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Preparing Your Boss and Volunteers for Success in Fundraising

Resource Center - Foundation

By Adrienne D. Capps, MBA, CFRE

(March 13, 2012) One easy way to make a staff or volunteer leader more comfortable, no matter what type of personality you may be managing, is better preparing them for success in fundraising-related communications.

Whether it is a phone call they are making to a donor prospect to thank them, a meeting to solicit money, or an introductory letter, you can do a lot to make them feel comfortable and more organized about the interaction and thereby help ensure their communication is that much more successful.

Below are just two examples of how to prepare your leadership and volunteers: using talking points and briefings. In my session at the AFP International Conference on Fundraising this April in Vancouver we will discuss this topic more in-depth and offer additional techniques.

Talking Points

I prepare talking points for just about every call my dean makes related to fundraising. They do not need to be fancy or take a lot of time. I typically send them in an email. Here is a recent example I prepared regarding invitations to join our new Development Committee:

Dear Dean/Volunteer,

Here are a few talking points for your follow up calls regarding the Development Committee. Please keep me posted on your discussions.

  • Call #1 Name: Office Phone: (xxx) xxx-xxxx
  • Call #2 Name: Cell Phone: (xxx) xxx-xxxx

Talking Points:

  • Calling as a follow up to the board chair's call last week.
  • Thank you for your interest and willingness to serve on the new Development Committee.
  • This sub-group of the board will be very important so that we can successfully meet our goal in The Campaign for UC Davis, and for the next campaign. The Development Committee will also help us effectively meet our needs and take advantage of opportunities that support faculty, students and programs as public funds decline. Building private funds is critical to supporting our mission and growth long-term.
  • I believe your experience, enthusiasm, and connections to our region would be very valuable in this effort, and I hope you will serve.
  • Details: Staffed by Adrienne Capps; small group-eight (8) are being invited to join; will have first meeting, hopefully, before the next board meeting in April to develop structure, meeting schedule, and fundraising priorities/plans/next steps (Adrienne will be in touch shortly about possible dates).


I use briefings when preparing my dean or a volunteer for a face-to-face meeting and for events, even if I’m planning to attend as well. The briefings I use offer not only talking points, but also logistics, background on the event or meeting participants, and the purpose of the communication/event. I find briefings most useful on trips when there are multiple meetings in a day or over the course of a few days. They end up being just as useful to me as well.

Below is an example briefing I used for a recent introductory meeting for with a board prospect:

Development Briefing for Dean
Lunch with Board Prospect
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Prepared by Adrienne D. Capps, Cell: (xxx) xxx-xxxx


Board Prospect


Wednesday, February 22, 2012
(Leave Dean’s Office at 11:20am.)


Sacramento, CA
(xxx) xxx-xxxx


Board Prospect
Adrienne Capps


Introduction of board prospect to the UC Davis School of Education. Board Member Name believes she is a good candidate for philanthropy and/or the Board of Advisors.


  • BS 1968 UC Davis, MS 1974 Cal State Hayward
  • 2011 giving capacity rating: $50,000
  • Total giving to UC Davis: $5,000 from 1990-1997, which does not include an estate plan gift to the School of Education.
  • Board prospect is a high school science teacher.
  • Married for 25 years; One daughter, studying at UC Davis, anticipated graduation in 2013.

Contact report of note:

  • January 17, 2012 (from Adrienne): I visited with board prospect in her chemistry classroom for most of the morning. She's very personable. She is in Davis about once per year, so will plan to invite her to May 15th event. She expressed interest in meeting the dean on a future visit.

Everyone has a role to play in raising money—and that role need not be scary or threatening. The more prepared your executive director, staff or volunteer is, the more comfortable (and effective) they will be.

Adrienne D. Capps, MBA, CFRE, assistant dean, development and external relations, School of Education, University of California, Davis, will present a session at the AFP International Conference on Fundraising in Vancouver titled, “Managing Up & Sideways.” Learn to recognize the management styles, and strengths and weaknesses of your CEO, executive director, dean and board chair, and then work with THEM for success! In the session participants will learn how to demystify fundraising and motivate staff and volunteers to engage and be successful in the development process. Help raise the professional profile of fundraising in your organization. To register or learn more about the conference, go to

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