Help your volunteer group to succeed

Volunteer groups, especially membership or organized volunteer groups within non-profit organizations often face a critical do or die decision while struggling with some of these issues:

• Dwindling membership – Does this mean we have outlived our usefulness?
• Reduced fundraising revenues – Will this be a downward spiral?
• Aging members – How do we attract new members and create a way for aging members to remain gracefully?
• Programs – Why are our programs attracting less interest and participants?
Work now performed by paid staff– Are we not be trusted to do this fulfill this role?

How can you turn an organization around that faces these struggles? I believe you must first go to the core where the energy first flowed.

I believe you must first go to the core where the energy first flowed.

Most non-profits could not exist without the involvement of volunteers.
The organization’s strength and credibility come from increasing and retaining volunteers and their role as advocates for the organization. Frequently groups believe they have no other recourse than to call it quits.

Here is a way to overcome this problem:
Start by gathering the group to answer the question:

Why did you join the organization in the first place?

Let everyone give their reason or explanation, list them on a chart for all to see. This discussion will energize the group.

Then remind people what volunteers bring to an organization

Credibility. Volunteers have a credibility that paid staff or consultants could never have. Volunteers can freely talk about the group and promote it with others. Volunteer stories are more believable to outsiders. Volunteer involvement demonstrates that the organization is worthy of support. (An engaged volunteer group is a good barometer of the health of an organization.)
It’s a personal choice. Volunteering is not a job; rather it is a personal decision, one that includes a healthy dose of self-interest and desire to help an organization succeed.
Public Relations/Ambassadors. The organization will always need to engage a wider group of supporters the involvement of volunteers essential. Volunteers have the potential to stimulate substantial support of programs and activities in the community.
Leadership. Volunteers lead the way. Volunteers create new services and programs and address unmet needs. They back off when it is successful enough to require full-time help. Volunteers were the first source of labour in the organization and created many of the paid positions.

To overcome these struggles, make plans to address the recruitment and retention of new members. Also, learn the hundreds of ways the group can be energized through fundraising. That’s in the next blog.

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What is art?

Art in all its forms is both an intimate and accessible tool
We can be the judge, the appreciator or sometimes fool
Visual, music, vocal, literature and dance transformations
Forces minds to sharpen and changes attitudes of nations

Art transforms longing souls and contemplative faces
Enlivens hearts and transports you to other places
It washes over your mind, body and soul as an illusion
And provokes heated debate and the need for conclusion

Artists create, they do not kill with their technique
Each masterpiece adds spirit and gives thrills unique
Necessary for civilized life, creativity, and magnificence
Art deserves more financial support to maintain its significance

what is artWhat is art? If you are an arts organization and are struggling to raise funds. These elements are crucial in your fundraising.

Examine your board of directors
Are they the most qualified members of your community interested in your work? Do they believe you should have an adequate budget to achieve your goals? Are they willing to learn more about the role of the board in fundraising to help further the goals of your organization? Do they understand there are hundreds of ways they can move the organizations’ fundraising initiatives forward? Are they able to commit their most generous donation to your organization?

Staff resources
Do you have enough people to carry out the work of your organization? Have you involved volunteers beyond board volunteers in conducting the mandate? Is your key staff leader paid sufficiently to stay involved long enough to make a difference or is it a stop gap measure?

Communication withe donors
How often do you communicate with your donors? Do you know all the potential supporters of your organization? When was the last time when you asked for money? Do you have a cultivation plan for new or prospective supporters? A stewardship plan for those that support you? How many ways have you communicated with your key donors? What have been your key messages to date?

Your mission and values
Does every member of the board of directors understand your mission? What are your organization’s values? Is it a passionate mission? Does it excite you? Does it sound like it was carved by someone who does not have the passion of your best supporter? What is your most emotive mission?

Board Development Committee
Oh, you don’t have one? Create one. You can start small but recruit board members who want to help with fundraising and non-board volunteers who are interested. Set out terms of reference, an organizational chart and expectations. Create subcommittees such as Events, Planned Giving, Endowment, Major Gifts, Annual Appeal, Sponsorships, etc.

Organizational Case for Support
Writing the Case for Support is where we lose most people as fundraiser’s/consultants. Most people do not know how to tell their story – WHY someone should support them. They get caught up in talking about themselves – as if – they have to sell the organization. You do not need to do that as a priority. Donors/Supporters want to know how you will keep their interest and how you have been meeting their needs. Best not to use “I” in your communications but rather speak in the third person – in the voice of your “best donor”. The case for support is the main document with all your arguments for everything you do. It’s a background paper. You pull information from it for your fundraising initiatives. It will be your best investment of time, staff and volunteers.

My best advice comes from NIKE© – Just do it!

There are many more elements you should be doing such as regular strategic planning and revisiting it several times during the year rather than annually. I hope you get my points. If you need any help with this – I am available.

Until the next blog,

Pam Simmons
[email protected]

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