Archive for August, 2010

Build Relationships for Successful Fundraising

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

volunteerscreeningblog.comMost salespeople know that it’s easier to sell more to an existing customer than to get a new customer. The same goes with fundraising for nonprofits. It’s easier to ask established supporters to give more than to sell a completely new individual on your organization—and get them to give.

Establishing long-term relationships with donors and supporters is one of the keys to successful fundraising. And like anything worth keeping, they take time to build. Each interaction with a potential donor is a chance to grow that relationship.

Potential Donors

  • Event attendees
  • Volunteers
  • Friends of volunteers
  • Community members
  • Co-workers
  • Board member friends and families

How to Grow the Relationship:
Ask questions. Ask volunteers why they’re there; what drew them to the organization. At events, ask attendees why it was important to them. You may hear that the cause wasn’t important, but they were there for the silent auction; or the food; or because they were coerced. Whatever the reason, you can build upon it. The idea is to get to know your donor base better—what they like; what’s important to them. And asking questions makes people feel valued, too.

Tell your story. At every opportunity, repeat the story of your organization, its mission and its accomplishments. And find new ways to do it. Keep the story short, and make sure it is meaningful. Give examples of real people that have been helped by your organization.

Make the ask—it’s as simple as that. If you don’t ask for donations, it’s not likely that donors will just send you money—but they will respond if they believe in the cause and know that you need support. And make it easy for donors to give. Include self-addressed envelopes with fundraising letters. Add a “donate now” widget to your website or blog.

Building real relationships with donors isn’t difficult—it takes time, but it’s vitally important to your fundraising efforts. And, it can be one investment of your time that really pays off!

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Planning a Volunteer Project

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

www.criminaldata.comIt pays to plan before you send a group of volunteers out to accomplish a task. Project planning can make a volunteer’s job more efficient and successful. How do some professional volunteer managers seem to plan their projects with such ease? The answer can be as simple as . Keeping good records helps you establish good procedures for how to accomplish a task the next time.

1. Write it all down

First assess the areas you need help in. This will help you recruit volunteers with appropriate skills. For example, if you need to plan a fundraiser, you might need an auctioneer, an event planner, and a designer. For meal delivery to shut-ins, you’d look for empathetic people who are adept at making connections with others.

Next, look at the project itself. Ask why it needs to be done—that’s the goal that will direct every activity. Is it to raise money for operations, or to buy a needed piece of equipment? Is it to raise awareness of a cause? Or is the project something that falls under your organization’s direct work?

Then figure out the steps it will take to finish the project. Start at the beginning, at the end, or in the middle—you’ll fill in the rest of the steps from there.

Decide how many volunteers  each step will take. What skills are needed during each phase? For a fundraiser, you’d need a designer at the beginning, the middle and the end; you’d need the auctioneer just on the day of the event.

Time is the next issue—how much do you have overall and how much do you anticipate each step will take? If it’s a short-term project, like planting trees along a stream, then figure out how long it will take to gather enough volunteers, obtain the trees, get permission for planting, and pick a day from there.

Is the project going to involve volunteers working with children, handling funds or interacting with at-risk populations? Then be sure to figure in time for background screening for those volunteers.

Finally, what transportation will be needed for volunteers? Whether they can walk to the site, or you’ll need a bus to get them there, don’t make the mistake of deciding you need transportation after all the volunteers have arrived. You’ll be wasting valuable work time—and valuable volunteer time.

2. Fill out a project sheet.

With the answers to the above questions clearly established, you’ll be able to fill out a simple project worksheet:


Title:       Goal:

Start date:      End date:

Number of volunteers:      Hours per week per volunteer:

Project description:

Volunteer job title:
Volunteer job description:
Number of volunteers we need for this job description:
Background check:      yes      no

Volunteer job title:
Volunteer job description:
Number of volunteers we need for this job description:
Background check:      yes      no

Volunteer job title:
Volunteer job description:
Number of volunteers we need for this job description:
Background check:      yes      no

Total number of volunteers for this project:

Transportation needs:

Other needs (permits, event space, etc.):

Marketing for Non-profits: Do This First

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

volunteerscreeningblogThere are more ways to solicit donations, recruit volunteers and spread the word about your organization than ever before. While non-profit organizations are still holding walk-a-thons and bake sales—although the latter has been in decline, due to food allergies and liability issues—the emergence of social marketing and online networking means it’s far easier to reach much wider audiences.

