Volunteers make the world go round. That is at the core of what we believe and what our experience has proven to be true. In part one of this series we talked about the dangers of relying on staff to lead your organization’s fundraising. In part two we focused on board members as the first group of volunteers to engage. Now we discuss engaging volunteers from outside your organization.
Let’s start with preconceptions regarding who is a volunteer. For too many people the word volunteer is limited to people who help send out mailings, or work registration at a special event. For us, volunteers include people who take ownership and responsibility for helping to design and implement fundraising related projects.
For example, volunteers with expertise in marketing, branding and communications can work together to redefine how your institution positions itself in the local and regional market. They would bring the same level of professionalism to your project as they do when working with their clients.
Volunteers facilitate a personal introduction and meeting with a key stakeholder you want to talk with. As appropriate they join you for the meeting and are as well prepared for that meeting as they are for any meeting related to their own business.
As you develop and strengthen relationships in your community, ask people for help. That’s right. Ask for help. For example, when making changes in how you deliver services to children with special needs take time to meet personally with parents of children in your program, or parents who use other services. Share what you are considering and ask for their suggestions regarding how you should best proceed. Likewise, take time to talk with current, former and prospective sponsors and funders. Share your challenges and ask “What would you do if you were in my situation?” You will be amazed to learn the solutions people suggest.
After listening to the suggestions of people who can make a difference, come back to each and ask for help with a specific task that ties to their interests, skills, and the needs of your organization.
When it comes to meeting people you believe could make a difference in the life of your organization, ask someone for an introduction.
That’s the secret – Ask and listen.
Here’s part two of that secret – be prepared. Know who you are talking to, what your organization needs to accomplish, and what you want to communicate. All of your conversations should tie back to your mission, vision and strategic plan. Volunteers can make a difference if you ask for their leadership, insights and involvement. You need to ask and then step back and listen.