How to Coach Your Board Volunteers

How important is it that you coach carefully any of your volunteers?  And you need to choose them carefully too!

I am commenting today on a LinkedIn discussion. The person who started the conversation told of a private school where two different board volunteers spoke about fundraising to the other parents. The first volunteer who spoke complained about “slack parent giving” last year, particularly compared to faculty/staff giving. And he was dressed in a monotone of gray.

Wow, just the sort of delivery designed to get parents charging ahead to support the annual fund! Make folks feel bad and you’re lost before you start.

The second volunteer was a more “flamboyant” presence. He went on about how generous parent booster giving had been last year – to sports and extra-curricular activities. He was engaging and warm.

The first volunteer was deadly (he had a track record of defeat), and the other one was enthusiastic (he had experienced success.) Clearly the person who had a negative and defeatist tone would never inspire other volunteers.

This also shows that you can’t expect every single board volunteer to be a great fundraiser. I think it’s delusional to expect all board members to be able to be effective advocates for the cause or successful fundraisers. We need to select, train and “pump up” our volunteers carefully!

I like to script my folks – or at least give them talking points – so they make an appropriate and engaging presentation. Negativity or arm-twisting never work!

Never trust a volunteer to get up in front of a crowd and deliver the right message. Remember, they aren’t in the business, they are just beginners (usually).  So take control, brief them and give them the talking points.

If you’re really on top of things, actually schedule a formal rehearsal with them. Put them in front of a fictitious group of people and let them practice.