Staff vs. Volunteer Responsibilities in Fundraising

Understaffed Cartoon

Volunteers, while extremely valuable, can only achieve their goals with support from staff. Development requires consistency, organized documentation and a central information clearinghouse to maintain the relationships required of a successful program.

Fundraising roles for staff include:

  • Provide information about the organization
  • Develop proposals and letters
  • Provide first draft and coordinate mailing of solicitation letters, emails and social media
  • Provide follow up to all solicitation calls
  • Send reminders and organize report meetings
  • Provide information about programs and tax advantages in a solicitation call
  • Schedule solicitation rehearsals

Many organizations avoid hiring one or more full-time development staff. When they consider the staff vs. volunteer responsibilities in fundraising, they think about how much the organization has already accomplished with volunteers. Why increase staff in this way? Why pay for a person when current staff, who may be a bit overworked at times, seems up to the task. Why change the way things have worked in the past?

Because we are not living in the past. Your already overworked staff is going to have to respond to new needs like a social media campaign a board member is excited about or a prospective capital campaign and skip some of the vital aspects of their responsibilities. Should they eliminate the proposals and letters or providing the first draft of solicitation letters? Are volunteers going to pick up the slack? If so, will you end up with overworked staff and overtaxed volunteers?

You should also understand that overworked staff will search for new employment instead of picking up the extra work. And the volunteers will follow suit, taking their donations with them.

On the bright side, the expense of a good development professional is an investment that can yield a ten to fifteen times the cost on an annual basis by the third year of employment. But be warned, with current staff turnover rates for development professionals at around eighteen months, you will not reap the rewards of a strong development officer unless you invest in a full staff and stop trying to get by with the bare minimum. This will, in turn allow your volunteers to remain involved and feel good about the work they are doing for the organization.

Will hiring additional staff cost you money? Yes. But it will ultimately return you more in revenue and that is something every nonprofit seeks.