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FUNdraising Good Times

POSTED: January 08, 2018, 6:30 am

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Volunteers play a key role in the life of nonprofits. They serve as board members, provide services and advocacy, and they donate their professional services. In the area of fundraising, the important role of volunteers cannot be over stated. Fundraising volunteers provide leadership and strategy. They open doors that can lead to meaningful funding or resources. They give gifts of their own and they cultivate and solicit others to do the same.

This is the model that is at the heart of thriving and successful nonprofits. At the same time there are many nonprofits with volunteers who don’t “step up” at the expected level. There are many reasons for this, all of which can result in less than optimal funding – and relationships – for nonprofits.

In this column we identify characteristics of volunteers who – in general terms – are not performing up to expectations. Whether you are a board member, staff or volunteer at a nonprofit you may have noticed some of the following “challenges” playing out within your organization.

Fundraising leaders ask to serve “in name only” and are not joined at the hip with CEO and fundraising staff. They fail to make a leadership level gift to the campaign and do not provide motivation and encouragement to fellow fundraising leaders and volunteers. When you talk with these leaders you notice they lack passion and enthusiasm. Or, conversely, they are very enthusiastic when speaking, but fail to follow through on their commitments. Some are unable to clearly make the case for the organization and the campaign, even though they are asked to do so in public. They may lack vision or be unable to provide resources that can advance an organization’s fundraising. Bottom line: they don’t live up to expectations.

If the fundraising leadership within your organization displays more than a few of these characteristics, don’t be alarmed. These issues are found in large established institutions as well as grassroots organizations. And, they can be addressed. Understanding what is going on – and why – can help your organization move towards new results. It will take work, but it also takes work to focus on a goal you know won’t be fulfilled.

In part two we share causes behind these symptoms and suggestions for how to overcome them. In part three we discuss the important role a volunteer coordinator or director can play and how to find the right person to fill this position.

Copyright 2017 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on For help growing your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

Part one of a three part series

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