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Senior volunteers critical but impact misunderstood says new IoF report

Senior volunteers critical but impact misunderstood says new IoF report

Senior have been critical to the success of major fundraising campaigns in recent years, but their impact and how to best work with them, is not sufficiently understood, according to a new report by the IoF’s Volunteer Board Special Interest Group. 

Produced for the by Solid Management, and sponsored by Pears FoundationThe Perfect Fundraising Partnership examines the experiences of both professional fundraisers and senior volunteers and includes a number of case studies, with action points to help fundraisers, senior volunteers and charities collaborate more effectively. It questioned a mixture of fundraisers and senior volunteers through online questionnaires, face-to-face and telephone interviews, and found that while involving senior volunteers has major benefits for charities, there is often a lack of understanding of how best to work together to get the most out of the partnership, as well as of what some of these benefits are.

The greatest benefits identified by fundraiser respondents of involving senior volunteers were the access to new prospects, credibility through their endorsement, and the increased income that they could provide. Several respondents noted that senior volunteers could help build a pool of prospects for charities that had never undertaken major fundraising before. Both fundraisers and volunteers stated that volunteers’ knowledge of the people they approach enables them to ‘start the conversation from the right place’, speeding up the fundraising process and making the most of the relationships.

Senior volunteers questioned for the report also highlighted the value of the advice they can give to making successful asks, with their own experiences of being approached for donations giving them an insight into what works and what doesn’t.

Key findings and recommendations include:

  • Involving senior volunteers in fundraising can result in remarkable income growth and the transformation of philanthropy programmes: 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
  • Senior volunteers are more active in approaching and securing gifts from individuals than from charitable trusts and companies. They also tend to fundraise from their business contacts, acquaintances and close friends
  • Most senior volunteers have an existing relationship with the charities they fundraise for but ‘cold’ approaches can work in senior volunteer recruitment
  • ‘Askers must be givers’ – senior volunteers asking others to donate need to be giving at a personally meaningful level themselves to have the credibility to ask and stretch donors
  • Senior volunteers largely don’t enjoy asking for money and get involved in fundraising because they are passionate about the cause and understand that by fundraising that they can play a unique role. They therefore rely on significant support from charities to fundraise successfully
  • Developing a successful working relationship between a charity and senior volunteer can be challenging. For volunteers, a lack of openness and transparency (particularly relating to funding needs) from the charity stands out. For fundraisers, managing volunteers’ sometimes-unrealistic expectations can be difficult. The time required to build a partnership and the difficulty of finding new senior fundraising volunteers were particular concerns for both

Edwin Drummond, Chair of the IoF’s Volunteer Board Fundraising Special Interest Group said;

“We felt strongly that a report in this area would help to support our fellow fundraisers and offer guidance in an area that may be new to people or organisations. We are therefore very pleased to launch the report having had the opportunity to draw on the perspectives of both charity professionals and the volunteers themselves, giving us unique insight from some of the sectors leading philanthropists.”


Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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