Fundraising Ditches: How to Spot Them, How to Avoid Them.

Katrina VanHussI recently watched one of my volunteer committees for a peer-to-peer fundraising event careen into a ditch. Here’s how:

1. They recruited a set of brilliantly talented and committed volunteers.
2. They then let the volunteers do what they are personally GOOD at vs. what the fundraising effort needed.

As staff, you want these exceptional volunteers to be empowered and autonomous or you’ll end up micro-managing them. But, we also don’t need them to send our fundraising gravy train down a new, unplanned set of tracks.

Here’s what I mean. It’s just plain human nature to pick the jobs that we can accomplish easily, those we are good at. Sometimes, what we want to do because we’re good at it and what the organization NEEDS just don’t match.

Example: Exceptional marketing person wants to change the event logo. Why? It could be better. Sure, it could. Will changing it raise more money? Likely, and almost assuredly, not. In this case, it’s a peer-to-peer fundraising event. We raise money when we convince people to ask other people for money. But our exceptionally talented marketing person is now redesigning the logo… which impacts every piece of collateral we have, every brand asset, and most importantly, gets other volunteers focused on something other than raising money.

Is there ever a time to change the logo? Of course… when there is a reason more compelling than “we have a great person to do it.” Think about it. Just because you have a great car jack doesn’t mean you need to change your tire.

Party planning is another easy way for volunteers to inadvertently steer your focus into the mud. Why do people gravitate to planning the party? Because it’s a skill they have, and the job is clear. Does the event need to be planned? Sure. Does it need to completely distract the volunteer from fundraising? No. Does it completely distract them? Very often.

So, my dear nonprofit leadership comrades, how do you keep your volunteer’s eyes on the road?
Have a strong vision and articulate it clearly and frequently. Good luck!

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