Millennial fundraising epic FAIL

Typically, this time of year I see fundraising appeals from educational organizations, faith-based groups preparing for summer mission trips, and health-related (education/advocacy/research) groups that sponsor an athletic event (e.g. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team In Training). Over the past four months I’ve received about eight fundraising appeals representing five different organizations. Of these, five have been through social media or in electronic format and stand out in my mind, but not as best practice examples.

Social media and the viral fundraising campaign is highly lauded among large national organizations with high name recognition and stellar reputations. However, a major shortcoming of peer-based appeals is that the responsibility for relationship building is transferred from professional fundraisers to an inexperienced volunteer. A trend I’m seeing among the disappointing appeals is a lack of volunteer fundraising training by these well-respected organizations (or perhaps volunteers are ignoring their training).

The downside of this is that even if a person I know sends me an e-mail or Facebook message asking for my support for their upcoming mission trip or walk-a-thon, I’m unlikely to be receptive to the request if it’s the first time I’ve heard from that person in five years.

As Millennials seek to make a difference, it should be the responsibility of non-profits to engage their volunteers in training to make clear the importance of genuine cultivation and stewardship as a preface to effective asking and engagement. Volunteer training should not focus just on building endurance for the upcoming marathon, but should also spend some time educating on the strengths and weaknesses of permission marketing and their responsibilities as volunteer fundraisers.

Where should these volunteer training programs to start? I recommend the Donor Bill of Rights and the Code of Ethical Principles and Standards.

About Benjamin Mohler

Benjamin Mohler, CFRE, ACFRE has a keen interest in understanding the connection between culture and the practice of philanthropy. His experiences working with international nonprofit organizations, extensive international travel, together with his graduate work at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and leadership roles with local nonprofits combine to produce his expertise in this area. He’s also a big baseball fan.

Mohler is the Assistant Vice President for Major and Planned Gifts at Eastern Kentucky University. Prior to his current role, he held key roles with The William States Lee College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte, Cedarville University, and The Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), Advanced Certified Fundraising Professional (ACFRE), and serves AFP at an international level, including his current role chairing the publishing committee for the AFP Fund Development Series.

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