The Importance of Volunteers in a Capital Campaign

The right campaign cabinet is one of the most important indicators of whether your capital campaign will be successful or not. Involving key community leaders in your project can make all the difference in the world. Your board and staff alone should not try to run a campaign without support of key community leaders. If they do, they miss out on a lot of talent, connections, and money these community leaders can provide to your campaign.

Before recruiting people to serve on the campaign cabinet, your campaign steering committee should review a list of potential donors and try to get those with the greatest potential to give to also become involved in the campaign.  A list of corporate and individual donors will be developed through the planning study process and this can serve as the basis for recruiting campaign leadership. It will be vital to include key community leaders in the planning study process. It is much easier to invite these leaders to serve in a campaign capacity if they’ve been included in the planning process.

Volunteers will also be able to expand the scope of your prospect base and will be far more effective at soliciting their peers than anyone within the organization can be on their own. They may, in fact, be the only ones who can open doors to major donors.

What will the volunteers do? You may need hundreds of volunteers to run a capital campaign. Starting with the campaign leadership, it will be important to find the right person to do the right job. Some volunteers will be needed for planning campaign and events and coordinating campaign publicity, but the majority of campaign volunteers will be involved in the important tasks of identifying, cultivating, and soliciting, and stewarding donors. It is critical to have an organization chart and position description for every volunteer job within the campaign.

How do you find volunteers? The planning study report is the first place to look for potential volunteers. Also, ask your board members, other volunteers, and staff for their suggestions about people who can help. And of course, most campaign volunteers will be inviting other volunteers to join their committee or somehow get involved.

Volunteer recruitment will need to be handled with extreme care. Often, organizations want to jump the gun and start recruiting campaign leadership before they have a clear idea of the expectations for these volunteers. It will be vital to have a campaign plan in place that includes, among other things, position descriptions for all volunteer roles and timelines for each committee.

Trying to fit volunteers into roles after they are recruited is like hiring a staff person and then deciding what the organization wants the person to do.  The volunteer recruitment process must be handled just as carefully as one would handle hiring a staff person, with due diligence and thoughtfulness of the best role for this volunteer.

The campaign plan is the foundation for a successful campaign and will help you get things off to a good start. The plan should include a brief overview of the process taken by your organization that led to the campaign.  A key ingredient of the plan is the campaign organizational chart showing all the various divisions of the campaign and the number of committee people that will be needed to staff all the divisions. Position descriptions for all volunteers should also be included in the plan along with a timeline for each committee and an overall time schedule. Volunteers should not be recruited until the plan is completed. It will be critical to show your volunteers that a well thought out plan, including expectations of volunteers has been developed so they understand their role and the time and monetary expectations that will be asked of volunteers. The principle groups of volunteers that will be involved are members of the campaign cabinet, which includes chairs of all the various committees that will be involved in the campaign. I’ll write more about the categories of volunteers in a future post.

To order the book Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED To Know:

Do You Have a Book "In You?"

I think most of us have dreamed about writing the "Great American Novel" but few of us actually ever live the dream. Take it from someone who has written a novel, it is not easy to get fiction published. However, there is big demand for nonfiction work in the nonprofit field. So how do you find time to write? Is it worth it? How do you get started? Here are a few tips I’ve gathered as the author of numerous published nonfiction books (and one novel).

Know Your Reasons for Wanting to Write a Book

If you’re planning to get rich as a published author, nonfiction is probably not the route you want to take. Although I said there is market for nonprofit books, the market is limited. You will not sell millions of books. Despite the fact that my thirteen-year-old great grandson, when he saw my website, said, "Mom-Mom must be a millionaire," nonfiction does not sell like a Dan Brown novel! Royalties will very rarely sustain anyone at an income that is sufficient to support themselves or a family.

If you are writing for the personal satisfaction of getting your insight published, you might be a little closer but still not quite there. Does the reading public really care about your insight? Now, if you want to help contribute to the body for knowledge in our field, or if you want to become "famous" among your nonprofit peers, or increase your opportunities for business, you will probably find writing a book a very rewarding experience. I have found that, although writing is not a huge source of direct income, it has helped me in establishing myself as an expert in the field and I’ve even developed my own "fan club" of people who will come to hear me speak or attend a webinar I am doing because they’ve read my books. I have also found that speaking income and additional consulting opportunities have been a profitable indirect source of income as a result of my writing. And for me, just knowing that people in the profession have benefited from my knowledge and changed the way they approach their work because of my writing is a huge personal reward.

Know Your Subject

Write about what you know best. Perhaps you have a new slant on a tried and true fundraising method. Maybe you have been an executive director for a long time and have developed a niche for yourself in board/staff relationships. Or, you might be on the cutting edge of a new technology of interest to the nonprofit sector. Narrow down your subject to something that is different, an area in which there are few if any other books covering this topic. Come up with a catchy title and develop an outline for your book. If you are not as clever at coming up with titles, brainstorm among some of our colleagues and test out several possible titles with them. Be aware, however, that the publisher might change the final title, but you will need a "working title" to start with and a catchy title might help "sell" the concept to a publisher.

