Fundraising and
Volunteer Management

Many businesses need opportunities for worthwhile community service.  And this gives non-profits the challenge of learning how to speak the language of industrial America.  The discussion to follow can help both groups in understanding and succeeding with fund raising and volunteer work.  I believe that  fund-raising and volunteer recruitment are really one and the same in concept  —  one is designed to gain money, the other human energy.  These two activities are at the heart of what charities need most.

Executives with a variety of management and personal development specialties can provide the guidance, training and support for programs focused on either fund-raising or volunteer recruitment.

All tasks business people undertake as a public service should use the key skills of their field. This allows each person's gift of energy and ideas to  demonstrate the value of his or her company or profession.  If you are a CPA, then the help you provide a charity should relate to finance or accounting.  If you run a cabinetry shop, your work can involve the physical environment of the charity’s offices, clinics or hospitals.

Support to non-profit organizations should be given freely, with no concern for direct or immediate return in any form.  We all hope, of course, that in the long run, that what goes around, comes around.  The people we serve pro bono  in these programs will better understand the value of our professional or industry.  You increase the chances that the contacts you make will call you when business opportunities come up in the future.

The ideas follow outline the fund-raising and volunteer recruitment function of charities.  It is provided as a brief training document or refresher course.
These are the creative people who are often the first to take on new challenges.  They are usually prompt to take charge and get to work. They are rare birds. Perhaps the top 10% of our population.  Leaders are people who originate actions , take responsibility, set standards, build confidence , hold the mood  and in general keep things moving.

Another 25% of the population can be considered responsible. These people will, when lead, do what they say they will do and will try to get the job done the way you want it done.

Unfortunately, research indicates that the majority of the population can be called responsive.  These people demonstrate inertia and procrastination.  When their loyalties and compassion are touched they react.  They require the best of the art of persuasion.

The bottom of the population barrel is perhaps 20 percent of our friends and neighbors. This group is called inert. . I remember that word inert  from my Air Force career. The word inert was stenciled on dummy bombs. Instead of being packed with explosive power, these containers were full of sand.
These inert  people are like that. They lack the ability to make a big bang.  These inert humans act only under orders, they rarely make up their minds
They are the complainers. They are the unreliable. Get rid of them and forget about them.

Now you can see why public relations and fund raising are tasks calling for the best possible abilities to motivate people.


• People want to be sought.

• People want to be worthwhile members of a worthwhile group.

• People want to gain measurable and well-regarded goals
We all need quotas and objectives just as a football player needs
both the goal line and the 10-yard markers.

• People want to follow leaders they can trust
Leaders must gain and hold confidence. You fail without it.

• People want to repeat activities that bring them pleasure.
So-called volunteer fatigue is usually from being bored to death,
rather than being worked to death.

• People want to earn recognition and rewards.  
Those various buttons, pins, certificates and other baubles that groups give out to their supporters really do work.  People love that stuff.

• People want to conceal uncomplimentary feelings.  
Some will join committees with no intention of working.  Some will give phony answers to opinion surveys.

• People are losing their feeling of community.  
Some fund-raisers and communicators attempt to do with mailings
what needs to be done face-to- face.  Help  people feel they are connected to something worthwhile.

• People are suspicious of change or other threats to security.
 Things which are different will be suspect simply because they are different.

• People like to run with a winner.  
Winning is part of our lifestyle. Keep success just around the corner  --  and stay happy.


• People rarely give significant sums without being directly asked to do so.

• People give because people at their level or a higher level ask them to give.   Don’t send a junior clerk to ask for a donation from a senior vice president.  Send the president of an organization that vice president respects.   We will give the kids who ring our doorbell at home a dollar for their scout troop.  But when someone we look up to asks us to help out, we are often writing large checks. 

• Giving is emotionally prompted and then rationalized intellectually
Just as in advertising and sales, there is that principle at work again.  Talk to prospects about a better building or a needed improvement, not money.

