Tips for Dealing with Fundraising Volunteers

Volunteers are the lifeblood of so many of our organisations. Without them, the slack would trip us up completely and many key areas of activity would be completely overlooked. 

And what could be more key to your organisation than the role played by a volunteer fundraiser? First of all, they are representing your organisation in public and so what they do and say has an impact. Secondly, that impact will help to determine the succes, or lackthereof, for your fundraising targets. So, it matters!
Since volunteers are not paid employees of your organisation, they are not beholden to the same level of obligation and compliance as a full employee would be. Of course, most volunteers will quite literally go out of their ways to be as accomodating as possible, so thankfully the issue rarely arises. But sometimes, conflicts with and between volunteers do nevertheless arise. The following tips will help you to both avoid and / or identify and then defuse those rare situations in which conflict does arise, so that you can all quickly refocus your efforts back to where they truly belong:
  • Be as positive as you possibly can! Rememeber, these volunteers are giving you their time and their enthusiasm for free. Make them feel appreciated and you'll make their day. And, you'd be amazed at how a little praise can help to defuse simmering tensions...
  • Keep the communication channels wide open. Get regular updates from your volunteers on how their fundraising efforts are going - what is working and what is less successful etc? Invite their input and candour and always inquire about how you can help them reach their fundraising goals. If they succeed, so does your organisation!
  • Don't play favourites. Address the group as a whole, whether in writing, by email or in a meeting. This not only will help to avoid the unhelpful appearance of favouritism (or even of picking on a particular person!), but will also help to foster team spirit and a sense of inclusiveness.
  • Keep communications in the light. When dealing with conflict / disagreement between volunteers, communication and transparency is key. If, for example, a conflict arises, don't simply take one volunteer's word over another's. Talk to other relevant parties and try to arrive at a consensus on the issue before taking any specific action.
  • The right person for the right role. To help avoid potential conflicts in the future, carefully assign specific tasks to volunteers (based on their skillset and availability etc), and make it clear to all volunteers who will be doing what from the outset.
  • Be willing to listen, but be firm. If you do indeed come to the unfortunate conclusion that there is one particular volunteer who is just not fitting in well, talk to him / her and try to see if there is still a potential solution to the problem. If however you ultimately conclude that there is not, thank the person and politely let him or her go.
The tips above are commonsense suggestions for dealing with potential issues, as and when they arise. If however you would prefer to seek a more structured approach to both your volunteering and fundraising efforts, please visit the Volunteering Ireland website for more support and information.