For those of us in the profession who have worked with small, mid-size and large non-profits, we recognize that there are very different cultures within each. The larger and more sophisticated non-profits rely heavily on major gift officers. The pure number of key and valuable prospects require a small army of professionals with their book of prospects that they are constantly meeting with, cultivating and soliciting.
One wonders if this alters the volunteer’s role, and while I clearly see the need for professional solicitation by experienced major gift officers, I believe that their effectiveness could be heightened through the integration of volunteers, i.e. board members, advancement committee participants and others.
As we deal with more moderate or mid-size to small charities, we recognize the heightened importance and responsibility of volunteers and the need to mentor, train, cajole and motivate these individuals to be effective spokespersons for these non-profits.
It’s quite revealing that when we at Ruotolo Associates conduct pre-campaign studies, the individuals we speak with overwhelmingly say they will support the charity through a philanthropic commitment. However, when asked if they will become involved in the campaign as a volunteer, approximately half of those that say they would give, decline the invitation to become involved. When we query this topic further, i.e. introduction, host an event, be present at a solicitation, etc., we learn that the further away they are from the actual ask, the more they like it.
So maybe what is needed is a call to action and individuals that become involved in small community non-profits, houses of worship, or independent and parochial schools understand that what comes with the distinction of the board or committee leadership also requires a willingness to overcome their distaste of asking. Remember that the greater good of the charity will sometimes require embracing and working through the fear of the unknown and recognizing how their efforts can truly make a difference.