Archive for ‘donor relations’

October 5, 2018

9 Hard Truths Every Fundraiser Needs to Face in the 21st Century

In the Oscar-nominated film A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character famously shouts, “You  can’t handle the truth!”

Well, if you want to be a successful fundraising professional, you better know the truth and be prepared to handle it.

If you want to be successful at anything, you need to face the core truths involved no matter how challenging. Ignoring reality is a certain pathway to failure.

One nonprofit development truth is that authentic, donor-centered fundraising results in more donors giving more money than would otherwise be the case. Penelope Burk wrote about this years ago in her landmark book Donor Centered Fundraising, available October 15 in a new second edition. I wrote about the subject in my own book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

Recently, Greg Warner, CEO of MarketSmart, released his powerful new book that reveals a straightforward, meaningful way fundraisers can embrace the concept of donor-centered fundraising.

In Engagement Fundraising, Greg passionately reveals the 21st century donor-centric strategy practiced by MarketSmart. Some people might be angered by or afraid of the core message of this book while others will find it to be simple common sense. However, one thing everyone can agree on is that Greg is a disrupter, and that’s a good thing. If it wasn’t for society’s disrupters, we’d still be riding around in horse-drawn carriages, and you’d be reading his book by candlelight. His fresh, technology-driven approach is a powerful way forward for those interested in engaging people to inspire more philanthropic support.

At the end of this post, I reveal how you can download, for free, the introduction and first chapter to Engagement Fundraising. But now, I want to share Greg’s additional insights with you as he outlines nine hard truths every fundraiser needs to face in the 21st century:

 

1.  Competition is fierce and everywhere. Nonprofits don’t only compete with other nonprofits. They also compete with private sector businesses and Uncle Sam (the tax collector) for every donor’s “share of wallet and attention.” Plus they want non-exclusive, polyamorous relationships with organizations. In other words, they will decide when they’ll cozy up to other charities. Of course, you can influence their decisions but you can never control them. You are at a disadvantage. Private sector companies and the government have deeper pockets. In order to win, you better be smart!

2.  Most of the time donors spend involving themselves with your organization happens without a fundraiser present. More than 99 percent of every donor’s time and energy spent involving themselves with your organization’s mission is done without you. You must accept this new reality and enable your supporters’ self-education and self-navigation of the decision-making process.

3.  The consideration continuum is open-ended. Donors are fickle. Their needs, passions, and interests will change. As they do, they might decide to give more, less, or stop giving altogether. They might involve themselves deeper in your cause or end their involvement (perhaps even by removing your organization from their estate plan). As a result, customer service (stewardship) is more essential now than ever.

4.  Your job is to make them feel good, not ask for money. In order to generate major gifts (including legacy gifts) and inspire high-capacity mid-level donors to give more, you must make your donors feel good by engaging them politely and persistently with offers that deliver value over time. If you do that, your donors self-solicit. They’ll step up to make a difference so they can find meaning in their lives. Then they’ll ask you, “What can I do to help?” Yes! Seriously! If you make them feel good, they will give, give more, refer friends, get more involved, become more committed, and make legacy gifts.

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October 1, 2018

Here are 3 Simple Steps to Avoid a Year-End Appeal Disaster

We’re now in the fourth quarter of the calendar year. It’s that special time of year when most charitable giving happens. That’s due, in part, to the fact that charities are out in force soliciting contributions as the year nears a close.

While there are many things you can and should do, I’m going to keep it easy. I’m going to give you three simple steps (and a bunch of useful tips) that will help you avoid a year-end appeal disaster:

Step 1 – Make a Year-End Appeal: You should test doing a beginning-of-the-year appeal in January/February since tax-avoidance is less of an issue for more people under the new tax code (see my post about this by clicking here). However, the fourth-quarter season-of-giving certainly remains the traditional time to ask for support. So, unless you have data for your organization that suggests otherwise, make sure you have a year-end appeal. The surest way to have a disastrous year-end fundraising appeal is not to have one.

