Transform Your Volunteers into Fundraisers
By: Leo Welder, Zilker Ventures
In 2008, two of my good friends and I designed an online fundraising system to help our fellow members of the Young Men’s Business League raise money for our charity, the Austin Sunshine Camps. Before building the system, the YMBL typically raised $20,000 to $40,000 during their six-week fundraising season. Now the organization raises $300,000 to $400,000 each year in the same time. Our success is based on a few core principles that I want to share with you today.
1. Utilize a Fundraising Website With Full Transparency
If you use a fundraising website like DonorPerfect.com’s DonorPages, each member of your organization will have their own, unique fundraising web page. There are many benefits to this, but the most important is that each member can see how much their peers have raised and can benchmark their own success. Your members will be inspired by the success of others and motivated to be seen as meaningful contributors to their organization’s success. This transparency minimizes the amount of external pressure required to spur members into action.
2. Form Fundraising Teams and Create Competition
Individual fundraising is hard work, but you can make it fun by turning the effort into a team sport. By dividing your organization into teams with team leaders (your most dedicated and charismatic members), you can foster an environment where people get excited about fundraising and develop creative ideas to help their team succeed.
3. Create Clear Start And Finish Dates for the Fundraising Campaign
People don’t want to fundraise forever, so it’s best to create a clear and relatively short time frame during which you will be asking them to raise money. Furthermore, if you have a competition, people want to know when it is officially over and how people know if they won. (Tip: It’s a good idea to set a very short time frame at the outset, so people get started right away. You can extend the deadline by a week or two mid-season.)
4. Hold Mandatory Fundraising Kickoff Meetings
In order to make sure everyone knows how to use the tools and share fundraising best practices, you need to have a few face-to-face group kickoff meetings for your members. The leadership of the organization should also use these meetings to remind members why their non-profit is great and why they should feel good about raising money. Older, experienced members can talk about their past successes, which will instill confidence in people who are fundraising for the first time. (Tip: Ask everyone to state their individual fundraising target before they leave the meeting.)
5. Over-Celebrate Success, Don’t Worry About Failure
All membership organizations have their shining stars as well as their disappointments. During a fundraising campaign, spend all your time encouraging and celebrating anyone and everyone that contributes and makes an effort. Don’t get caught in the trap of trying to MAKE those members who haven’t even attempted to raise money get off their butts. If the competitive atmosphere, the motivational kickoff meetings and the transparency of the system aren’t enough to motivate them, it’s not worth your time. You will generate more revenue for your non-profit spending that time cheerleading and supporting the members that demonstrate some internal motivation.
6. Share Ideas, Templates and Success Stories
When it comes to “making the ask,” there are lots of successful techniques, but most people who haven’t done it before don’t know where to start. Provide your members with email templates that they can customize and use when emailing donor prospects. Suggest the types of people they should contact in their network and how they can appeal to them and overcome objections. During the fundraising season, share stories with the membership about successful techniques that people have implemented. Encourage them to be creative and try things like finding matching sponsors or getting a bar to host a fundraising event. You never know what might catch on.
By implementing these strategies, you will turn your volunteer organization into a fundraising machine.
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About the Author: Leo Welder is the former President of the Young Men’s Business League and the Austin Sunshine Camps and was selected for the Big Giver Award by I Live Here I Give Here in 2013 and was chosen to represent Austin at The Jefferson Awards in 2014. Leo is also the CEO of Zilker Ventures, which operates a family of websites that provide information on business communication and technology services, including FindAFax.com.