The Real and Present Danger of Volunteers

Why Catholic Apostolates should think twice about using volunteers when fundraising

Often, we think that we cannot fundraise alone. 

It is wise to look to others for help.

With any campaign you launch, you will have to get people to help you. That is why you might turn to volunteers.

However, there are significant risks to getting people to help you fundraise. Therefore, is using volunteers prudent?

I want to share my thoughts with you:

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Other articles you might be interested in:

“Who Really Cares” – Who donates and how to ask them to give

3 Common Questions about Fundraising Answered

Fundraising Tips from Saint Augustine of Hippo

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Transcript

Greetings, my fellow Catholic. Today, I am going to be talking to you about the pros and cons of relying on volunteers when it comes to your fundraising. Yes, there are significant risks to using volunteers, and I am going to explain why and offer a way around that risk.

Hi, I’m Brice Sokolowski,, the founder of CatholicFundraiser.net, the website, and service dedicated to helping Catholics with their fundraising. So, whether you’re starting out in this work or you’re looking for new ideas, you are in the right spot today, as we are talking about working with volunteers. 

But before we dive in, I t want to make sure that you’ve downloaded absolutely for free my 10 Commandments to CatholicFundraising. This is the guide that I’ve written that pretty much sums up the best of what I’ve learned over years of successful fundraising. It’s gotten great feedback from people and has been downloaded thousands of times. It’s a compilation of what I think you should be doing with your fundraising, on top of (obviously) what we’re going to talk about today. Which is the “risk” of using volunteers. 

So let’s dive into today’s topic. There are three points that I want to make. And the third is going to be (more or less) your solution. So the first two points are what I see as the risk, and then I’ll walk you through a possible solution. 

So the first risk to using volunteers is… their availability fluctuates. (By the way, I’m looking at my notes as well, which will be included on my website, CatholicFundraiser.net, under Articles) Volunteers are very lovely people, and they raise their hands and say, “I’m available!” And that usually is sincerely the case when they sign up. They likely do have the time to help. But as we all know, life happens and their availability fluctuates.  So if you give them a task, like fundraising, there’s a high risk that you’ll be in the middle of a campaign when you learn that they’re not going to be as available as they were in the beginning. That’s a really, really big risk, especially if you’re deep into a fundraising campaign. Just because they were tasked to do something, it is still very likely that they’re going to make their own choices about when they might have to put your things on pause. So that’s risk number one. 

Risk number two is, it’s difficult to ask volunteers to be accountable for completing actions. When you follow up with your volunteers and find it hard to pin them down because, well, they’re volunteers, the risk lies in a mindset shared by some volunteers that, yes, they do what they do out of the generosity of their heart. They say, look, I’ve got time. I love what you do, I really want to help. Which is all great. But then, when you say, hey, it’s been a few weeks, it’s been a few months, and you said you were going to complete a task. Where are we on that? When are you going to do it? The response is usually that they’ll get going on it as soon as possible. Usually ASAP means getting something done as soon as possible. Meaning, in the very, very near future. 

However, as a volunteer, there can always seem to be reasons for why it’s been delayed, and (more than likely than not) there’s not really anything that you can do about it. So their  “as soon as possible” might be weeks, months. They might do a little bit here and there. But it becomes really hard to pin them down and ask, please, you said you were going to do this. Where are we on its progress? The risk is that it may be really hard to pin them down and remind them that they said they were going to do it. Now, either they’ve got to do it or you wind up doing it anyway. That’s the second risk of using volunteers. You can’t really pin them down or expect accountability. 

So this leads us to my third point. What do you do? What do you do with volunteers? And how do you mitigate the risks that inherently come with them?? It’s very easy. Well, at least the answer is easy because it’s clear and direct: First, you have to ask yourself, do I really need a volunteer? Do I really, really want to deal with the ebbs and flows of their availability? That’s your first question! And if you decide the answer is that yes, you do, then you have to really accept that you have to manage them. You might not have the time to “herd those cats,” but you can’t just hand things off and say, okay, this volunteer is dealing with it now. They’re responsible. 

That’s not the case. You automatically become a manager. You have to accept the fact that you will have a managerial role connected to this concept of fundraising, as opposed to doing it yourself. So you’re really not, in my perspective, lessening your load. Now, you’ve got to be following up with people, making sure they’re doing things, and tracking how they’re doing them. You really have to accept the fact that overseeing a group of volunteers is going to make you a manager. Okay, if you really, really need volunteers, then be prepared to manage them and make sure they are willing to be managed. Make sure that you explain to them that yes, they are volunteering and that’s greatly appreciated. But guess what? I need you to do XYZ, and I am going to manage you and check up on you, and maybe even push you to make sure that the stuff — our stuff — that needs getting done gets done. That’s the real situation when it comes to volunteers. There are high risks when it comes to their availability and ability to complete tasks, as well as how you’ve got to become a manager and take on a different type of responsibility. One that oversees everybody else’s responsibilities! 

I hope that you found these few minutes on this topic helpful. If you have any questions, reach out to me, let me know how I can help, and please feel free to share this with an apostolate that you think would benefit from the advice. I’m always here, for you and to help you, just go to CatholicFundraiser.net. God bless and speak to you soon.

Want to fundraise more for your Catholic apostolate?

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandments of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

Click here to subscribe

Brice was born and raised Catholic. After enjoying a successful career in technology consulting with Accenture and PriceWaterhouseCoopers in cities across the United States (Dallas, San Francisco, Paris, Abu Dhabi, and London) around the world, he left it to help his Catholic diocese in London, England with a fundraising campaign. The campaign went on to raise over $60 million, the largest sum ever raised for the diocese and in the United Kingdom.

Learning from professional fundraisers, he figured out the basics and then left the diocese to focus on what he loves most: building Catholic charities that change the culture, save lives, and save souls.

Brice currently lives in Texas and travels the world helping Catholics fundraise. This website is where he shares what he is doing and how he is raising funds for Catholic causes and missions. That way you can move more quickly with your next appeal.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Mother Mary and Saint Joseph, protect us as we announce the good news of God's beloved Son, Jesus Christ.