As you plan your appeal, be sure to segment your prospect file. Treating your prospects as one homogeneous group may make your job easier, but it won’t help you keep your job. You’ll achieve much better results if you segment your prospect pool and target each segment with a tailored appeal.

For example, your message to existing donors will be different from your message to acquisition prospects. For starters, you’ll want to thank existing donors for their support before asking for another gift. Other segments might include monthly donors (You do have a monthly-donor program, right?), volunteers, past service recipients, event participants, etc.

In addition to tailoring your message to each segment, be sure to customize the ask. It’s inappropriate to ask an acquisition prospect for $1,000. Conversely, it’s also inappropriate to ask a $500 donor for $50. Just as bad, it’s a horrible mistake to not ask for a specific dollar amount or not to ask at all.

Step 2 – Have a Solid Case for Support: If you want people to give money to your organization, you need to make a compelling case for support. This is particularly true at this time of year when virtually every other nonprofit organization is out there looking for donations, too. Why should people respond to your direct-mail appeal (or phone solicitation, or face-to-face ask, etc.) instead of the appeal from another organization, perhaps one with a similar mission to yours? Address that question, and you’ll have greater success.

A strong case for support is particularly important when appealing to folks who have already contributed this year. They’ll want to know how you spent their money, the impact they have already had, and why you need more. Tell them those things, and you’ll increase the chance of getting another gift.

In addition to having a solid case for support, you’ll want to create some urgency. Why should people give to your organization now? If you’re the Salvation Army, people automatically get why you’re asking around holiday time. For pretty much any other organization, you’ll have to give prospects a good reason. And if that reason magnifies the impact that the donor’s gift will have, so much the better.

For example, you can have a challenge grant that matches all gifts received through the end of the year. Or, you could have the cost of your appeal underwritten by a major donor so you can legitimately tell prospective donors that 100 percent of their contributions to the appeal will go toward mission fulfillment. Both of these ideas will create urgency while magnifying the impact your donors can have.

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August 29, 2018

Surprise! You’re Most Likely Part of the Top One Percent.

As you begin to make plans for year-end appeals, let’s spend a few moments considering the idea of entitlement. I’m talking about the idea that wealthy individuals and corporations should, perhaps must, “give back” simply because they have a lot of money.

Do you think the top one percent income earners should pay higher taxes? Do you think they should donate more money to charity?

You might feel a bit differently after I share some news with you. If you earn at least $32,400 a year (or approximately 30,250 Euros, 2 million Indian Rupees, or 223,000 Chinese Yuan), you are part of the top one percent of income earners in the world, according to a new report in Investopedia. If you’re reading this post, I’ll bet the odds are that you’re a one-percenter. Congratulations!

So, as a global one-percenter, do you feel under-taxed? Do you feel cheap and that you don’t contribute enough to charities, particularly global non-governmental organizations? Should fundraising professionals in the USA and around the world expect, perhaps even demand, that you donate more? Should they shame you for not giving enough? Are charities entitled to more of your money just because you’re a one-percenter?

You might think so. I do not.

I believe that charities must behave ethically, provide great services, develop a meaningful case for support, and inspire people, foundations, and corporations to give. Charities must partner with donors, report to them, engage them. Simply thinking that the rich, or anyone for that matter, should do more is not going to get the job done.

I want to share a bizarre story with you that would be funny if it were not true. It’s about fundraising for a wedding. It nicely illustrates my point regarding the failure of an entitlement mindset.

Susan and her fiancé were childhood sweethearts. The couple worked on her family’s farm before attending community college. Then, they went to work to “become financially stable.” The couple continued working hard and eventually saved $15,000 for a wedding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough money for the “extravagant blow-out wedding” Susan wanted in order to properly celebrate their “fairy-tale” relationship.