• People reject debt as motivation for giving.  
Nagging about needing money is a poor way to get it.

• The best prospects for donations are those who have already given.
The more a person gives the more likely he or she is to give again.

• The best donations are gained by workers who have made their own donations.

A continual mood of urgency, relevance and importance must be maintained.  A spirit of optimism and belonging is essential.  Show courage and confidence.   Advocacy can’t be sporadic nor casual. This job becomes more difficult as you move out from the initial enthusiastic core group of workers to the volunteers.


Most people do not understand fund raising and its labor counterpart, volunteer management. Most are caught up in the myth of "if everyone gives a little."  You will never get 100% of any group to contribute.  Reality is the rule of thirds:   1/3 of the money comes from the top 10 gifts. 1/3 comes from the next 100 gifts   1/3 comes from all other donors.

Nickels and dimes do not get the job done. The key is thoughtful and proportionate giving.  The best way to raise money and get good workers is to go out and boldly ask for them.  I have helped the March of Dimes with marketing from time to time over the years.  I have always thought that was an unfortunate name for a great national charity.  Because it leaves the impression that the problem of birth defects can be fixed with dimes.  It takes big bucks to do that job.  Fortunately, the March of Dimes gets those major donations.

If you want big money -- get face-to-face. For small change, shake a can on a street corner. House-to-house soliciting is of little serious fund-raising value. Its main value is information and involvement.  The big money takes planning, several visits and time.


• Do not make the project sound easy
("Just take a few names and call them for us.")

• Use meetings as a series of serious deadlines.

• Keep the rush on. That for which there is plenty of time will not get done.

There are some common ways to fail in  fund raising and volunteer recruitment and support

Not planning carefully leads to failure.   You can't ad-lib any program designed to move people to action. Preparation, agreement and organization are needed.

Asking for a hand-out leads to failure.  Don't say "any amount will be welcome."  This turns your volunteer fund-raisers into beggars and panhandlers.  Your program  and its emotional benefits to the donors --  not the money  --  is the focus.

Remoteness can cause failure.  The fundraising job must be done face-to-face. Don't expect the post office, the brochure or advertising agency to do that job.

 Talking about averages is a mistake. Emphasizing averages only lowers standards of giving or support.  It gives you poorer quality volunteers.

Being afraid to spend money is a mistake.  It takes money to make money.    Usually fund-raising expenses are set too low.

Pessimism.  We must challenge rather than plead. Tell people things are going badly and you lose them immediately.

Division in your organization can lead to failure.   Keep everybody united. Be willing to let go of personal preferences in the interest of a program's overall success.

It takes more than information  --  you need involvement.  Involvement  --  not just information  --  best leads to action. Involvement is vital, as I mentioned in the Trade Secrets of Advertising cassettes.   People commit themselves when they take action.  We must make participants of listeners.

To involve people we must consistently do several things:
• Seek their advice.
• Make meaningful visits to them.
• Ask them to join you.
• Quote them in places where they will see it.
• Use their names in your articles, newsletters and presentations.
• Ask them to give a speech.
• Take their photograph.
• Pay attention to them.
• Ask them to do something for you.

Aristotle said: "The finest compliment one man can ever pay another is to ask him to do a favor." That's true of men and women today, just as when Aristotle said it 2,000 years ago.  People like to be sought.

Public relations advice for managing volunteers:
• Immediately expose mistakes, with no buck-passing.
• Show courtesy to all callers  --  with no one "in conference."
• Promptly answer all mail.

Campaign literature should do four important jobs:
• Summarize the cause.
• Visualize the situation.
• Arouse people's best sentiments
• Maintain continuity.

Guidelines for asking corporations
for contributions

• Searching for and recruiting your campaign leader.
• Form committee from your board to select top executives for your corporate campaign.
• Set up specific criteria for  the campaign chairman's job.
• Establish a specific plan for recruiting your top choice.
• Ask your candidate to join you.

