In our quest for the consummate donors and supporters, many non-profits neglect the most essential community connections we have: our volunteers, Board members, and staff. These key players may be the most underestimated resource of many non-profits.
In working closely with a number of organizations in North Carolina, I have seen many of these key players leave disgruntled, burnt out, and discouraged. Not only are they not our advocates in the community and in their churches, they quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) divulge their stories to close friends, who may coincidentally serve on foundation boards and church missions committees.
These decision-makers quite often see our volunteers, Board members, and staff as “insiders” who can give testimony to the true nature of our ministry or non-profit. They can vouch for how the money is spent and whether the Board is healthy or the staff dysfunctional. When we fail to treasure these precious resources, we risk poisoning the supply of good will from the very source.
Stop and think. Who gets the best seats at your fundraising banquets? Do you take your volunteers to lunch (individually and with their spouse) to make sure they still feel connected and satisfied with the ministry? Do they receive timely updates on the effect their specific work is having? When a key player leaves, do you give them concrete stats on how many lives were saved or children fed during their tenure?
If you find that you have fallen into the trap of treating your key players with less respect than a donor who has never stepped foot into your office, here are some action points:
- Put your volunteers, Board members, and staff on the same rotation for one-to-one follow-up as all of your other key donors.
- In your regular communication with them, make the connection for them between how they are serving and the great results. This might not be as obvious to them as you think it is.
- Minimize the negative encounters. Transparency is important, but before you deliver that negative comment, consider whether it is absolutely necessary. Our key players (even our Board chairs) aren’t our sounding boards so don’t treat them like it.
- If you must cut someone loose, do it with respect and dignity. Everyone understands there are times to sever ties, but your supporters expect you to do it with kindness and integrity.
Is your organization good at valuing key players? Let us know how.