Susan figured her ideal wedding would cost $60,000. So, she decided to look for financial help. She says, “All we asked was for a little help from our friends and family to make it happen.” Specifically, the-bride-to-be sought cash gifts. “How could we have our wedding that we dreamed of without proper funding? We’d sacrificed so much and only asked each guest for around $1,500.” As Fox News reported, Susan also said she “made it clear. If you couldn’t contribute, you weren’t invited to our exclusive wedding. It’s a once and a lifetime [sic] party.”

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August 3, 2018

Fantastic News and Opportunity for the Nonprofit Sector!

The nonprofit sector received a major piece of good news at the end of July. American Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter of 2018 grew at the annualized rate of 4.1 percent. This represents the economy’s fastest growth rate since 2014. GDP growth in the first-quarter was a healthy, though unremarkable, 2.2 percent.

I don’t really care if you love or hate President Donald Trump. I’m not making a political statement. I’m simply reporting on an economic fact that has profound implications for nonprofit organizations.

The news is fantastic for charities because overall-philanthropy correlates with GDP. For more than four decades, philanthropy has been between 1.6 and 2.2 percent of GDP. In 2017, philanthropy was once again at 2.1 percent (Giving USA). This means that when the economy grows, we can expect growth in charitable giving.

Think of it this way: For more than 40 years, the nonprofit sector has received about a two percent slice of the economic pie. It’s safe to say that that approximate proportion will continue. So, if the economic pie becomes larger, that two percent slice becomes larger as well.

While I’m oversimplifying, my fundamental point is sound: When the economy grows, so does philanthropy.

Some economists and commentators believe the robust GDP growth rate is not sustainable. However, if the impressive economic growth continues, or even if growth continues at a more moderate pace, we can still expect 2018 to be a good year for charitable fundraising.

Given the positive economic environment, you have an opportunity to successfully raise money for your organization. But, it’s up to you to seize that opportunity while the positive economic environment lasts.

Here are 10 things you can do to raise more money while the economy is good:

1. Hug your donors. Ok, maybe not literally. However, you do need to let your donors know you love and appreciate them. Do you quickly acknowledge gifts? You should do so within 48 hours. Do you effectively thank donors? You should do so in at least seven different ways. You should review your thank-you letters to ensure they are heartfelt, meaningful, and effective. Have board members call donors to thank them in addition to your standard thank-you letter.

2. Tell donors about the impact of their gifts. Donors want to know that their giving is making a difference. If their giving isn’t making a difference or they aren’t sure, they’re more likely to give elsewhere. So, report to your donors. Tell them what their giving is achieving and that their support is being used efficiently.

3. Start a new recognition program. One small nonprofit organization I know started a new, special corporate giving club. CEOs of the corporate members are placed on an advisory board, receive special recognition, and are provided with networking opportunities. This new recognition program generated over $50,000 in just a few months. While enhancing existing recognition efforts is beneficial, starting a new recognition program can yield significant results.

4. Ask. Your organization is providing important services. It needs money. Give people the opportunity to support your worthy mission. When you ask for support, just be certain not to limit the ask to cash gifts. Research shows that organizations that receive non-monetary donations (e.g., stocks, bonds, personal property, real estate, etc.) grow significantly more than organizations that receive only cash contributions. Partly as a result of the new income tax code, the number of Donor-Advised Funds has grown significantly. So, make it easy for your supporters to give from their DAFs.

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July 27, 2018

How to NOT Make a Mistake Worse

There is an adage, first published in The Bankers Magazine (1964) that advises wisely:

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

The Law of Holes suggests we should strive to not make bad situations worse through further unhelpful, counter-productive behavior.

Sadly, many people, including nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals, fail to heed that fine advice. Instead, when in a bad situation or when confronted by criticism, many folks make matters worse by reacting defensively, acting helplessly, remaining in denial, criticizing the critic, or ignoring the situation altogether.

Fortunately, many people handle criticism gracefully and, in the process, set a fine example for the rest of us.

