Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr. has been involved with fundraising as staff and as a volunteer all his adult life. He’s learned from some of the best and shares his experience in this column by Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services.

Can you really raise money without fundraising staff? Yes, it’s done all the time and has been for a long time. 

We asked Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr. what to consider when building an all-volunteer fundraising effort. 

He shared, “I look at what each person can bring to the table. What assets, skills and relationships they can offer. Number two: is there a passion for the project? If there is a passion, people show up at meetings and are involved. If someone stays on the periphery, they are most likely not passionate. 

“Finally, I look for proof of commitment: I always ask for a donation from everyone involved.” 

He also shared the challenges and strengths that accompany all-volunteer solicitation team.

“With volunteers you have to do a lot of courting. I learn the strengths and weaknesses of a person and I engage them in things where they have interest and ability. If people love running a meeting – and they can control the meeting – I let them run the meeting. I would never ask a volunteer to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to do. 

“Also, I am willing to take second seat at any time as long as I know we are moving towards our goal,” Gray said.

“I learned that projects can implode because of egos. You have to put your egos aside. I learned so much from so many, hanging around Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, Jesse Jackson, Russell Sugarmon and watching them run meetings taught me a lot. One example was Maxine Smith: she would tear into the opposition in a public meeting, but at a board meeting she would be quiet as a mouse. I learned by watching the best.”

In terms of keeping volunteers motivated, Gray shared, “Right now Black Lives Matter is a motivator: when you give people something to do – like a fundraising project – there is a way to get involved and make a contribution. And then you have to always respect and acknowledge what people do.”

Gray recommends building a team with people who can bring resources and connections to the table: delegate to people with skills in specific areas; let them know what needs to be done; and get out of their way and let them do it. 

When a volunteer “fails to deliver” Gray talks with the person privately. 

“I ask them about how they are doing with their assignment. If they are not interested that’s OK and I find a gracious way for them to bow out.” 

But Dr. Gray doesn’t focus on failure: he’s all about success. 

“The greatest rewards is to see the collective talent focused on the mission and then seeing that achieved. There is no greater feeling than ‘we achieved.’ We did it.” 

LAST WEEK, Part I: Investments in capacity building carry forward for decades.

(This item is courtesy of Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. For more information, call 901-522-8727; visit www.saadandshaw.com.)