Engaging Volunteer Leadership in the Major Gifts Process

David A. Mersky image

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 4

Last November, I published a piece on Leadership Roles in the Development Function. This month, I want to focus best practices around leadership engagement—both volunteer and staff—in the major gifts process.

The key to successful volunteer leadership engagement is exquisite staff support upon which the volunteer can rely.  To provide that kind of support requires a detailed plan for every aspect of the development program—from prospect identification through stewardship—as well as a whole-hearted commitment to execute the plan with a pervasive sense of optimism and a consistent cadence of accountability.

As I wrote six months ago, the staff:

  1. provides information about the prospect for the volunteer assigned;
  2. develops proposals and all manner of written communications;
  3. creates first draft of solicitation letters;
  4. coordinates mailing;
  5. schedules solicitation rehearsals;
  6. gathers information about programs and tax advantages for each solicitation call;
  7. follows up on all solicitation calls to obtain contact reports; and
  8. organizes regular report meetings

In an organization, even one that is well-staffed, the task of engaging the volunteer leaders in the major gifts process is the responsibility of the board chair and the leadership of the development committee.  The engagement process is not unlike a solicitation.  But, you are not only asking for a gift of financial resource you are also seeking the commitments of time and talent.  And, just as you prepare for a face-to-face solicitation,, so do you lay the groundwork for a call to recruit someone to undertake a role in the development process.

Part of the preparation for the recruitment call is to know what it is you expect of the development volunteer.  Every new volunteer should be prepared to

  1. learn—and become fluent in—the mission, goals and programs of the organization;
  2. identify prospects for major gifts;
  3. gather and provide information about prospects;
  4. edit and sign solicitation letters;
  5. practice solicitation calls with team members;
  6. call to make face-to-face appointments;
  7. solicit gifts on behalf of the organization;
  8. ask for the gift in a solicitation meeting;
  9. submit contact reports of face-to-face encounters; and
  10. participate faithfully in regular report meetings.

If the staff members understand their roles and the board or development committee chair prepare and conduct effective recruitment meetings, then your organization will be blessed by an outstanding team who do what they say they are going to do in securing the philanthropic resources essential to fulfilling your organization’s mission, vision and values.  With preparation, diligence, and accountability, anything is within your reach.

NEXT MONTH: Listening – The Lost Art