Almost Like Being in Love: Building Relationships with Your Fundraising Volunteer

| by Tom McGuire

This morning, Armstrong McGuire team members Bert Armstrong and Priscilla Bratcher, CFRE joined Chapel Hill, NC philanthropist Jim Heavner as panelists  for the Triangle Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals' April membership meeting.  We had a refreshing discussion about what makes the relationship between a campaign volunteer and a development professional work.

We believe the selection, management, and overall engagement of volunteer leadership is a critical aspect of any successful fundraising campaign effort. Here is a short list of  important elements that lead to great working relationship with your  volunteers. 

Early Stage - before you ask them to serve

  • Take notice of those who show interest and excitement in your mission.
  • Seek to understand the chemistry that exists between potential volunteer leaders and key staff.
  • Take time to vet volunteers to make sure you understand their strengths, potential shortcomings, and the fit that exists with your organization and the type of campaign you are planning.

Middle Stage - now that you have them on board

  • Being clear about expectations concerning roles, boundaries, and success measures will set the tone for your volunteer's campaign success.
  • Know how to effectively communicate, including understanding the frequency and methods valued by your volunteer.  It is also important to be candid and honest in all your communications, especially when it comes to knowing what is appropriate to share about donors, organizational issues, etc.
  • Managing the relationships that exist between your donors, staff, and the campaign volunteers you are working with can take a lot of time and energy. Make the time and find the energy!  Nothing is more important in your campaign than tending to the relationships between those who are critical to your campaign's success.
  • The wonderful people who generously and unselfishly share their time, talents and treasures deserve all the support, encouragement and recognition we can give them.   Put them in the spotlight and let them know how much you appreciate all they are doing.

Long Term - making it work over time, especially when you start to feel the  pressure of getting to your goal

  • In our experience, nothing means more than a partnership built on trust in one another and confidence that you can count on each other no matter what.

Think about a relationship that you have had as a staff member or a volunteer.  In a  word, what made that relationship work?  Join our conversation and share your thoughts.

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