Engaging volunteer leaders for fundraising success

All nonprofits engage leadership volunteers whether on the board of trustees, as advisory council members, or as campaign leaders. On average, donors who volunteer give 73 percent more than donors who do not volunteer, according to the U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy.

It follows that effective engagement of volunteer leaders has the potential to increase giving, while transforming organizations through meaningful volunteer impact, according to Fiona Newton, director of donor and volunteer engagement at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. She made the comments during her Sunday session “Impact Volunteering – Engaging and Energizing Volunteer Boards.”

How many organizations can claim their leadership volunteers are highly motivated and effective advocates, ambassadors, supporters and fundraisers for their cause? By developing a deliberate 5-step impact volunteering strategy that allows for collaboration with volunteer leaders, organizations will better achieve their mission and goals by more fully utilizing the expertise, advocacy, connections and testimonials that only volunteers can provide.

Those five steps are:
* Planning;
* Recruitment;
* Education;
* Involvement, and;
* Thanking

Using this simple framework will ensure you recruit the right people to the right volunteer leadership roles, give them the knowledge and skills to help you effectively, identify meaningful tasks, and give them feedback on a job well done.

Involvement is the biggest challenge, according to Newton. It is time consuming and hard to think of meaningful ways to involve volunteers. It should not be the sole responsibility of the fundraiser, instead the time and attention of executive leadership is needed.

For example, by engaging volunteers in strategic planning, recruitment of top executives, or advising on operational and financial challenges, volunteers will better understand your organization, its needs, and be more inclined to donate and to fundraise for you.

It is important to think of fundraising in broad terms — volunteer leaders can bring real value to the fundraising process, she said. Volunteer leaders can introduce potential prospects, advise on prospect strategy, cultivate relationships on behalf of your organization, host and thank donors, introduce leadership to new prospects as well as asking for gifts. Most important of all, they can talk to others about why they support your organization — the impact you have on their lives.