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As most of you probably know, there is a lot of data out there regarding volunteers being some of your best donors and donors being some of your best volunteers.

Many non-profits spend a lot of time, energy and money on developing volunteer opportunities.  Besides needing the labor, the thought is that if we can get folks in to volunteer, they will be more apt to also want to give money.  This is all good.

Lately, however, I’m running into many non-profits who have major donors who want to invest not only their money, but also their time.  The problem is, the non-profits are scrambling to figure out what to do with these major donors.

I’m not talking about putting together typical volunteer opportunities like helping serve in a soup kitchen or hosting an event (which, by the way, are both great things).  I’m talking about substantial opportunities that use specific business, finance, marketing and consulting skills to help the non-profit.

This is something YOU need to figure out quickly, as more and more major donors are asking to get their hands dirty with your organization.  Those that don’t figure this out will be left behind and ultimately underfunded.

Recently an MGO came to me with a “problem”.  One of his donors asked him if their organization could use her human relations background (SVP of HR in a Fortune 500 company) to do an audit of their entire evaluation system for their employees.

Great idea, huh?

Well, not for the “powers that be.”  They told the MGO that it would take too much of THEIR time, that they were TOO BUSY and to find something else for the donor to do.

I got a big knot in my stomach when I heard this.

This donor is one of the top 5 donors of the organization and has been involved for many years.  Here you have someone who clearly wants to deepen her engagement with her favorite non-profit and they were shooing her away because they didn’t need her services.

I’m thinking…”Look, it’s not like this donor is asking you to do something that is outside your mission.  Why wouldn’t you work with the donor to figure this out?”

Obviously, this non-profit was lacking a culture of philanthropy that looked at donors as integral to the mission of the organization.  This means proactively creating and being OPEN to volunteer opportunities for major donors.

Richard and I share the philosophy that if a major donor wants to involve him or herself in some way that fits within the scope of your mission, you should do everything in your power to make it happen.  We are NOT saying you should do anything a donor wants, but you should be open to allowing him to further engage beyond financially supporting you.

But, better yet, why don’t you get proactive about this?  Here is what I mean.  The leadership and major gift team really should get together and brainstorm volunteer opportunities that match your donor’s skill and expertise with areas in which you need help.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Facilitate a board retreat
  2. Create a high-powered committee to tackle a perplexing issue that has a definite timetable.
  3. Review and audit your financial systems
  4. Create a marketing task force
  5. Create volunteer major gift officers
  6. Become a leadership coach
  7. Create a mentorship program for your managers
  8. Audit your current business model
  9. Review your IT department and make recommendations for future IT needs.
  10. Create classes on leadership, management, finance and customer service.

I think you get the idea.  The point is to create meaningful volunteer opportunities for major donors so they know they are having an impact on your organization.  Throwing a donor onto a board or committee will not do it.  I’ve seen too many good donors put on do-nothing boards.  They get frustrated and, what’s worse, stop giving.

No, it’s got to be something of substance.  And you want to create these opportunities because they will be something of great value to your organization.

The time is NOW to start engaging your major donors in ways beyond financial gifts.  But they have to be meaningful and they have to create an impact.  When this happens, you will be providing tremendous value to your organization.

Jeff

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