Let’s face it. Sometimes whether we want to or not, life forces us to delegate. It may be incredibly hard to relinquish control—you want everything to be said and done in the professional and timely manner that you would bring to the table. By using fundraising committees you may be able to free up some of the precious hours of your day as a fundraiser by letting super-passionate volunteers do the outreach for you.
Committees can be a great way to bring volunteers into the fold of your organization, but fundraising committees are a different animal. How many times do you even have your board members—your most engaged!—say they don’t feel comfortable asking for money? You need clear expectations. You need leadership. You need excitement. You need reliability. Who are some people that you think can tell your story to prospective donors and businesses in a clear and enticing way? Who can you think of that is a go-getter, likes deadlines, a do-er? These are the people you need to bring into your team. I suggest groups of 5-7, but realistically you could go with 3-10. This allows for manageable divvying up of work, and makes them feel like a valuable part of a more intimate group. Were you ever working on a group project where one person seemed to be the outlier because they could hide? We’re not looking for that.
Make sure that you are identifying 2 people in that group that will be your chairs and points of contact. Questions from the committee can funnel through them to you and vice versa. You definitely do not want to be bombarded by 10 separate people wanting daily updates on their progress—yikes!
Giving your committee the tools for success is essential to….well, succeeding. First, discuss your goals that go just a little outside their comfort zone. Discuss dollar amounts as well as participation. If they fall short, you’ll still hit your mark. What are the steps you need to reach these goals? In this digital age there are so many apps for teamwork that can help you work in The Cloud. I am personally a huge fan of Google Drive, Dropbox and Trello.
They’ll need things like contact lists, donor history, sponsorship or donor level information, your mission/history/fact sheet about your nonprofit. Make sure to provide them with easy URL’s where they can direct the donors. Give them check-in’s and deadlines so they feel accountable to get things done! Provide them with post cards or thank you notes where they can personally follow-up with those they solicit. Labels, envelopes, letterhead—check, check, check. Try to think about every detail that they could possibly need. When I plan an event, I put myself in the shoes of the attendee and visually walk through every step of the night and how it should feel. You can do the exact same thing for a volunteer. Put yourself in their shoes and try to envision every question they could have, or anything that could be an obstacle, and make sure it is answered in your committee toolkit.
If you have a software like Charityproud, you may be able to create a user login for them to be able to access specific areas of your database. This way they can check on their own progress to see if someone has made their donation yet before they give them a call.
One of my biggest frustrations when I’ve been on fundraising committees is not knowing who has given. If someone has committed to me, but not followed through—I want to give them a nudge! And if someone that is on my list coincidentally decides to give the day before I call them, but I don’t know about it--that can be awkward. If you can send your committee a weekly giving report (maybe even broken down by solicitor?!) you are on you’re A-game, and your volunteers will appreciate it.
In that weekly report you can use it as an excuse to express your gratitude and be a cheerleader! They are hopefully making your life much easier by being advocates of your organization. Tell them how much you appreciate them, and let them know if you need them to pick up the pace or they are exceeding expectations.
Another tidbit your group will appreciate is being kept in the loop of other fundraising initiatives. Even though your committee is working hard, you cannot give up on your own appeals and leave it all up to them. This needs to be a coordinated effort to be most professional. For example, you do not want all of your volunteers making calls the day your Giving Tuesday mailing hits mailboxes, or calling a major donor on their list who your Major Gift Officer is trying to build a relationship with. The more you can keep them in the loop, the more strategic you can be.
Some people like recognition, while others would rather not be in the spotlight. Gauge your committee (and ask your chairs) to determine what is the best way to celebrate their efforts. Maybe it’s a mention in the Annual Report or at your gala, or maybe it’s more quiet and just pizza and wine with the group at the conclusion of the campaign. Whatever it is, make sure you let them know how valuable they have been to your organization and the impact they have made. Their continued support and time spent working for your organization is priceless!
Written by Samantha Shirley, Lead Product Manager