Getting volunteer help: October 2007 Archives

October 26, 2007

Moment of Awww: Meet Scooter

ScooterI suppose, for the sake of expediting adoptions, I should put up pictures of the homely dogs with behavioral problems - the ones that truly make you understand the commitment and long-term outlook needed by a no-kill shelter. After all, with all the many dogs out there, it takes a special person to bring home the one who barks at all men and shreds anything plastic.

But I'm going for the cute picture anyway. This week (as part of my regular volunteer gig) I walked Scooter, whose scrappy looks are the kind you want to write a movie script around ("Scooter Saves the Day!" or "Scooter Rescues a Boatload of Orphans From Alien Kidnapping!"). More to the point, he's a one-year old, very affectionate fox terrier.

For more information on Scooter and other dogs available for adoption, contact the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society.

October 25, 2007

Is It Time to Pay Your Volunteers?!

Don't miss this excellent article in The New York Times by Claudia A. Deutsch, "For Love and a Little Money." It discusses the growing trend among retired volunteers to ask for a paycheck -- even if it's only a small one.

This sentence says it all: "Many retirees have learned, to their irritation, that what they give free is discounted as fluff." Meanwhile, one semi-volunteer (who negotiated a largely symbolic salary) is quoted as saying, "An organization and a person are simply more committed to each other when the person is paid."

This makes perfect sense, and reminds me of the discussion that the nonprofit world had several years back about whether to charge fees to clients. Many organizations found that by charging even a small fee, clients were more likely to show up for appointments and to appreciate the services given.

Of course, the article raises the specter that all volunteers will want to be paid. However, I doubt this will be a big problem. The people profiled were long-term volunteers, putting in many hours per week. Your average volunteer just can't, and wouldn't want to, sign up for such a major obligation.

In fact, many organizations have the greatest success at attracting volunteers by offering short, even one-time opportunities to do meaningful work. The unpaid volunteers who sign up for these keep their freedom, and can change their mind (or even flake out and not show up) every once in awhile.

But the article does raise an interesting possibility for nonprofits who've wanted to open up a new staff position, but haven't been able to come up with enough money, or even hours of work, to make it worth hiring someone. This might be the time look for a retired professional who will work for a stipend or a token salary. (Just don't use this as an excuse to shortchange skilled workers.)

For more on how to manage your nonprofit's workforce, volunteer or not, read Starting & Running a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide, by Peri H. Pakroo (Nolo).

October 15, 2007

Proof That Board Members Can Learn to Love Fundraising

Last night, at dinner with my friend Emily, she happened to mention that she was in the midst of scheduling 15 or so meetings with major donors. This isn't part of her regular, day job -- Emily serves on the board of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the meetings were part of its annual major gift campaign. Of course, my ears perked up. She looked so cheerful about her task, in a world where board members who'll so much as say the word "fundraise" are seriously lacking.

My first among a barrage of questions, were, "Did you volunteer for this? Did you know it would be part of your board duties?" Emily told me that every board member was advised -- or warned -- upfront that they'd be asked to fundraise. In fact, she'd been partially dreading it. But, she said, "I decided to suck it up, for the sake of getting involved with a great organization. And during last year's major donor campaign, I think I ended up raising the most of any board member."

This might have been the polite time to let Emily return to her tortilla soup, but by now I was in full "gotta blog this!" mode. So here, roughly paraphrased, are her top three explanations for having transformed from hesitant to happy fundraiser:

1) "We -- the solicitors for the major gift campaign -- get tons of support from the organization. They held a lovely kickoff brunch, where Kate, the E.D. spoke, and got us all revved up. And we were each given a packet of information, with talking points and answers to likely questions - which I always get plenty of. Donors want to know about recent successes, the percentage of money going to fundraising and overhead, and much more." (Emily later showed me the info packet -- a rich yet concise color-tabbed notebook with key information on the campaign's goals and participants, instructions on logistical details (like how to get reimbursed for lunch if the donor doesn't offer to pay), inspirational articles on asking for gifts, and much more.)

2) "The donor receives a letter before we have lunch, saying exactly what amount of money I'll be asking for. Most of them have given before - except my parents, who I added to my list -- so this isn't coming out of the blue. And that takes the pressure off me, since the donors know what I'm aiming at. Only a few have flat out turned us down after receiving the letter."

3) "I realize that, because I'm so excited about the work this organization does, it's easy to talk about it! I don't have to study my talking points before each lunch; I've internalized them. And the donors can't help but respond to this, and feel grateful to have found an organization that's truly making a difference in the world."

For more great tips on how to get your board members excited about their duties as fundraisers, check out my book Effective Fundrasing for Nonprofits: Real-World Strategies That Work (Nolo).

October 12, 2007

Moment of Awww: This Week's Dogs

Here we are with two of my favorite dogs from this week's walk over at the Humane Society. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, see my earlier post, Walking the Talk.)

First we've got Maggie Mae, some sort of pug mix. (One of the unending wonders ofMaggie Mae volunteering at the shelter is the array of dog breeds, and combinations thereof, I get to meet.) I predict a quick adoption for her -- she's small (that seems to increase adoptability ten-fold) and a wriggly sort of cuddler on first meeting. Pretty irresistible.

This whole matter of who gets adopted and when is like an ongoing soap opera. It does restore my faith in humanity somewhat to see that most every dog -- no matter how old, shy (we're talking some who hide in a corner and refuse to take walks outside the building of longer than a half block), medically needy (missing an eye or deaf), or just plain odd looking -- eventually seems to find a human who thinks it's a perfect match.

And now for Fawn, who shouldn't take long to place, either. If it's true what they say about people picking dogs who look like them, I expect Fawn to be chosen by someone who wears a lot of eye liner. But they'll also appreciate her near-perfect leash obedience (I sure did).