Recently, I wrote about my wife’s failed attempt to donate to a local charity. While my wife and I have never supported the organization, we do agree with its mission. Therefore, it was with great interest that I noticed that the charity was hosting a fundraising event with a speaker I wanted to hear. My wife went to the organization’s website to buy tickets. However, due to a website glitch, she was unable to complete the transaction. So, she then called the organization during office hours. Not being able to reach a live person, she left a voice-mail message. No one from the organization returned her call. We ended up not attending the event.

After I posted about my wife’s experience and what fundraisers can learn from it, I sent the organization’s Executive Director an email and a link to my article. I sent the email on Tuesday evening at 7:01 PM. I expected one of two things to happen: 1) I thought I might receive a defensive response the following business day, or 2) I might not receive any reply, ever.

Instead, my guess was happily wrong. That very evening at 7:21 PM, I received a message from the Executive Director. We can learn much from the tone and content of his response:

Dear Michael,

Your email was both upsetting and instructive. I appreciated the spirit of the message and have already begun to think about how to use it to create change and improve. Also I read your blog. I’m curious if you are a professional fundraiser? Either way you and your wife have my apologies for this unfortunate experience. It is clearly our loss when customers and potential friends are turned off. It’s contrary to the purpose of running these events and clearly counter productive.

In addition to my apologies you have my gratitude for bringing this to my attention.

Sincerely,

(name withheld here)”

Here is what we can learn from the email response:

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July 20, 2018

Make It Easy for People to Give You Money

Two different stories this week have inspired me to write this blog post, and provide two pieces of simple, essential advice.

My first tale involves a local charity. While my wife and I have never supported the organization, we do agree with its mission. Earlier this week, the charity hosted a fundraising event with a speaker I wanted to hear. My wife went to the organization’s website to buy tickets. She saw there were two options: 1) general admission tickets, and 2) tickets to both the talk and a pre-talk meet-and-greet reception with the speaker. We opted for the pricier tickets.

That’s when the trouble started.

As my wife began entering her contact information, the website would not allow her to change the town name in the address section. This was a big problem because our hometown is different from the nearby town where the charity is located. Compounding the problem, this was a required field although it did not have to be so.

Unable to buy the event tickets online, my wife called the charity to try to purchase the tickets by phone. No one answered. She left a voice-mail message. No one returned her call.

That was the end of it. My wife could not complete the transaction. We were both annoyed. While our intended contribution would not have been huge, it would have been a significant first-time gift. Unfortunately, for the charity, it lost its chance to engage us. Instead, the charity alienated us. Sadly, we likely weren’t the only people who experienced this problem.

So, what can we learn from this story? The lesson is as simple as it is significant:

Make it easy for people to give you money!

Here are some tips:

  • If you’re having a fundraising event, create a landing page on your website to make registration easy.
  • Make it easy to find the event landing page.
  • Make registering easy by ensuring the registration or donation page is functional.
  • Make it easy for people to donate money online, even when there is no special event, by having a donate button at the top, right corner of every web page on your site.
  • In addition to a donate button, have a donate tab on your website’s menu bar to make giving easy.
  • When seeking donations online or by mail, keep it simple and easy. Ask only for the information you need. The more information you seek (particularly the information you require), the greater the risk that the donor will not complete the contribution.
  • When sending direct-mail appeals, enclose a Business Reply Envelope to make responding easy.
  • Provide your full contact information (name, title, mailing address, phone number, fax number, email address) for donors to reach out to you easily with any questions or issues. Your organization’s general contact information should be on every website page.
  • When a donor or prospective donor calls, answer your phone. If you’re not going to answer your phone, be sure to respond to messages as quickly as possible. This is especially true leading up to an event or at year-end.
  • Accept gifts of cash or donations made through credit card and PayPal. In other words, make giving easy by accepting the donor’s preferred payment method.

