Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of speaking at the Western North Carolina chapter of AFP in Asheville, North Carolina.  I had a great time seeing old friends and making new ones.

Can you imagine me anywhere not having fun?

I spoke to them about working with volunteers and bosses in fundraising, especially when you don’t like your boss or volunteer.

I know this is (unfortunately) a common issue for lots of people and I’ve experienced it myself.

I remember working as a Development Director and not liking my boss much.  It wasn’t easy, but we were able to be successful in fundraising as a team.

Here are some of the things I shared with the group.

There are three keys to being able to work with a boss or volunteer in fundraising.

The first is communication. We must learn to be clear in asking for what we want and in sharing information.  And we must learn to set clear expectations when we set out to work with someone else.  This above all I think is critical in relationships!  I see lots of problems on Boards because people were not given a good idea of what to expect when they agreed to serve on the Board.  Being clear in the beginning can prevent a lot of problems later.

The second key is trust.No matter how much we like or dislike someone on our team, we must work to build trust with them.  Otherwise, we aren’t going to get very far.  Some ways you can build trust are to act consistently and keep your word.  Do what you say you will do.  And treat people with respect.  Remember, if you don’t respect someone, it’s your problem, not theirs.  It’s yours to fix.  Again, I know this isn’t easy, but it’s what will help you be successful in raising money.

Finally, I talked about ‘leading from the chair.’ There are an awful lot of Executive Directors and Board chairs out there who have little in the way of leadership skills.  If this is your situation, then you can try providing leadership without actually being in charge.  It’s not easy to do, but with some grace, it can be done.  When I was in this position, I found that it was a matter of gently (and I mean gently!) sharing information that my boss needed to know, and making suggestions as to the action that was needed.  Over time, my boss turned to me repeatedly for advice and insight into lots of situations.

Sometimes the relationship with your boss or your volunteer is so damaged and broken that no amount of trust and respect will repair it.  That’s when it’s time to dust off your resume and go find another job.

The good news about working with bosses and volunteers in fundraising is that you can get a lot more accomplished when working as a team.

They may have connections in the community that you need or knowledge of your organization that you don’t have.

Either way, presenting a united front to your donor prospects will get you much farther down the road of raising money for your good cause.

  1. Great points, Sandy. When I speak with groups about turning volunteers and bosses into great fundraisers, I encourage them to incorporate fundraising training into their board retreats and regular board meetings. Fundraising is not a skill that comes naturally to most people, and it’s important to fundraising provide training on an ongoing and regular basis.

  2. Sandy, I call #3 “managing up.” It’s really our role as development officers to ensure everyone around us has the tools & knowledge to help us with development work. And if we encounter someone with fears that stop them from being useful…our job, I believe, is to help diffuse the fears so they can actually begin to enjoy aspects of development. Great post!

  3. Sandy,
    You are so right. I think it is so easy to forget that we are the professionals when it comes to fundraising and need to use all of our knowledge to help train and develop attitudes and skills in people who didn’t necessarily sign up for this task. And that the training works best one on one, gently working together so that reaching out to others gets to be fun – or at least rewarding.

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