Find a Publisher

There are several publishers that are prominent in the field of nonprofit work. You should investigate the pros and cons of working with one of the "publishing giants" or selecting a smaller publisher. Each has its own advantages. The large publisher might (or might not) provide strong marketing support for your book; ask them about this. Larger publishers will also generally provide expert editors to help you with the content of your book. On the downside, a larger publisher might be more impersonal and you might not get the attention you need if you’re just starting out. Your book idea might not even make it past the first cut.

Smaller publishers on the other hand will often provide you more direct and personal contact with your editor. The smaller publishers, however, might be more selective in the number of titles they can publish in a year and might not have strong marketing support, although this is not necessarily always the case. Often a small company has a big presence in the market already and can be aggressive at marketing your book.

Then there is always the route of self publishing, which can be costly. Most people cannot adequately market their own self-published books as well as a publishing house can do. Be very leery of "Vanity Press" publishers who might charge enormous sums of money to publish your book and provide little or nothing in the way of editing and marketing.

Be sure you have a written contract from the publisher that outlines the percentage of your royalties, the expected length of the book, the format in which you need to deliver the manuscript, the deadlines for manuscript delivery and other pertinent information. If you don't feel comfortable accepting a contract on your own, you might wish to review it with your attorney before signing it.

Okay, You’re Ready to Write

Once you have a signed contact, you're ready to get started. Be sure you know what approach you will be taking: Is this a book that is heavy on research, or does the publisher want a more down to earth informal style? What style manual does the publisher require you to use? It will probably be worth the investment in a style manual which will save a lot of time later on editing. Be aware of your common mistakes. I know, for example I have certain typos I make on a regular basis like typing the word "form" instead of "from." What grammar errors do you find creeping into your writing style? I know I have a devil of a time using "may" when I should use "might." Using, "they and their" when referring to single person or entity is also a common error for many people. Many writers stumble with things such as using the word "over" when they mean to say "more than." Be aware of things like gender issues.

Finding time to write when you’re holding down a full-time job is not as easy as it seems. Some people plan to write a page or two a day and can structure their life around this format. Others, like me, are better at writing when they feel inspired and can often bang out a whole chapter in a day. Know your style and pace yourself so you can meet the deadlines required in your contract. Most publishers will allow for extensions but you need to know that the publisher has deadlines to meet and might have already promoted your book in an upcoming catalogue.

How You Can Help the Publisher Promote Your Book

Most publishers will require you to submit ideas on how you can help with marketing your book. Will you promote it on your website? Have you already worked on speaking engagements to promote the book? Are you willing to do books signings? Do you blog? Are you active on social media? Would you be available to appear on TV or radio shows? Do you know schools and universities that might want to use your book as a textbook? Come up with a marketing plan of your own and the publisher will most likely support your efforts.

So, Are You Ready to Publish?

If you feel you have a book in you, get the concept down on paper. Investigate the competition: What other books cover this topic? What makes your book unique? The publisher will ask you these questions so be prepared to answer them in your initial proposal. Find the right publisher for your books and start writing!

Contact me atLinda@ForTheGENIUS if you're interested in writijng a GENIUS book or if you're interested in writing a book for nonprofits.

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

I can’t resist quoting my all-time hero, in light of his recent passing.  I’ve been an Ali fan since he won Olympic Gold so long ago. I’ve have been even more impressed by his fight against Parkinson’s’ since my husband also has PD. Saturday morning when I went to visit Marty, I shared photos and videos and we both cried at this great loss to the world.

But, what does this have to do with nonprofits?

We can learn from the words I think we’ll all remember him for. Nonprofits need to combine the science (being as precise as a bee-sting) and the art (floating like a butterfly). For years we’ve heard fundraising is an art and a science but have we really practiced that?

The Art of Fundraising

We need to understand our organization’s mission, feel as passionate about it as Ali felt about everything he did, in the ring and out of the ring.

We need to stand up for what we believe in, even if it isn’t always popular. If we want to be successful with donors we need to understand that they believe in and make sure their values match our organization’s values. We can’t be afraid to declare our values and never compromise them.

If you don’t feel that passion and can’t defend your organization’s values, please find another organization that lights a fire in your belly.

The Science of Fundraising

As much as Ali was known for his famous dancing in the ring and his colorful, passionate personality, he would have been “The Champ,” the “King of the World” if he didn’t’ have the scientific precision to get the job done.

In fundraising, we need to know the science too; the tried and true smart practices need to be blended with the innovative and new sciences to produce the best results.

We need to know how to use metrics to measure success.  “You have to be able to measure it in order to manage it.”

We need to stop wasting our time on unproductive methods and on unfounded strategies.  Spending you time chasing donors/funders whose values to not match your, who are not qualified to be donors, or who have too many danger signs to make it worth your while to get a gift from them, is the downfall of many fundraisers.

So, take a lesson from the Greatest Of All Time, and learn to fundraise like a butterfly and manage your fundraising with the precision of a bee.