A leader for this article is the person leading a fundraising effort. There are times when this person may take a step back. There may be something that’s happened in their life and it needs their attention, or they may be planning a vacation. Whatever it is, the leader needs time away. Who takes over while they are gone? It makes sense to have the manager of the organization do it but they also have other things to take care of. Their other work doesn’t just disappear. What if the person leading the charge is gone for months and what if they never return? Donors tend to get concerned during this time if things begin to slip.
A “V formation” was discovered by accident because of a need for a leader to be in two places at one time. It’s about developing a system, which runs the same way with you being present as it does when you’re gone. It works because you have trained a volunteer team, and have given them your permission to continue the flight pattern without you when necessary. It doesn’t mean they take over your job. You are still needed to keep the moving parts in order. They basically have the ability to pick up and keep things moving for a time. And, because of the trust you have in each other. The program continues to grow and SOAR whether you are physically there or not.
Let’s compare this team concept to a V formation you may have heard of. It may help to explain it.
V Formation is a pattern most often used by a flock of birds. Birds maintain a healthy balance and do not get tired while flying because they lift each other up. Their wings create an updraft as the flock works together to reach its common goal. They soar.
Leaders and Followers are part of the V formation for birds. They have a leader at the head of the V formation and there are many followers, which form the flock. The leader drops back into the flock when they become tired. Another bird takes over the lead when this happens in order to continue the momentum.
Building a V formation for your fundraising efforts starts with you, the leader of fundraising. There’s a three step process, which involves meeting with a person you’d like to bring on board. I like to put the process into three months because it takes time to build relationships but you can change it. Each situation is different.
Month 1: Leader meets with an individual to learn more about them, listens to their ideas, and determines where the organization and individual overlap. In addition, they also share information about the networks where they each belong. This is considered a one to one (“1:1”) networking meeting.
Month 2: Leader supports the individual in ways, which are meaningful for them and adds value to their business or other interests. The Leader determines how this new person likes to be recognized, and provides network leads and opportunities.
Month 3: Leader determines the best way to integrate the new person into the formation as an Advocate and makes the ask with an established role already in mind.
Month three talks about having a role in mind for this new volunteer. You are encouraged to truly think through this and to be prepared. People want to know how much time they are committing to you, and what their job description looks like. The biggest and most important thing to remember is that these people are giving of their time to you and to your organization. This is energy they can spend elsewhere.
Continued success in maintaining your fundraising program. On a side note, this formation also works in business development. It is a great way to begin and sustain a partnership when the formation becomes healthy and there’s give and take on both sides!