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 is Vice President of Institutional Advancement for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). In this role, he oversees the KCTCS Office of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement and the KCTCS Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs. With 16 colleges and more than 70 campuses, KCTCS is the Commonwealth’s largest postsecondary institution. He also serves as executive director of the KCTCS Foundation, Inc.

Mohler most recently served as assistant vice president for development at Eastern Kentucky University. His background also includes key advancement roles at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Cedarville University, and The University of Texas at Austin.

He earned a master’s degree in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Cedarville University. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and has earned the Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE) credential. He currently serves on the ACFRE Board.

Mohler was named to Charlotte Business Journal's "Forty Under 40" in 2013 and the AFP Bluegrass Chapter honored him with their Exemplary Service Award in 2015.

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