7 Ways to be a Better Volunteer Fundraiser

Volunteering for an organization you believe in can be fun and rewarding. Occasionally, you may find yourself in a situation as a volunteer where it’s appropriate to ask a potential donor for a gift, which is no easy task. Here are seven tips for the budding volunteer fundraiser:

Volunteer1) Ask another volunteer fundraiser from the organization to solicit money from you — We tend to feel uncomfortable when we ask people for money. That discomfort can make us less effective fundraisers. Having someone ask you for money before you ask others can break down this psychological barrier — you’re only subjecting people to something that you have willingly subjected yourself to already.

2) Request training — If the organization doesn’t have a formal training program for fundraisers, ask if it can arrange a sit-down for you with one of its experienced fundraisers. Also, ask to join this experienced fundraiser on a few of his/her visits to potential donors. Watching a successful fundraiser at this work is wonderful training.

3) Take advantage of ‘What have you been up to?‘ — When we bump into an acquaintance, he/she often asks what we’ve been doing with ourselves lately. That’s a wonderful opportunity to say that you’ve been volunteering with the nonprofit. If this person seems interested, suggest a time to meet. At the meeting, you might test the waters to see if he/she is interested in supporting the program with a donation.

4) Team up with another volunteer — Two fundraisers working together typically are more successful than one working alone. When a request for a donation comes from more than one person, potential donors tend to feel as though their community is asking them for money. Most people have a desire to feel connected with their communities.

5) Tailor your pitch — Discuss the organizations’s recent achievements with potential donors. As you do this, search for clues about the particular projects that interest this person. Did she ask questions about the town park beautification project? Did he perk up when you mentioned the future business leaders club your nonprofit sponsors for at-risk kids? Voice your own positive feelings about this particular project to build common ground. If the potential donor has given money to the organization in the past, thank him and say that his gift helped make this project possible. Now transition from what the organization has already accomplished to what it hopes to accomplish in the near future. Focus on projects similar to those that seemed to be of interest to this potential donor.

6) Mention a specific level of support that could be given — Potential donors often aren’t sure how much to give. Because people tend to respond to financial uncertainty with either caution or inaction, not being sure how much to give increases the odds that they will give either a very modest amount or nothing at all. The nonprofit should be able to provide guidance about the size of the donations that you could suggest. If you’re meeting with a potential donor who has given before, consider asking for a significantly larger amount than he has provided in the past. Explain that this larger gift will help fund the projects you discussed. Even if you don’t get the full amount you request, you’ll often get more than the donor previously gave.

7) Ask local business owners and professional service providers for donations — These people have a strong interest in aligning their names with doing good in the community. It makes them appear honest and well-meaning to potential customers.”

What approach do you take when it comes to fundraising for an organization you volunteer for but don’t work for directly? Let us know in the comments below!

Jonathan Spinner
Dr. Jonathan H. Spinner has been involved in the not-for-profit world for 31 years in executive and fundraising positions with small agencies and national and international organizations. To find out how Real Fundraising can help you, call (860-674-9528) or email jspinner@real-fundraising.com.
Jonathan Spinner

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By |2017-06-10T19:47:55-04:00December 20th, 2013|Volunteer Engagement|


  1. Herb December 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    Asking for donations is often the most important activity a new Board member might do for a small not-for-profit. Soliciting donations in a word is “selling”. If you have not had sales training in your career, read one of the many excellent available books and follow the steps. Your product is the service provided by your organization. The price is what ever you decide to go after.

    Sometimes you have to discount the price a little to make a sale…sometimes you should urge the customer to “try” the product before buying ( known as the “puppy dog” sale. Sometimes you just need to ask and wait and wait and wait for a reply ( first one to speak” loses”). Sales techniques will give you confidence and a slight edge. MOSTLY, get to really know the organization so that your natural enthusiasm shows the you’ve already bought in. Your prospect is buying YOU. If you are excited and trustworthy he(she) will buy the product or service you are selling.

  2. Jenny Baker December 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Voluntary fundraising is strongest when it has staff back up and guidance, so the volunteer asks for what the organisation needs and wants. The staff need to do their background preparation, and as the volunteer it is good to incorporate your advice and guidance into the staff member’s plan. In this way the volunteer ask takes the benefitting organisation on the right journey not the wrong journey.

    I am both a volunteer Board member and a paid staff member who has been fortunate to have received world class fundraising training at one of my staff jobs. I also gained excellent experience working with a highly experienced volunteer Board member who remained effective due to the staff backup and advance preparation.

    I have seen fundraising go badly wrong when volunteers ask for donations at the time they are not briefed adequately and the donation they secure is way smaller than it could have potentially been if they had stuck to the staff plan and brief.

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