The bottom line here is that your organization needs to make it easy for people to give it money. Donors have choices. Your charity is not unique. There are other charities with a similar mission. If you mistreat prospects or donors, or make giving a challenge, they’ll simply support another organization with a similar mission that more effectively engages them.

While making it easy for people to give is important, it’s not enough as the following story from the for-profit sector demonstrates:

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July 6, 2018

One of the Most Important Questions You Should Ask

Two recent mainstream news items, and one tweet about a charity, remind me of a powerful lesson I once learned from my father-in-law, Malcolm Rosenfeld. He taught me to ask myself the following important question before opening my mouth or taking action:

What is my objective?”

Now, before I illustrate the value of that question by reflecting on some news stories, I must warn you that the following examples include vulgar language. If you want to bypass the examples, you can skip down to the next boldfaced sentence several paragraphs below.

At The 72nd Annual Tony Awards (2018), actor Robert De Niro walked out on the stage after being introduced. He then said, “I’m gonna say one thing. Fuck Trump. It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s ‘Fuck Trump.’”

What was De Niro’s objective? If he wanted the approval and praise of the Tony audience, he succeeded when his remarks received a standing ovation. However, if he wanted to convince some Trump supporters or independent voters to support the political positions of the Democratic Party rather than President Donald Trump, I doubt he moved anyone. To the contrary; he may have actually strengthened their resolve.

Comedian Michelle Wolf voiced her displeasure with Ivanka Trump in a recent episode of Wolf’s Netflix series The Break. She said, “If you see Ivanka on the street, first call her Tiffany. This will devastate her. Then talk to her in terms she’ll understand. Say, ‘Ivanka, you’re like vaginal mesh. You were supposed to support women but now you have blood all over you and you’re the center of a thousand lawsuits.’”

What was Wolf’s objective? If she wanted to solidify her base of liberal viewers, I suspect she might have succeeded. With the publicity she received for her comment, she may have even attracted some new viewers who share her liberal views. However, if she wants to use her humor to change the political policies of the Trump Administration or to drive independent voters to support Democratic Party candidates and positions, she probably failed.

Whether you’re pro-Trump or anti-Trump is not the issue. What the two examples above demonstrate is the importance of defining objectives. If De Niro and Wolf wanted to diminish Trump’s political support – and I recognize that might not have been their objective — they flopped even as their fans cheered and laughed.

Let me explain. In 2016, I participated in a focus group involving independent voters. It was clear that personal attacks on Trump led many participants to be more likely to support him. By contrast, discussion of specific issues led people to thoughtfully consider which candidate better aligned with their own thinking. Based on my experience with the focus group, I wasn’t surprised when I looked at recent poll numbers.

Despite recent harsh comments by De Niro, Wolf, and countless others in recent weeks, the RealClear Politics polling average shows that Trump’s disapproval rating continues to oscillate just above 50 percent, where it has been consistently since March 15, 2017.

While celebrities leave me wondering about their objectives, many nonprofit organizations also have me scratching my head. I recently read one puzzling example from The Whiny Donor (self-named) on Twitter:

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June 15, 2018

Raise More Money by Understanding Generational Differences

When you understand the behaviors and motivations of different generations, you’ll be in a better position to build stronger relationships and, ultimately, raise more money. That’s the belief behind the Blackbaud Institute’s new report, The Next Generation of American Giving. Catherine LaCour, Chief Marketing Officer at Blackbaud and Senior Advisor to the Blackbaud Institute, writes:

[T]hese insights serve the core purpose of helping you—the social changemakers—build bridges to those who care most about your causes. Use this information to inform your outreach, but know that the relationships you cultivate are still the key. With this deeper understanding of your supporters and the tools they use, there is no limit to the positive change you can achieve.”

The report identifies eight key findings:

  1. Fewer Americans are Giving. Blackbaud is not alone in uncovering this disturbing trend. Among every generational cohort, with the exception of Baby Boomers, there is a decline since 2013 in the percentage of cohort members who say they give to charity. During the same period, total giving has nevertheless increased because those contributing are donating more.

