Getting volunteer help: September 2007 Archives

September 14, 2007

About This Blog

Welcome to Nolo's Fundraising Tips for Busy Nonprofits. This blog will offer lots of ideas for raising money for your nonprofit -- whether you're a staff member, board member, or volunteer -- in a world where no one seems to have enough time to do all they'd like to, even for a good cause.

Ilona BrayThe blog is written by Ilona Bray, a Nolo editor and the author of Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits: Real-World Strategies That Work. Ilona has worked and volunteered for nonprofit organizations in practically every imaginable capacity, from staff attorney to development director to book-sale coordinator to advisory board member.

Among Ilona's most memorable experiences were passing out HIV+ literature in Guatemala, researching U.N programs as a legal intern for Amnesty International in London, and representing (pro bono) disabled, low-income people seeking Social Security benefits in Washington, DC.

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of Nolo, its clients, or its partners. This blog may provide legal information, but not advice. Consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance regarding how the law applies to your situation.

September 13, 2007

Fundraising Classes in College--How Cool Is That?

The leaves are turning, the fashion magazines are gushing about Katie Holmes wearing plaid, and I can't find parking within a mile of the local campus. It must be back-to-school time. And I admit it, I'm jealous. Not just because I'd happily return to school anytime, permanently, but because of all the great classes they get to take. And look, even classes in fundraising!

College scene That's right, students can sign up to take classes with titles like "Grantgetting, Contracting, and Fund Raising;" Introduction to Nonprofit Management;" "Fundraising as Ministry;" and "Fundraising in Museums." And they're on campuses from Columbia to U. Michigan to the Covenant Theological Seminary to San Francisco State.

I don't think we had fundraising classes when I was in college. Or maybe I was too occupied with aesthetic theory and Chinese philosophy to notice. But I hope today's students are taking notice, because a class in fundraising could offer them two of the things they may want most for their future: a practical skill and the power to change the world.

As Lupe Gallegos Diaz, who teaches a course on development at U.C. Berkeley, said in my book, Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits:

"At first, I put 'fundraising' in the course title, but students weren't attracted by this, not realizing that it would prepare them to make real change in their communities. So, I changed the title to 'Leadership and Community Involvement.' Once I get the students in the class, they say things like, 'Wow, we didn't know fundraising was a profession, something you can use.' I try to show them that fundraising can be both a career that utilizes their academic degree and skills, as well as a way of serving their own community."

Does the availability of these courses have any relevance for people already out there working in nonprofits? I think so. For one thing, you can look for new staff who actually have fundraising training and a demonstrated commitment to nonprofit work. For another, if your local colleges and universities offer such courses, you might make yourself available as a classroom speaker (and of course tell students how they can get involved in your nonprofit), or offer your organization up as a placement opportunity for internships.

September 10, 2007

Walking the Talk: Motives for Volunteering

Because I like my job--research, writing, and editing--I thought I might be an exception to the general rule that volunteers are happiest doing work that's different than what they do all day. I was wrong. I tried board membership and other responsible roles, and found that making phone calls or editing donor letters felt too much like work--which turned out to be the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the day.

But now I've found the perfect volunteer gig: dog walking. My office is near a Humane Society, and after a little training, I'm signed up to walk their rescued dogs for two hours a week. I get a break from the workday, the dogs get out of their cages and get a little leash-training, everyone wins. Maybe I win the biggest, because having a dog who was fearful and unhappy look up with grateful eyes and a slobbery smile is better than any therapy.

Is there a lesson here for nonprofits who don't have cute animals, but want to offset their costs with some volunteer help? Maybe it's to keep focused on what's in it for the volunteer. Yes, every volunteer wants to help the organization, but that can feel rather abstract. Call me selfish, but when I head out for my weekly walk, I'm not thinking "I'm off to help the Humane Society," I'm thinking "Will my favorite dogs still be there, or--better yet--will they have gone to a good home?" (It's a no-kill shelter, so I don't have to worry about a third alternative unless they were aggressive or seriously ill.)

Delta the RottweilerAll of which leads me to the first of a regular feature here: The "Moment of Awww" photo, featuring a dog that I walked who's up for adoption. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out Delta and other potential new canine housemates at the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society.