I have found that development volunteers typically fall into 1 of 3 categories – Latherers, Raisers, and After-Shavers.
1. Latherers – these are the volunteers who enjoy encouraging prospects to give or get involved. I once had a college roommate who could get a party together within a few hours by calling all of our other friends, asking what they were doing that evening, and then telling them that “everyone is going to be at this party.” That statement alone meant that “everyone” really would show up. Volunteers who are latherers act similarly – they will prepare the prospect to be solicited. They will open doors. They will encourage, persuade, and cajole in the best possible ways. They will tell others why they have given and will authenticate your message and case for support. They will get your institution to the precipice of asking, but typically won’t do the asking.
2. Raisers – these volunteers like to ask. In some instances, they like the thrill of “doing the deal.” They may be competitive. Other “raisers” enjoy asking because they believe in the institutional mission and/or the project or priority. They have few qualms about asking for large gifts and, in many instances, your institution’s job with “raisers” is to keep them from asking for the gift too quickly.
3. After-Shavers – these volunteers don’t really want to talk with other people about giving. They may understand why giving is important and they may give generously to your institution. But, they are not comfortable being in the room when the topic of other people’s giving is introduced. Instead, “after-shavers” like to plan the thank-you parties and receptions. They enjoy recognizing people for their support and generosity. These volunteers help you plan your campaign celebration events and come up with creative, personalized ways for your institution to show its gratitude to donors.
So, while the shaving metaphor may be fun, what is the real take-away from this categorization? I find far too many institutions don’t categorize their volunteers in the development process. For instance, they end up far too often with “latherers,” and “after-shavers” on solicitation calls, expecting both to be successful in making the ask. But asking is not their interest nor skill set.
Our work with volunteers should first begin with understanding them, their interests, skills, and comfort zones. When we fully understand our development volunteers, we are better able to engage them in ways that will make them (and our institutions) successful.