Five distinct types of fundraising volunteers

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Fundraising becomes easier when a nonprofit group has the right array of volunteers. What are the right types? Twenty years of experience have led me to cluster them into five unique styles.

1. The Decision-Makers

When decision-makers are good, they can ask the vital questions and make brilliant decisions even when all the information is not available (and it almost never is). They create clear policy, workable strategy, and rational plans. When they're bad, the meetings last forever and the group never acts.

Ask your team to admit if they know they are bad decision-makers. Get those people out of decision-making roles - fast! (They'll probably thank you for it) Ask which are good decision-makers. Anyone who does not reply that they are good or bad, are bad -- so bad they can't even decide.

Boards should be made up primarily of decision-makers. Every working group or task force needs at least one. If you have to recruit decision-makers, look among people who are successful in running businesses, nonprofit groups or government teams. Look for people who have taken decision-making courses, or are trained in disciplined fields such as architecture, engineering, medicine, and so on.

2. The Power Brokers

Those high-powered, well-connected people have clout. They make a few important contacts with major donors -- or at a minimum they lend their names. They open doors, impress donors with their credibility, and collect favours. Use them only for maximum impact.

They don't have to be on your board, although it may impress donors more if they are. In many cases they don't want to be on the management board and attend all those boring meetings.

Many groups find it useful to create a special group for them, often called the "Friends of ... " or "The Business Council for ... " This is not to be confused with the "Advisory Council," which is for people with expertise in your work, such as scientists, artists, clients, health care providers and so on.

Power brokers can be a huge help in getting donations from corporations, foundations, government and major individual donors. When a power broker is the guest of honour at a special event, it can attract people to buy tickets. When the right person signs a direct mail letter, more people open the outside envelope, read the letter, and send money.

3. The Expert Advisors

People who look at fundraising and say, "Been there, done that," are a huge help -- especially when you're trying out a new form of fundraising.

These experienced volunteers can share their expertise to help you avoid reinventing the wheel. These advisors help out in publicity and media, accounting and financial management, law, fundraising, and staging events. They may not want to do the nitty-gritty work. Their job is to keep you pointed in the right direction, warn you of pitfalls, and help solve problems.

Find them in other nonprofits, where they have worked as staff or volunteers on similar kinds of fundraising. Recruit them from faculty who teach public relations, advertising, fundraising or whatever expertise you need.

4. The Managers & Organizers

"Clones" is the affectionate term I use for these people, for all the times you work late muttering "the only way I'll get through this work is if I were twins." These are people you trust almost as much as yourself. They make intelligent decisions. You know they are intelligent choices, because they make the same decision you would have made, if you'd had time to really think about it.

They get the job done quickly, without reminders. They come back with new ideas. Give them the freedom to act, not rules to follow. They are rare and valuable. Recruit them by looking for incredibly organized people.

5. The Workers

"Drones" is the word often used to describe them -- and it fits. Bees can't make honey without a hive full of drones, and only one queen bee.

This is not a term of disrespect. Highly intelligent, competent people go through "drone-mode" at some point in their lives. Some may be great in one of the other categories in their day-job, but become drones when they put on the volunteer hat. Everyone occasionally wants the freedom from decision-making that comes with being a worker.

To manage drones, you must recognize that they are task-oriented. Ask them to do something and they will. Usually. If the directions are clear. With a reminder. Or three. And when they finish, they stop and wait to be told what to do next. Some are great envelope stuffers. Others can assume major responsibility for a precisely defined campaign, with a good instruction manual.

Don't wait for them to approach you. They won't. But if you fail to ask them to help, they may be insulted.

Your task is to determine which of the above five categories best fits your volunteers and potential volunteers. You may well have people assigned to the wrong role - in which case it should be no surprise if they are not doing a great job.

People's roles may change over time. Allow them to change categories as they need to. Don't assume people in one category can take on the other roles, unless they are good at them. Expecting too much of people leads to burn-outs.

However, recognize that people may fit the different roles at different times. My friend Jack is an expert on computers, but don't ask him to do data-entry work. Jack is also willing to do the grunt-work at special events, but don't ask him to manage one. And when we needed a donation from a church, it turned out Jack was a power broker who knew the right people.

When you have the right people in the right roles, fundraising is much easier.

Ken Wyman is president of Ken Wyman & Associates Inc, a Toronto-based international training and consulting firm. For more information, call (416) 362-2926, or eMail kenwyman@compuserve. com.

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