pearl-and-mel-shaw_web.jpgFundraising success depends on volunteer leadership. Last week, we discussed four prerequisites to fundraising success – commitment by the board and executive director, completion of a feasibility study or survey, development of a fundraising plan and a compelling case for support. This week, we focus on leadership-related prerequisites.

1. Top-caliber leadership. Fundraising must be volunteer-driven with strong, experienced leadership. This is critical to your success, as it is the people associated with your organization who will attract others to your work. When evaluating who should lead your fundraising effort, think about those with whom your organization already has a relationship. Consider long-term donors and current major donors. They are already giving to your organization – a sign of interest and commitment.

Those who provide leadership need to be well-respected and known throughout the constituency from which you will be raising money. Each needs to make a significant financial gift to your organization, and be willing to ask others to do the same. They need to attend meetings, be publicly identified with your organization and its fundraising efforts, and be able to concisely and passionately make the case for why your organization deserves funding, and for what purpose the money will be used.

2. Active participation by the fund development committee. As you attract outside volunteers, you need to also engage your current leadership. If your board of directors does not already have a fund development committee, it should establish one with goals and financial objectives.

3. A team of properly trained and informed volunteers. It is volunteers, not staff, who are the best fundraisers. People who are giving their time and money to your organization are the strongest advocates to encourage others to do the same. Recruit volunteers to fill defined roles, and let them know their responsibilities, as well as the time frame of their commitment. Before they begin soliciting, train them on how to encourage involvement and solicit gifts. All volunteers need to be able to talk with authority about the impact your organization makes, and how funds raised will be used. Each volunteer solicitor needs to make his or her own gift before asking others to do so.

4. A strong public relations/communication plan. Create a plan for how to let people know the impact your organization is making. Include every method you can think of, such as op-ed pieces, a newsletter, speaking before faith-based and other organizations. Do everything you can so that when a donor is asked for money, they already know what great work you do.

5. Donor recognition and acknowledgement. You can’t say thank you enough. When a gift is made, it needs to be acknowledged right away. Send a personal letter. Have a board member call the donor. You can never be too busy to thank and acknowledge donors. Include their names in your annual report, mention them when speaking in public, and create a wall where the names of those who support your work are publicly displayed. Encourage all to have a FUNdraising good time.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at or call 901-522-8727.