“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
“I wish someone would take care of all the details.” Such is the lament of fundraising staff who stagger under the weight of never ending activities and details. They try to keep it all together, to “dot the i’s and cross the t’s.” And yet it feels impossible. “What am I overlooking?” becomes a mantra and a fear. The clock keeps ticking, time is passing, work needs to be completed, and the pressure doesn’t seem to end.
On the other hand, there are those who sing a different refrain. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it” is their song. A board member offers to help plan an event, and the executive director almost automatically responds “Don’t worry…”
The development director has the same response when a volunteer asks about helping with solicitations or crafting new marketing language. No one wants to turn away help, but experience has shown it takes time to work with volunteers, and it is time many don’t want to “waste.”
Neither of these scenarios are the ideal. You need to be involved with the details of fundraising – no one knows your constituency and programs like you do! And you need to be most effective in how you use your time. Yet somewhere between these two extremes lies the balance that supports successful fundraising.
When you know how to engage and manage volunteers, you can increase your chances of success and decrease your stress. No one person – or two, or three – can manage all the details associated with fundraising. Whether it’s a special event, a phone-a-thon, or a capital campaign you can lighten the load by engaging people who want to help.
Planning and time are the key variables that impact fundraising success and the ability to effectively engage volunteers. They interact with each other, building towards successful fundraising, or snowballing in the wrong direction.
Take time to plan your fundraising. Document your plan. Share it with others. Ask people to assist with specific projects. Ask in advance, when they have enough time to do what you would like them to do, and enough time to implement ideas they believe will increase your impact.
Time is either your angel or your enemy. The earlier you begin to plan, the more opportunities you will have to implement alternatives if something goes awry. If you don’t leave enough time to plan your event, you might find your chances for serious errors increase. Build contingencies into your plan so you – and your team – are prepared if your first plan doesn’t work out.
At the end of the day we are all human and subject to human frailties. You might get sick, a family member could be hospitalized, a staff member might quit. Having a team working on your event or campaign can mitigate against these and lighten the load.
Copyright 2016 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
For help growing your fundraising visit www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.
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