 

  1. The Greatest Generation is in Its Sunset Years. Those born prior to 1946 are declining in number. That’s why they are no longer the dominate philanthropic group that they were in 2010. However, they remain a vitally important philanthropic cohort. These individuals give to more charities and give more money than any other generational group.

 

  1. Baby Boomers Remains the Most Generous Generation. Boomers donated 41 percent of all money contributed last year. By contrast, Gen X accounted for 23 percent, Matures 20 percent, Millennials 14 percent, and Gen Z 2 percent.

 

  1. Generation X is On Deck (and there are way more Gen-Xers than you think). While there are far fewer Gen-Xers than Boomers (65.6 million v. 74.1 million), their population is almost as large as the Millennial generation (67 million). Furthermore, Gen-Xers are approaching the life stage known to be the prime giving years. Given the population size of this cohort and their approaching life stage, they will likely continue to be a growing philanthropic force.

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May 9, 2018

Setting the Record Straight about Jimmy LaRose

Jimmy LaRose, founder of the Inside Charity website and co-founder of the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives, continues to be a controversial figure in the nonprofit sector. However, I have refrained from addressing his statements that trouble me.

Until now.

LaRose recently copied portions of one of my recent blog posts, altered their intention, and purposely misattributed them to someone else in an article he wrote attacking the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

When I confronted him with what he had done, he admitted to and defended his actions. Furthermore, he refused to apologize or delete the article at issue. In his last email to me, despite the fact that I never mentioned NANOE in my communications to him, he wrote, “NANOE’s Board of Directors has directed our staff to forward all your communications to counsel.” Do you think he might have sent me that message in an attempt to intimidate and silence me?

Well, you deserve the truth. Therefore, I will not be silent.

I published my blog post “Are Donors the Hidden Enemies of Charities?” on April 16, 2018. On May 6, 2018, the LaRose article “Is There a Secret Reason AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) Is Hating On Donors?” appeared at Inside Charity.

In my post, I reported on the findings of The Harris Poll survey report conducted for AFP and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. While I recognized that most donors are good people, I did point out that some donors do bad things. The Harris survey found that 25 percent of women and 7 percent of men, who are members of AFP and who were surveyed, report having been the victim of sexual harassment. In the cases cited, 65 percent of the perpetrators were donors.

In his article, LaRose attempted to discredit the survey report though he offered no evidence of his own.

Neither AFP nor I are demonizing all donors. We are simply giving voice to the survey respondents who have said that donors sexually harassed them. This is a real problem that some of our fellow fundraising professionals have faced. It’s something that we should not ignore.

Toward that end, I suggested some actions that individual nonprofit organizations should take:

1.  Have the organization’s board adopt a sexual harassment policy. If a policy already exists, it should be reviewed with an eye toward improving it. The policy should define sexual harassment (regardless of the source), map the reporting process, and explain the consequences of harassment. The policy should also make it clear that no donation is worth mental or physical harm to staff or volunteers; people should be clearly valued more than money.

2.  The senior management team or board of the organizations should set policies regarding meetings with prospects and donors. The policy should include answers to several questions including:

  • Where is it appropriate to meet with a prospect or donor?
  • When should more than one person from the organization meet with a prospect or donor at the same time?
  • When dining out with a prospect or donor, who should pick-up the check?
  • What prospect or donor behaviors should not be tolerated?
  • How should misbehavior be treated in the moment and following an incident?

3.  Procedures should be adopted for providing feedback to prospects or donors who misbehave so that they understand that their missteps are inappropriate and unacceptable.

4.  Staff and volunteers (including board members) should be provided with the policies and trained to ensure they understand all of the provisions of the policies

5.  As part of training, make all staff and volunteers aware of the problem. For example, share the Harris Polling report with them along with a printed copy of the organization’s sexual harassment policies.

