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Volunteers play a key role in the life of nonprofits. They serve as board members, provide services and advocacy, and they donate their professional services. In the area of fundraising, the important role of volunteers cannot be over stated. Fundraising volunteers provide leadership and strategy. They open doors that can lead to meaningful funding or resources. They give gifts of their own and they cultivate and solicit others to do the same.

This is the model that is at the heart of thriving and successful nonprofits.

At the same time there are many nonprofits with volunteers who don’t “step up” at the expected level. There are many reasons for this, all of which can result in less than optimal funding – and relationships – for nonprofits.

In this blog post we identify characteristics of volunteers who – in general terms – are not performing up to expectations.

Whether you are a board member, staff or volunteer at a nonprofit you may have noticed some of the following “challenges” playing out within your organization.

  • Fundraising leaders ask to serve “in name only” and are not joined at the hip with CEO and fundraising staff.
  • They fail to make a leadership level gift to the campaign and do not provide motivation and encouragement to fellow fundraising leaders and volunteers.
  • When you talk with these leaders you notice that they lack passion and enthusiasm.
  • Or, conversely, they are very enthusiastic when speaking, but fail to follow through on their commitments.
  • Some are unable to clearly make the case for the organization and the campaign, even though they are asked to do so in public.
  • They may lack vision or be unable to provide resources that can advance an organization’s fundraising.

Bottom line: they don’t live up to expectations.

If the fundraising leadership within your organization displays more than a few of these characteristics, don’t be alarmed. These issues are found in large established institutions as well as grassroots organizations. And, they can be addressed. The first step in the process is awareness of the problem. Without awareness conflict can emerge between fundraising leaders, the board, executive director and development staff. Finger pointing begins with each party “blaming” the other. Each states that they want the organization to be successful, that they want to be involved with fundraising, but, they can’t do what they know they should do because other parties aren’t fulfilling their responsibilities. This is the beginning of the blame game which can go on for months and years. But it doesn’t have to.

Understanding what is going on – and why – can help your organization move towards new results. It will take work, but it also takes work to focus on a goal you know won’t be fulfilled.

Part two of this blog will share some causes behind these symptoms and offer suggestions for how these can be overcome. Finally, in part three we will talk about the important role a volunteer coordinator or director can play and how to find the right person to fill this position.

Copyright 2018 – Mel Shaw and Pearl Shaw, CFRE

Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on For help growing your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

Images courtesy of

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