Category Archives: Getting Volunteer Help

Fundraising Kudos to: St. Augustine Church

Sometimes you learn the most about grassroots fundraising efforts from the local — and I mean really local, as in neighborhood — paper. The April, 2012 Rockridge News, for example, is where I came across an interesting story by Don Kinkead, about St. Augustine’s Church’s efforts to raise money for the Tonga Parish Mission.

Apparently Father Mark Wiesner was moved, after visits to Kenya, to raise money to help orphaned children there. The area has been hard-hit by HIV-AIDS. He could have just passed the collection plate and asked that parishioners add a little extra for this cause, but . . .

He chose to do something a little different. And different, in fundraising, is often a great way to get people’s attention. Fr. Mark did pass the collection plate alright, but instead of asking for people to put money in, he asked them to take envelopes out. Each of those envelopes contained some seed money, in varying amounts. The total withdrawn from the church’s coffers for starters was $12,100.

Then he challenged the recipients to go forth and raise some real money. “The excitement has been phenomenal,” he is quoted as saying. As of the article’s publication, results included one man using the money to buy $25 worth of candy to sell at his workplace, which raised $150; a ten-year old girl using her $25 to set up a lemonade stand, raising $184; and 20 parishioners banding together to plan an artisan fair to be held on church grounds, profits yet to be determined.


How Will Donors Know That Your Charity Isn’t Just Another Fraud?

Nonprofit fundraising scams are always in the news, but I feel like there’s been an uptick in the last couple of months — the church in Oakland that makes its students spend evenings in local BART (subway) stations soliciting donations for questionable purposes; the woman in Canandaigua, New York who was charged with raising money on the false pretense of having cancer; and ABC reports about fraudulent charities trying to make money off recent tornado disasters.

It’s enough to scare off any donor.

Which raises the question, what is your nonprofit doing to make sure that any and all of its fundraisers and other representatives can prove that they’re legit? Here are some ideas:

  • Be very clear about your group’s identity. Display its name and logo on your website, brochures, and any solicitation sheets that you might, for example, send out with people soliciting donations on the street or of friends. If you are the local chapter of a national group, say so, and indicate where they can find your group online or in the real world.
  • Be transparent about your group’s use of money. Your website, for example, should contain clear explanations of where and how funds will be spent. Also include a link to your group’s IRS Form 990.
  • Give official materials to staff or volunteers who will be doing public solicitations. The more they carry in the way of pamphlets, log0-bearing paraphernalia, and so on, the more convincing they’ll be. Of course, these can be faked; but at least you won’t have to compete with the low-quality fakes.
  • Be aware of local scammers. It’s not uncommon for scam charities to use names that sound generic, or very close to the name of a real group. Watch the news and neighborhood events for such fake groups, and be ready to assure people that they aren’t you.
  • Advise solicitors to welcome questions. Having a stranger question whether you’re a fraud can be unsettling. But your fundraising team should be trained for this, and be happy at the opportunity to distinguish your group from the scammers.
  • Don’t incentivize immediate donations. Some groups reportedly pay their street solicitors based on a percentage of contributions brought in. Unfortunately, that means that potential donors are discouraged from double-checking on the group and deciding later whether to make a donation. This arrangement leads to uncomfortable donors who may just say “no” if pulling out their credit card on the spot and handing it to a stranger seems too risky.

This problem may have been worsened with the down economy, but it’s never going to go away. The best you can do, in the words of yet another nonprofit, is to “Be prepared.”

Kids and Nonprofit Volunteering

Today’s issue of Blue Avocado includes an article I wrote on working with young people as volunteers. It offers tips on dealing with risks and potential liabilities, and details my own deep, dark past as a child volunteer. (Well, not so deep and dark. But certainly long ago . . . .)

Check it out at:



Podcast Interview With Ilona Bray About The Volunteer’s Guide to Fundraising

Here’s podcast three of three, drawn from the recently published The Volunteer’s Guide to Fundraising. In the attached podcast, Author Ilona Bray reveals her own first (and misguided) experience with fundraising, and describes highlights from the book.

Getting Creative With Fundraising Methods: Newly Released Podcast

Wondering how important it is to come up with a fundraiser for your group that’s new and different? Or how other groups have managed to come up with winning ideas? Check out the podcast “Bringing Creativity to Your Fundraising Efforts,” drawn from Ilona Bray’s recently published book, The Volunteer’s Guide to Fundraising. It includes tips and stories from parents, events planners, and more.