• Ask the new leader's company to contribute.
The leader's corporation needs to model the level of commitment he or she will expect from the other firms to be solicited.  As with other forms of fundraising, the amount desired should be specific and set down in a written proposal.

• Add other high level corporate leaders
Powerful leadership is the a key ingredient to the campaign.   With top level executives you have access to the huge corporations which can join with you.  (Avoid the use of the transparent title, "honorary chairman."  Your top leaders should be true leaders, not tokens or symbols as the word honorary implies.

• Study your prospect list with your corporate leader
This may call for several meetings.  Evaluate your best potential donors.  Your corporate campaign leader may have inside information, such as companies having financial difficulties who should not be immediately contacted.   Building a base of information gives your team the confidence needed to make successful solicitation visits to prospect corporations.

• Write and mail appointment request letters
This should be a one-page letter from one of your top corporate leaders.  It provides a brief description of your organization's goals and the objectives of the current fund-raising campaign.   Mention the most prominent corporate executives volunteering in the campaign.  Include a campaign brochure, as well.

• Make an appointment
Your letter has noted that your chairman would can for an appointment within a week.  If he or she cannot call, his or her secretary could, although you can expect better success with a direct call from the chairman.  This also improves the ultimate amount of donation later.

• Organize the solicitation team
With an appointment scheduled, your organization must decide which of its executives would be most appropriate.  Plan on at least two strategy meetings with this team.  One of them should be held about an hour before your prospective corporate donor meeting.  Make sure everyone knows their role and is fully briefed.  Your team must be effective and impressive.

• The solicitation appointment
With the groundwork laid by your corporate chairman, the meeting can be carried out by him or her, plus your chief fundraising team — ideally your top development executive and an assistant. Most impressive is your volunteering corporate chairman--there is no substitution for this demonstration of commitment.  Be sure that your representatives do not outnumber the people in your meeting representing the client.)   Request a half hour for this meeting.

• Meeting evaluation report
After your meeting, the team should promptly review what occurred and a written report prepared.  This will be a valuable resource for the solicitation proposal.

• The thank-you letter
A businesslike and positive written follow-up to your meeting is important.  Your thank you letter can remind your prospect of your organization's needs and the prospect corporation's link to it.  The letter can also announce that a formal proposal would be sent in a few weeks. 

• Preparing your written proposal 
Here is where your most persuasive and analytical skills are needed.  The proposal spells out the specific dollar amount or support program and provides the logical link between the non-profit organization and the corporation.

This document will be seen by many other executives other than those you met with in your initial meeting.  For some executives, it will be the only tangible basis upon which a decision can be made.  Therefore, it needs to both compliment and supplement the information previously presented.  It must come to the point immediately and be compact, respecting busy executives' limited time.  Keep it simple, readable and concise. It must be positive, dynamic and results oriented.   Keep in mind that it is only one of many such proposals this corporation may see.  While much of your information can be computer-based boilerplate, be sure to customize each proposal as much as possible.

• Follow-on activity
Among options here, if a prospective donor corporation is slow in responding, is a letter from another volunteer CEO.  When gifts are received, be sure to respond with an enthusiastic letter of thanks.  Put all prospective donors on your newsletter mailing list.

• People glance at things rather than read them well. 
Keep messages simple, use repetition and visual aids.

• People do not pay complete attention.
They hold attention a short time.  When they stop listening  —  change the message.

• People generalize from bits of information.  
It takes little to rationalize an opinion or confirm a prejudice.  People are impressed with short cuts in reasoning like testimonials, examples, and parables.

• People remember categories & formulas.  
H & R Block has 17 reasons, Russians had 5 year plans.

The Bible has 10 commandments.

If we can help you — please contact us
If you have any questions about the material above,  or on any aspect of marketing communication, we welcome an opportunity to speak with you.


FINDERBINDER Bottom Navigation BarContact Us | Home