The Volunteer “Voice” of Your Advancement Program

Have you seen the NBC television show, “The Voice“?  It’s a singing talent show of sorts with the gimmick of the old “Dating Game” – the judges can’t see the contestants.  They can only hear them.

The human voice – tone, tenor, quality, pitch, etc. – provides us with numerous cues about the individual.  When we hear a voice, we begin to make assumptions about the person.  Deep voiced men typically are viewed as larger and taller.   Sure, sometimes the ‘book doesn’t match the cover,’ and a low-voice male turns out to be the smallest guy in the room, but we still have the picture in our heads of what he is “supposed” to look like.

If you don’t think voice alone is important, think about the impact James Earl Jones has when we says, “This is CNN.”  Or how about Mel Blanc with his almost endless voice-overs for the Warner Bros. cartoons that featured Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, and Foghorn Leghorn, among many others.

So, what does this have to do with your advancement program?  Only that the volunteers we choose to endorse our programs, our institutions, and our campaigns, matter just as much as the voice-over actors selected for their roles.  Like good voice-over actors, our key volunteer leaders create a picture in the minds of others in our communities.  They need to have the right tone, they need to ‘fit’ with the image and brand of our institution, and they need to cause others to respond.  Just like Mel Blanc could get us to laugh at the antics between Tweety Bird and Sylvester the Cat based on his voice, your key volunteers should encourage others to act with generosity based on their presence and involvement.

What characteristics, then, you should seek in key volunteers?  What pictures should be painted in the minds of others when a volunteer’s name is attached to your institution?  I suggest that high-impact volunteers should have the following 5 characteristics:

  1. Integrity – others believe the volunteer when she says the institution is worthy of support;
  2. Connections – others are aware that the volunteer maintains key relationships across many spheres of society;
  3. Influence – others recognize that when the volunteer gets involved, things get done;
  4. Affluence – others understand that the volunteer has the financial capacity to make things happen;
  5. Generosity – others have witnessed the volunteer give generously of his time and financial resources.

When our institutions put together advisory boards, foundation boards, governing boards, campaign cabinets, and other volunteer groups, we typically put a lot of time and effort into the planning and implementation of meetings and activities for the group.  And these are important efforts.

But planning and implementing meetings for your volunteer groups is also rather like the drawing of the cartoon chicken coop regularly featured in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons.  Yes, the drawing of the chicken coop was needed to make the cartoon work, but it was the pitch-perfect, southern, good ‘ole boy-styled lines delivered by Mel Blanc such as,  “Now, see here boy, you’re about as sharp as a pound of wet liver,” that made the cartoon truly funny and a classic.

Voice-over actors are chosen for roles because their voices make people respond in certain ways.  Your volunteers should do the same.

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