One Skill to Master in the Solo Development Office

Slide39Are you buried under a to-do list that is distracting you from raising more money? It can be exhausting juggling the duties as the solo development officer. I have been there, and so has Pamela Grow.

“Grant proposal writing, individual giving, copy-writing, event-planning, data entry, database management, stewardship and more – how does the small shop fundraiser get it all done?” asks Grow.  Her advice: “You can’t do it alone.”


Pamela Grow knows the solo development officer can’t do it alone.

Pamela is right. You cannot do it alone. To help focus your efforts for maximum fundraising results, you need to master the skill of effectively utilizing volunteers.

Too often I see busy development professionals trying to do it all because they “don’t have time to manage volunteers.” I worry when I hear this. Not only are you limiting your potential when you do not include volunteers in your work, but you are missing out on the amazing goodness that the nonprofit sector is designed to deliver.

Of course I can hear the volunteer disaster stories already. It’s true. They happen. But in my more than twenty years of experience, this is rare.

Technology can be your friend in managing volunteers, and there are plenty of solutions. If you use a constituent management platform, chances are you already have access to a volunteer module. I reviewed online tools here (update: and here) that are super easy for organizing, recruiting and reminding teams of volunteers on specific projects.

Slide38I want to encourage you to strive to have volunteers involved at every level of fundraising. Plenty of volunteers prefer to stay behind the scenes helping with mailings, data entry or events–anything but ask for money! Still, some volunteers are willing to connect you to donors and go make the pitch. Your organization will benefit from having engaged volunteers at all of these levels. Like nurturing a culture of philanthropy, it takes times to master the craft of effectively utilizing volunteers in development work, and it is so worth it.

Grow agrees. She encourages you to “focus on building a culture of philanthropy within your organization so that everyone – from board members to executive director to staff to volunteers – understands that fundraising is your number one priority. And make it fun!”

While adding “volunteer manager” to your many duties may not be the kind of fun you had in mind, effectively utilizing volunteers as your partners for good will be among the most rewarding parts of your job.

What are your struggles or successes with effectively engaging volunteers in your work?

Additional resources

Special thanks to Pamela Grow for sending me a jam-packed quote full of awesomeness that helped inspire this article.

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