Fundraising is about teamwork. When fundraising for your cause, people are often the most valuable resource. If you want to fundraise, then, you will have to build a team of volunteers, workers, and other personnel who will help you with your goals. In general, you will want most of your staff to be volunteers, although you may need to hire some staff as well. Depending on the amount of work involved in your fundraising idea, you may need to recruit extra volunteers or group members just to volunteer.
Volunteers come from all walks of life and from all age groups. In Australia, volunteers contribute many billions of dollars of billable hours - for no money. There are many reasons why people choose to offer work time for no cost:
- Because they support a cause
- To make a difference or contribute to a community
- To right a wrong or a lack they see in society
- To gain work experience
- To interact with other people and meet others
- To do something they feel is important
There are many places you can find volunteers for your fundraising effort. You can advertise for them in the newspaper or through word of mouth. You can also advertise for volunteers at schools (university and high school students are often eager to volunteer in order to gain work experience). Your local council may also offer a service that matches those who want to volunteer with volunteer opportunities. This can be a great way for you to find people to help you with your fundraising project.
Once you have a few people interested in volunteering, you will want to speak with them about what they can expect from volunteering for your cause. You should mention your fundraising plans and note how you hope volunteers will be able to help you. Then you should sit back and listen to what your potential volunteers think. Volunteers should be able to follow through and should be enthusiastic about your group. Be sure to mention any benefits that your group can offer volunteers (a friendly work environment, for example, or a reference letter).
Once you have volunteers willing to help you with your fundraising, you will need to explain to them what you expect from your group and your volunteers. Some volunteers have little or no work experience while others are professionals or even leaders in their field. In either case, you will have to let them know how you want things to be done at your not-for-profit group.
To train your volunteers, set aside some time to show your new recruits around the offices or workspace of your not-for-profit (if you have such a space). Tell them what the group does and how the group got started. Allow your group to ask questions and be sure to give them your fundraising plan so that they can see how they fit into your group’s effort. Also, show them any specific tasks that need to be done (operating a cash register, for example, or writing out a receipt properly) in order for them to do their volunteer work well.
Leveraging, Motivating, and Outsourcing
Your volunteers are your responsibility, which means that you will be the one who has to work hard to ensure that they are motivated and doing the work they volunteered to do. Often, volunteers who have a genuine desire to get job experience or volunteers who have a great interest in a specific cause are those who will work the hardest and will do what needs to be done.
However, you can make all your volunteers more enthusiastic about helping your fundraising plan if you listen to what your volunteers want or need from their volunteer experience. Providing a pleasant work environment, and interesting work for them, and even motivating them through prizes or praise can make your volunteers feel better about working for your not-for-profit. Building a team atmosphere through occasional meetings can also help motivate your team.
You need to make sure that your volunteers have enough work to do so that they don’t feel insignificant or overwhelmed. Generally, you should find out from each volunteer how much work feels right for them and then offer them that amount. If you notice that some volunteers seem to like or be very adept at specific work, try to offer that sort of work to those volunteers. Not only will things get done more effectively, but your volunteers will be happier.
If your volunteers are overworked, outsource some work to new volunteers. If you are overworked, try asking to see whether any volunteers would be interested in taking on a larger workload.
Dealing With Volunteers
Your volunteers are like your donors - they are people who offer their services to you at no charge. It is insensitive and often ineffective to treat them as employees. You should be happy that there are people willing to help you with no money as a reward. You should also try to give your volunteers some value for their experience - either by offering them work experience or a truly friendly atmosphere or some other perk. You should also regularly express your appreciation for your workers, as much as you would express your appreciation for the money that donors give.
Remember: To many, time is more valuable than even money. Your volunteers are offering you a valuable resource by offering you their time. Do not take this gift for granted.
If you have trouble with volunteers - either because volunteers do not seem to be doing their work or seem to be creating drama, be sure that you continue to work with your volunteers rather than taking on an employer or disciplinary role. In many cases, conflict or idle time can be avoided by clearly telling volunteers what is to be done and by what time. Ask for volunteers for specific tasks, assign those fundraising tasks, and then set a deadline on those tasks. That way, each person will know what they are to do and by when.
Many conflicts among volunteers can also be avoided with planning. Try to match tasks with volunteer personalities. Outgoing volunteers will often do well interacting with donors, while quieter volunteers can be useful handling email or letter correspondence, or doing market research. If you notice tensions among volunteers, offering to let volunteers work apart until things settle down can be effective. On a larger fundraising project, there is often enough room for everyone.
Above all, keep lines of communication with your volunteers open. A team attitude can go a long way. If your volunteers feel comfortable talking to you, they will be happy to let you know what you need to know in order to organise your team most efficiently.