mission. If you like the content of the podcast, as well as the work we do, we invite you to join the Nonprofit Executive Club. The Executive Club is a monthly training program that gives you the ability to increase your influence through strategic planning and fundraising support. For more information and to join the Club, go to nonprofitexecutiveclub.com.
Resources from this episode:
Connect with Mary:
Mary’s book: Fundraising Freedom
Connect with Joel: