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How to get the best from your volunteer work force

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Guest lecturer Bruce Raymond made a case for the care and feeding of volunteers while speaking at a recent NSFRE luncheon. Addressing volunteer burnout (how to detect it and what to do about it), he offered professional fundraisers and volunteer chairs the following tips:

  • Assign someone, either staff or volunteer, whose sole responsibility is making certain that volunteers are properly and quickly thanked when the campaign is over, or on a regular basis (no less frequently than once per quarter).
  • Make volunteers believe that your campaign is their campaign.
  • Take enough time with volunteers to ensure that they know, in some detail, the use to which the money they raise will be put.
  • Involve volunteers as much as possible in setting their own fundraising targets.
  • Avoid comparing volunteers or teams of volunteers with each other. Compare the results of volunteer effort against targets, not other volunteers.
  • Be available, or see that someone is available, to give immediate attention to volunteer queries during a campaign.
  • Assign volunteers to work in areas in which they will look good.
  • Avoid lengthy meetings. Ensure that meetings at the end of a day be set to last no more than three hours.
  • Don't let your staff become involved in the politics of volunteer groups or individuals.
  • Let criticism of volunteers be doled out by volunteers, never by paid staff.

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