Involving successful people in fundraising can significantly boost income, a report from the Institute of Fundraising has found, but many charities are worried about where such "senior volunteers" could come from in the future.
The report, The Perfect Fundraising Partnership, produced by the consultancy Solid Management for the IoF, looks at qualitative and quantitative data from interviews and surveys of 175 fundraisers and 46 senior volunteers.
It defines senior volunteers as successful people who are often donors or charity supporters and who seek financial contributions for a charity by making introductions to, and asking for support from, their personal network of family, friends and business contacts.
The study found that the top three benefits of senior volunteers’ involvement in fundraising, according to professional fundraisers, were access to new prospects, the credibility the charity gained through their endorsement and increased income.
The report says: "Committed senior volunteers involved in peer-to-peer fundraising have provided charities with invaluable knowledge and unique insights that enable successful relationship development, asking and stewardship of new and existing prospects and major donors. This increases the networks and the income of charities they work with."
It says volunteers who fundraised among their own networks could bring "remarkable" income growth to the charity.
The study says that senior volunteers are more likely to have credibility with potential donors and be more successful if they were donating "at a personally meaningful level" themselves, and that such volunteers were likely to already be donors or otherwise involved with their charity when they signed up.
But the report says volunteers could be recruited through a cold ask, particularly where they had a connection to the cause, if not the specific charity.
The majority of senior volunteers who responded to the study said they did not enjoy asking for money, but got involved in fundraising because they were passionate about the cause and understood that by fundraising they could play an important role.
The study says: "Fundraisers must recognise the discomfort that senior volunteers have about ‘making the ask’ and need to ensure that senior volunteers understand that the actual ask is just one step in the fundraising process.
"Senior volunteers can make an impact at many points on the donor journey, identifying potential new supporters among their networks, making introductions and helping to host events. In situations where the fundraiser believes it is critical that a volunteer is involved in ‘making the ask’, the organisation needs to provide appropriate support and guidance."
The study found that developing a successful working relationship between a charity and senior volunteers could be a challenge, and that clear and open communication that managed volunteers’ expectations was critical.
But many of the senior volunteers who responded were concerned about succession.
The report says: "They report that younger philanthropists appear to be less willing to engage their networks and help with asking, which could have serious consequences for charities’ ability to fulfil their missions in the future."