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Eight Traits of Effective Youth
Fundraising Programs:

by Jim & Connie Walters

Editor's Note: This is the sixth of an eight part monthly series. Although it's focus is on youth fund-raising programs, these traits are universal enough for all fund-raisers to make note of. For more information about the authors and their expertise please see the end of the article.

Part 6: Volunteers are given basic training, meaningful work, and sincere thanks.

Why do people do volunteer work for your group? Generally, people volunteer for causes they believe in, where they have people they relate to, and when they believe they can make a meaningful contribution.

On the flip side of that, people cease serving as volunteers when (a) they no longer trust the leadership; or (b) they do not feel their efforts make any difference; or (c) they no longer feel appreciated. Notice that their entry into the field is usually self-motivated (they tend to recruit themselves) but their exit from the field is relationally-motivated (someone in leadership failed them in some way).

This series of "Eight Traits..." has already addressed the role of leaders as vision- casters and organizers. Perhaps the third arena of leadership is the management of people, also known as "the care and feeding of volunteers." A wise leader knows the three universal needs of volunteers, namely:

  1. TRAINING. No volunteer is going to accomplish any more than he or she knows how to do. They need to know the organization's "big picture" purposes and goals, and they need to know the details of the part that they are responsible for. The time to tell them about policies and procedures is before, not after, they break them.

  2. MEANINGFUL WORK. The leaders must understand each volunteer's skills, passion, and personality type. Using this picture of the person's make-up, the leader can locate and assign work that is not only meaningful but gives the person the greatest chance of success. A successful volunteer is a happy volunteer, who stays with you year after year. Some people are number-crunchers, and they can keep your books straight without working up a sweat. Give that same job to a person who's good at building and/or fixing things, and you'll give them an ulcer. Get the outgoing people to do the greeting and the sales. Have the introverts do the art and the paperwork. Let everyone do what they are good at doing anyway (to find out, just ask them) and your life will be easier.

  3. RECOGNITION. You cannot over-appreciate people who work for free! If you can round up potential volunteers so that they are present when you are giving out kudos, bouquets, ovations and awards to your current volunteers, those " potentials" will be lining up to sign up. Most organizations do not do enough to express appreciation. You can do this privately (notes are better than phone calls) or publicly (through announcement, or better yet, in the newsletter). Newsletter professionals will tell you that the more names that appear in your newsletter, the more "people-friendly" it seems.

And if there was a "fourth" need to address, it would be burnout. Burnout is best prevented by meeting your volunteers needs along the way; once they show the symptoms of being a "crispy critter" there's little you can do. One secret is to rotate duties often, and give furloughs, and do not be afraid to kill off labor-intensive annual events that habitually are a headache for your workers (Sacred cows make good hamburger).

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About the Author:

Jim Walters serves in a local church ministry in Denver, Colorado. Along with his wife Connie, who has led fund-raisers for both church, elementary school, and high school groups, they formed Booster Solutions to help others find profitable answers to their fundraising problems.

Together they have written "Top Ten Youth Fundraisers", a 16 page handbook that details their plans for 10 great fundraising ideas. Each plan in the manual is fresh, tested and profitable. They work well for both school and church groups. This is not a rehash of coupon books, subscriptions or car washes.

Every plan includes: 1) an overview of the project as successfully completed. 2) a "key thought" ensuring your success. 3) step-by-step outline with options and thoughts on variations.

To order send a check for $7 (includes tax and shipping) to:

Jim Walters
11431 W. Lake Drive
Littleton CO 80127

For more information contact Jim at

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