6.  Re-assure staff and volunteers that they will be fully supported, and that they will not be penalized or lose their jobs for filing a legitimate complaint.

In LaRose’s article, he lifted the questions I asked in item two above. He then mislead his readers when he introduced the questions by writing, “In response to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s ‘poll’ AFP’s IDEA Committee (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) has just announced another set of provisions they’re going to burden you with after they determine the proper answers to the following questions.”

To the best of my knowledge, the AFP IDEA Committee has not adopted my questions to guide its discussions. The questions I posed were clearly mine and mine alone. As I stated in my post, the questions are just some that should be addressed as nonprofit organizations discuss their own policies and procedures. I did not ask AFP to impose such a requirement on nonprofit organizations. It would have been foolish to do so because AFP has no mechanism for such an imposition even if it wanted to issue such a mandate.

By twisting the intent of my words and by providing incorrect attribution, LaRose has erected a straw-man.

LaRose writes:

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April 27, 2018

The Best Way to Ensure Your Volunteers Do Not Fail

Let’s make sure our volunteers do not fail. Let’s do a better job of recruiting and retaining volunteers while helping them be more successful. Remember, when volunteers are more successful, our nonprofit organizations are more successful.

This is the second part in a series of posts about volunteers. I’m publishing this series for three reasons:

  • It’s National Volunteer Month.
  • Volunteerism is on the decline in the USA, and we can and must reverse that trend.
  • Volunteers are a valuable resource to the nonprofit sector. They serve as organization ambassadors, provide free labor, and donate generously. We need them!

In the first part of the series, we looked at how to avoid major pitfalls and manage volunteers more effectively. Now, we will consider the best way to ensure that your volunteers do not fail. The result will be a win-win relationship between your volunteers and your organization.

Once again, we’re fortunate to receive some terrific insights from Kelly Ronan on Twitter. Kelly is an Indiana State University Bayh College of Education Scholars-to-Teachers Program Scholar and a candidate for the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential offered through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.

Kelly believes that a robust orientation program for volunteers, as part of a training effort, will help them avoid failure and, instead, meet with success. So, before tossing your volunteers into the proverbial deep-end of the pool, make sure they first receive a solid orientation consisting of the eight key elements Kelly suggests:

 

An effective orientation will provide an overview for a volunteer that is new to your organization, and a refresher for a returning volunteer. It will provide a general understanding of who the organization is, what the organization does, and how volunteers play a key role.

The following eight elements will make your volunteer orientation great, and will help ensure that your volunteers have a meaningful experience as they help your organization.

1.  Make volunteers feel like they belong!

The “belonging” atmosphere should begin the moment you make contact with the new volunteer, whether that is speaking on the phone or through emails. Be sure to reach out to a new volunteer while the excitement of volunteering is still fresh on their mind. Hosting an orientation is a powerful way to engage volunteers and help them get off to a good start.

Once they reach orientation, it is time to make them feel like your organization is the right fit for them. Have your volunteers get connected with staff and other volunteers. Consider planning a fun ice-breaker activity or planning for partner/small group interaction as part of your orientation. It is important that your new volunteers feel welcome and appreciated.

2.  Effective, meaningful communication is key!

No one likes to feel lost. Orientation is the time to state, in appropriate detail, what is expected of volunteers. This includes things like behavior standards, dress codes, confidentiality, time commitments, and more. Taking the time to address expectations up front can save a lot of time further down the road once the volunteer has started their assignment. Remember that you can’t expect your volunteers to meet expectations that you haven’t clearly defined.

3.  Share the mission of organization!

Just like staff members, volunteers should know your organization’s mission. They need to know what they are putting their time and talent towards. Sharing a bit of history about the organization, the mission statement and goals and objectives are helpful to a new volunteer. This also helps them to see how their role as a volunteer fits into the organization’s plan. Additionally, you can include a brief description of programs, and you may want to share some impacts your organization has had on the communities it serves.

4.  Review policies and procedures!

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