Many development professionals work in small shops. Fortunately, you can increase your capacity by asking volunteers to take on leadership roles in your fundraising initiatives. The benefit? According to Penelope Burke, author of Donor Centered Fundraising, volunteers can have a powerful influence on donor retention and orchestrate significantly higher gifts. In a 2009 study she conducted, Burke found that 43% of donors said they would give to an organization if asked by someone they knew personally or by a leadership volunteer. Even more impressive, over 84% of donors said they’d give again if certain criteria were met, one being a personal thank you note from a leadership volunteer.
Here are some ways you can use volunteers in your fundraising campaigns and promote their involvement:
- Invite volunteers to serve on your campaign’s leadership committee. Note that a request from the head of your organization or a respected member of your community increases the likelihood that your volunteers will say yes! (Be sure you clearly define expectations and the time commitment involved.)
- Create campaign-specific letterhead that includes the names of your leadership volunteers, showing donors that your volunteers are invested in the success of your campaign.
- Upon receipt of a gift, ask volunteer leaders to make a thank you call within 24 hours.
- Ask a volunteer to host a reception for prospects in their home or office.
- Profile a leadership volunteer in your organization’s newsletter or magazine.
- Invite volunteers to send a hand-written note to first-time donors.
- Ask volunteers to be a table or team captain for your next event. (Volunteers can extend invitations to others within their circles of influence, thereby increasing your reach.)
- Invite leadership volunteers to participate in a prospect rating session—they should be able to provide valuable first-hand knowledge about your prospects.
- Include volunteers in your personal solicitation visits. Donors are influenced by volunteer commitment to your mission.
- Hold an appeal kick-off event, inviting the previous year’s donors, and introduce the members of your volunteer leadership committee. Creating opportunities for your donors to meet and interact with your volunteer leaders will increase donor interest in giving.
Volunteer leadership is integral in any successful fundraising campaign. When planning your next event or appeal, consider how the use of volunteers can expand your reach and increase your fundraising efforts. You’ll be glad you did!