Inspired donors? How about inspired askers?

By January 11, 2014training

The impact of a motivated fundraising team

volunteer_fundraiserFundraisers are familiar with this scenario: A volunteer is set to make a well thought out call on a potential donor: armed with knowledge about the prospect, a great case, illustrations, and budget figures. Then he hesitates. Is this the right person to ask? The right amount? The right time?

The volunteer suggests going back to square one, tweaking the proposal, pulling together more numbers, more details, more stories. Reluctant volunteers sometimes reveal their anxiety by over-planning and never getting to the call.

A board member and I were recently visiting a gentleman who had asked about our campaign. It was her first call on a prospective donor, and the call was for the purpose of discovery. We would outline the project, gather feedback, and determine whether it was appropriate to ask for a gift.

During our visit, something unexpected happened. The gentleman talked about his own fundraising experiences, and one event in particular: a visit with a community leader who wasn’t likely to be supportive of the project in question, but who was highly influential. It would have been a mistake to not call on him.

The gentleman planned the visit carefully, considering the perspective of the community leader, who was getting along in years. It was clear their children weren’t going to give them grandchildren, which must have weighed heavily on them. They’d doted on their family, and continued to be involved in organizations that served young people, even as their own children grew to adulthood and moved away.

After careful consideration, the gentleman had presented the community leader and his wife with a request and an illustration of a plaque naming a room in the new building “In honor of the grandchildren of the community.”

The gentleman finished his tory, and I realized he was fighting tears. In fact, we were all emotional. He had found a meaningful way to connect with the community leader to leave a lasting and touching tribute, and the impact he’d had meant a lot to him.

The board member making the call was inspired. She returned to her office and made lists of people to contact. She made those calls and mentored other fundraising volunteers. She had seen the impact of presenting meaningful opportunities to potential donors and was encouraged to do it herself.

Fundraisers know that if calls aren’t being made, gifts aren’t being considered. Sometimes the problem is motivating a volunteer force that is reluctant to get off the starting block.

If you have a reluctant fundraising volunteer, consider what might inspire her. Invite her on calls with more experienced volunteers to ask for a gift, learn about a prospective donor or just say thank you. Encourage her to call on fellow board members she already knows. Look not only at ways to make the materials more polished or the message more succinct, but also at ways to illustrate how rewarding it can be to connect with your supporters.

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