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Launch Your Program - Solicitation Training

No volunteer and no staff member should be sent out without proper preparation. Without training, most volunteers who even make the effort will feel uncomfortable in the process, and the rare enthusiast may make mistakes, too. At one station, an eager volunteer accepted a $5,000 gift from a $50,000 prospect who, seeing what was coming, made the offer before he could be asked. This page deals with how to prepare your staff and volunteers.

Staff and Volunteer Training

Training is ideally conducted by an experienced outsider. This may be a consultant or an active or retired local fundraising officer. The following is an outline of a 90-minute training session:

  • Why we're here (10 minutes): A review of the station's mission and service to the community, the role the major giving plays in the station's ability to provide that service, and the essential role that volunteers play.
  • Who the donor is (10 minutes): Using the work of File and Prince or Panas's Mega Gifts (See Major Giving Bibliography, PDF, 28KB), discuss the differing motivations of donors to lay the foundation for the importance of listening.
  • What and how (15 minutes): An explanation of how to cultivate and to ask, using Panas's Asking or the article Kent Dove has written for public broadcasting stations (see Gift Solicitation Techniques Article, PDF, 131KB).
  • Role playing (25 minutes): Dividing the volunteers into teams of two, hand out two mock donor descriptions to each team. Spend 10 minutes with one member of each team playing the role of volunteer while the other plays the role of donor in Scenario A, then ask them to switch places for Scenario B.
  • What was learned (20 minutes): Spend another 15 minutes gathering impressions from the group. What felt comfortable? What felt uncomfortable? What were some barriers that were encountered? How would the group get past these barriers?
  • You can do it (5 minutes): It is often helpful to bring the meeting to a close with a brief testimonial from a volunteer for another organization who has been through the process and succeeded. At one public station, a board member from a local university inspired the volunteer group by describing all the good work that he had helped the university to accomplish. "This," he concluded, "is my legacy, and what you are about to do here will become part of yours."
  • Thank you (5 minutes): Brief closing remarks by the CEO or board chair, thanking the volunteers for their participation and reminding them of what their service will mean to the community.

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Solicitation Role Plays (MS Word file, 26KB)