Online fundraising tools like GlobalGiving and ChipIn make it easy for charities to solicit donations right on their websites. No custom programming needed! Facebook and Twitter allow non-profits to gain followers and friends to help publicize their events and needs in a flash. Facebook even helps with Causes, which allows fundraisers to ask for donations from their friends and contacts. It’s good for finding volunteers, too.

Dozens of other sites have popped up to help non-profits publicize their missions and raise money. But before you jump in the social marketing pool, the first thing to do is ask yourself a couple of questions on behalf of your NPO:

1. How Well do I Know my Organization?
2. How Well can I Communicate my Organization’s Brand?

Before you take advantage of the remarkable tools that now exist for marketing through social media (in other words, social marketing), make sure you’re ready. That means knowing your organization inside and out—and communicating the brand quickly and clearly.

Do you Know Yourself?
You may think no one knows your non-profit better than you. But can you put it into meaningful words? Can you express your best-fit client, your ultimate goal and your organization’s place in your community? What are the strengths of the organization, and where do you need help? What skills are you looking for in volunteers? Knowing your organization backwards and forwards makes it easier to make connections with people who can make a difference to your organization.

Communicating the Brand
Think in terms of what your organization does to change something that’s wrong in the world—that’s the brand. It’s what drives the organization, what makes it different from others—and what would be lost if it didn’t exist. Every person involved must speak about the brand in the same way in order for it to be most effective. A well-written tagline helps.

Once you know the organization and the brand, then set up a Twitter account, write blog posts, share them on Facebook and send targeted emails. Social marketing is all about educating your volunteers, fans, supporters and followers about what you’re doing and how they can help you affect change.

New Volunteer How-to: Orientation

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

volunteerscreeningblog.comFor volunteer managers, recruiting volunteers is only step one in a successful volunteer program. The process that includes background screening, matching skills with needs, and training. Sometimes the important step of orientation is overlooked.

Why orientation is so important?

  • Orientation helps ensure volunteers are productive and that they stick around. Learning their place, their job, and the meaning of their work helps facilitate a job well done. Feeling productive leads to higher retention, too.
  • Orientation helps new volunteers learn your nonprofit organization’s (NPO’s) policies and procedures. It’s frustrating and unproductive for volunteers to find out the dos and don’ts as they go. It can also be stressful for staff to correct the missteps of volunteers who don’t know any better. Just knowing where to park and which restroom to use can be extremely helpful to newbies.
  • Volunteer orientation gives new folks a sense of partnership. Feeling like you’re a part of something leads to buy-in. A sense of belonging somewhere is very important—and it’s a big reason people volunteer in the first place. Skipping orientation could lead new volunteers to feel adrift and more like an outsider than an insider.
  • Proper orientation for volunteers means the organization’s mission is clearly communicated. Knowing clearly what the organization’s mission and goals are makes volunteers valuable spokespeople in the community.

A Few Quick Tips for Successful Volunteer Orientation

  1. Be organized: prepare packets of information ahead of time. Scrambling at the last moment makes you and your organization look unprofessional
  2. Recruit a fully-trained staff member or volunteer to lead it: Even worse than being unorganized is leaving volunteers with the thought that they are not being taught well
  3. Consider compiling a list of acronyms your volunteers will hear being tossed around. It will help them feel like insiders—not outsiders who aren’t privy to the organization’s activities.
  4. Group orientations are a great way to save time and introduce new volunteers to staff and more experienced volunteers.

While training volunteers to do their specific jobs is extremely important, volunteer managers should remember that skipping orientation to get to training could leave volunteers unproductive and heading for the door!