Here’s a question that I got recently that is pretty common, so I thought I’d share my answer with you.

Hi Sandy:  Thank you for staying in touch with me with your helpful information.  I think one of the issues with getting things done, as well as keeping them going is that it is so disappointing to fundraise and not have anything come of it.  Also, motivating people to help in these days is hard because everyone wants to be paid for everything they do.  As soon as they hear that the help in putting on a fundraiser is voluntary, they seem to disappear.  Any advice on these??

Anne, you have two separate issues going on here.  First is trying to stay motivated when things aren’t going as planned.  Second is to find the right volunteers.  Let’s look first at the motivation issue.

Staying Motivated

Zig Ziglar said “Motivation is like bathing.  It doesn’t last.  That’s why we recommend it daily.”

I suggest you find a way to plug into your passion for the organization you’re serving and fan the flames every day.

When I worked as a Development Director, all I had to do was visit the front lines of the organization to remind myself why my work was critically important.

I understood clearly how my work made a difference in the nonprofit’s ability to deliver service, and I did my best to raise all the money I could.

When one fundraising activity didn’t meet my goals, I would evaluate the planning and execution of that activity to see if I could put my finger on what went wrong.

Then I would either tweak it to improve it or I would discontinue it and go on to something more productive.

Just because you try something and it doesn’t seem to work doesn’t mean much until you understand why it didn’t work. 

What I see frequently is that the activity wasn’t planned in enough detail or wasn’t executed well.

In your upcoming fundraising, be sure to put enough time into planning so that you know exactly what needs to be done to reach the goal for that particular activity.

And set realistic goals. No need to set yourself up to fail by setting a goal so high you can’t possibly reach it!

Get Help

Your second issue is really about finding the right volunteers. 

If people seem to want to help until they find out they won’t get paid, they’re not the people you want helping in the first place.  Ideally, you want folks who simply want to help because the love the work your nonprofit is doing in the community.

Be clear when you recruit that this is an unpaid opportunity, and you’ll be more satisfied with the volunteers you recruit.

Set the expectation up front with potential volunteers about the work they’ll be doing and what they’ll get in return (to feel good about helping a wonderful cause).

Monitor Your Mindset

Finally, be very careful of your mindset.

Sometimes when things don’t go as planned, it’s easy to start thinking that nothing will ever go right again.

We can talk ourselves into some pretty negative thinking pretty quickly, and it doesn’t serve us.

Remember that one instance (or even two or more) of fundraising falling short of goals doesn’t mean that everything from here forward will be that way.

Every day, we have the chance to start fresh and to make new choices about how we will think (positively or negatively) and what we will do.  Take advantage of that today and draw a line in the sand to mark the start of a new experience.  Tell yourself that beginning today, you’ll do things differently and put your best into your fundraising.

Then do all you can with what you have from where you are to make your fundraising successful.