Do Volunteers Know What Their Role Is In Fundraising?
Penelope Burk

April, 2010

I am convinced they do not.

I am also convinced that this is not deliberate avoidance of responsibility but genuine confusion over who is best positioned to do what.

This is the second of a two-part blog on the discrete fundraising responsibilities of professional staff and leadership volunteers.  Previously I reported findings that showed fundraisers believed they, not their leadership volunteers, were responsible for almost every fundraising task. However, they also strongly suggested that leadership volunteers would actually be more effective in some functions.

What Volunteers Feel Are Their Responsibilities in Fundraising

The following tables show the views of 854 American and 217 Canadian leadership volunteers. Qualified respondents were serving on Boards of Directors of not-for-profit organizations that employ professional fundraising staff and which do not have a separate Foundation Board for fundraising purposes.

American Leadership Volunteers’ Views on Who Is Primarily  Responsible for Various Fundraising Tasks

(Click to enlarge)

Canadian Leadership Volunteers’ Views on Who  Is Primarily  Responsible for Various Fundraising Tasks

As you can see, leadership volunteers generally agree with professionals that fundraising staff are responsible for almost everything!  Almost everything, but not quite.  Taking ownership of any fundraising task is an opportunity for professional fundraisers to turn volunteers’ acceptance of responsibility into action.  Here is one example:

offering names of and information on potential donors – Fundraising success is a product of interest and influence combined. Asking board members for names of their friends and colleagues will generate a list (assuming they cooperate) of people with whom you can assume your volunteers have influence. But that doesn’t mean there is interest.  There is a much more productive way to capitalize on board members’ willingness here, one that improves fundraising performance while lessening donors’ concerns about what you will do with the names they provide.  If you have a database of current and lapsed donors, do you really need more names or should you be doing a better job with the ones you already have?

While volunteers expressed confidence about where responsibility lies for certain tasks, they were very hesitant about others.  For example, American respondents were split on whether developing the fundraising strategic plan was their responsibility (28.8%) or that of professional fundraisers (28.9%) This is definitely NOT volunteers’ responsibility, but I can see why confusion exists between setting strategy for operations and setting strategy for fundraising.

To read more go to http://www.cygresearch.com/burksblog/?p=371