One of our tenants at Donor By Design Group is that we have “a bias for action.” I’ve talked about this with prospective clients and most of them give me the “oh boy, here comes some consultant speak” eyeroll.

It may sound obvious, but taking smart, timely action is critical. It doesn’t always happen though. Why would that be? Why would a committed group of volunteers not follow through? Why would a campaign get bogged down in planning and never leave the ground?

There are many pitfalls that can trip up a campaign’s forward motion. Here are just a few to watch for:

Perfect Plan Purgatory – Don’t get me wrong. A good plan matters, but you will never be able to plan for every contingency. Things are going to happen along the way. Your plan should be a road map, but allow for the occasional detour or delay.

Going Nowhere Because No One Goes First – Lead gifts set the pace. They encourage others to be bold. If your campaign leadership isn’t in the position to give (or get) those strong lead gifts, your campaign is less likely to get off to a strong start. And if you don’t get off to a strong start, your campaign will start to lack urgency, confidence and activity.

Saying “That’s OK” When It’s Not – Accountability matters, especially with volunteers. Follow through and commitment should be demonstrated and expected by everyone involved in a campaign. Happily, accountability can also create a virtuous cycle that will encourage everyone to do what they say they will.

Are you in a campaign that is suffering from a lack of action? Here are some ways to jump start your team:

  • Communicate. When it doesn’t seem like anything is happening, it’s easy to stop sharing. Even if you don’t have great results to share, share activity. Recognize volunteers who have secured an important donor visit. Give a recap of what everyone has agreed to do. Say thank you. Consider a weekly or bi-weekly e-mail to key volunteers and staff that reports progress.
  • Prioritize. Sometimes there is so much to do that uncertainty about what to do first can lead to paralysis. As a team, help each other to identify the next steps – and not 30 next steps but one or two. Knock those out, then move on to the next.
  • Visit. Maybe your volunteers (or you) need an infusion of case urgency. Go visit your program site and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Maybe you’re struggling to get a meeting with a potential major donor. Go visit a long-time donor to say thanks and talk to them about why they support your organization. It will energize you for future donor visits. Bring a new volunteer with you so that they can be inspired too.
  • Measure. If you’re only tracking dollars toward your goal, it can feel like nothing’s happening, especially during the early days of a major gifts campaign. Don’t just measure dollars, measure visits, calls and vision tours. Activity leads to results, and positive reinforcement makes everyone feel more hopeful.

What are your strategies to encourage action in your staff and volunteers? Share in the comments below.

Posted by Lora Dow
Lora Dow

Written by Lora Dow

Since 2006, Lora has helped nonprofits on both a local, state and national level develop a clear and compelling case for support. Effective communications are critical to any organization's ability to inspire donors, advocates and volunteers. Lora's expertise and experience make the process of developing those communications the most effective they can be.

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