Nov 10, 2009

Jack of All Trades or Master of One

Getting donors more involved in your non-profit.

Everyone knows a true Renaissance man or woman, a Jack of all trades. These are the folks that are not afraid to tackle any problem. They will jump right in and fix the car instead of taking it to the shop or repair the broken water heater on their own. It is so easy for the executive director of a non-profit to
become the Jack of all trades. The responsibility of overseeing management and fundraising is no small task.  No matter how supportive your donor base, at times it can feel like your hand is constantly out asking for more. This becomes a vicious cycle that leads a director to ask less and to take on more of the work themselves. 

Donors are feeling the pinch in this economy and it is more important today than ever before to rethink your role. The role of an executive director is not to do all of the work but to direct and to connect with key individuals within the community that can help. So, get up, get out of the office, and get folks excited about helping the organization without having to ask for money. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Find that donor who is on every social network and who knows how to update her blog and Facebook account from her mobile phone. Perhaps, she would set up a social network for your organization. Have her create profiles on the internet and spread the message for you. Let this person use her skills to upload the good news of your organization to the world. 

  • Think of the best hosts or hostesses you know. Ask them to get involved with planning your next fundraiser banquet, or even an intimate donor appreciation night. Your guests will leave feeling welcome and your event planners will find joy in the whole process. 

  •  Get the local youth involved. The kids in your community know how to upload videos, pictures, and commentary to the internet. In fact, most of them can probably do the job from their cell phones without looking. Have a key donor give $10 for every YouTube® video posted about your organization and let the youth have fun making silly videos while raising money. 

  •  Do you have an outgoing board member who is a great speaker? Ask him to get on the service club circuit and present the benefits of your organization to the community. Make sure to follow up with a letter to the service clubs requesting support. 
  •  My wife is the official thank you card writer for our favorite non-profit. She has beautiful handwriting and loves to keep top donors feeling appreciated. Next time you get a card from a donor or board member, make sure to ask if they would consider sending a few thank you cards each month for your organization. 
  •  Is anyone you know highly connected to the community? Look for financial professionals, politicians, etc. These are the serial extroverts that can’t go anywhere in the community without saying hello, the ones who aren’t allowed to shop with their spouse because they have to talk to everyone they know. Get these folks to wear your mission on their sleeve. Literally, buy them a golf shirt or a nice ski vest and keep them updated. Give them the latest news and ask them to be intentional about spreading the word. They will see more people in a day than you could see in a week. 

Think about every task you do during the day, especially the ones that leave you feeling exhausted, and ask yourself, “Is there someone that cares about our organization that would have fun doing this?” 

During this difficult economy, supporters might be decreasing their giving but it doesn’t mean they don’t care. Find creative ways to put these folks to work. This isn’t a task to think about just for today. This is your primary role as the leader within your organization.
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