Building a successful major gifts program takes time, commitment and connections. Many nonprofits engage a major gifts committee during a capital campaign. But why not help ensure your organization’s success by recruiting help from major gifts volunteers outside of campaign time?
Here are 4 tips for putting together a “dream team” of volunteers for your ongoing major gifts work.
1. Identify and recruit the right people
The right people for your Major Gifts Committee share three qualifications or conditions:
- They are passionate about the work and mission of your organization and are willing to advocate on its behalf
- They are well-connected influencers in your community
- They have both the willingness and capacity to make a major-gift contribution to your organization.
To assemble this group of influencers, start by identifying a potential chair (or two co-chairs) for your committee and ask these folks to join first. The chair then recruits the other committee members. As you may know, the best way to get a new volunteer is to have a current volunteer invite him or her to join the cause!
Be sure to consider existing super-star volunteers and Board members who already know and love your organization and are supporting it at a high level.
2. Be clear about what you are asking
Managing expectations is half the battle. Be clear up front about what you are asking your committee to do. Taking a broad view, your committee will support your organization’s major gifts work by cultivating current donors to bump their support to higher levels. They will also introduce new prospects to your organization.
As your committee members will be asking others to support your organization financially, they need to have made a high-level donation or pledge themselves. Not everyone on the committee is required to ask directly but you need at least a handful who are willing and able to perform this critical task.
Draft a major gifts committee “job description” that includes general responsibilities and specific expectations. Share this document with prospective committee members during recruitment so there are no surprises down the road.
3. Support your committee!
Successful volunteers are happy volunteers. It’s your job, as a fundraising staff person, to support your volunteers and help them to shine.
For example, staff generally are responsible for tracking major gift donations, maintaining the prospect list, supporting the committee chair in preparing meeting agendas and materials, preparing Case for Support documents and written proposals, drafting thank-you letters, and other “behind-the-scenes” tasks.
You also can help your volunteers become comfortable talking about your organization and its impact. Just as you coach your board members on how to advocate for your organization in the community, you can do the same with your major gifts volunteers.
4. Recognize volunteer efforts
We all like to be recognized for a job well done and your volunteers are no different. To encourage their ongoing support, be sure to recognize and appreciate these key individuals for their time, energy, good ideas and connections. Volunteer recognition is not unlike donor recognition and might include:
- Listing volunteers on your organizational website, newsletter, and/or via social media
- Running a feature story on outstanding volunteer efforts on your website, in your newsletter and/or via social media
- Having your CEO, board chair or other VIP send a personalized thank-you note to key volunteers
- Engaging a client, student or other mission-impacted constituent to send handwritten thank-you notes
- Sending a thank-you gift to a volunteer’s home or office following a big “win”
A parting thought…
Would your volunteers feel more motivated, empowered and appreciated if their committee had a name that was more energetic and donor-centered than “Major Gifts Committee?” How about Major Gift Super Stars, The Awesome Committee, the Major Gifts A-Team or another out-of-the-ordinary name?
Be creative and have fun brainstorming a name that works for your organization!
What are your ideas for engaging a major gifts dream team? Please share them in the Comments box below.
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