Let's keep friendly rivalry, friendly!

Posted in financial management / bookkeeping / programs and services

Let's keep friendly rivalry, friendly!

Non-profits rely on funding to stay operational. It is rarely enough to have only one funding source. Non-profits will have a collection of funding streams from grants and donations to events and merchandise sales. It will take a lot of people power to keep all the funding programs running and that usually means relying on volunteers.

It is OK for volunteers to have a little fun.

Volunteers are rarely as familiar with a non-profit’s big picture priorities as the paid staff team. They simply believe in the cause, volunteer their time to help make a difference, and maybe have a little fun along the way.

Sometimes, a little friendly rivalry can develop amongst volunteers about who can sell more memberships or raise more donations. Left unchecked, that friendly rivalry can turn into a serious competition with volunteers wanting to declare everything from membership sales to penny parade change as their personal contribution to a non-profit’s earnings. This creates a fundraising atmosphere that detracts from the reason for supporting the non-profit in the first place.

To keep volunteers happy and focus on the bigger picture, it helps to establish a bragging rights just-for-fun policy and a revenue recognition official policy.

Play up the fun. Respect the chart of accounts.

An unofficial bragging rights policy will play up the fun side of revenue generation by grouping earnings using friendly competition categories. Indeed, this might be who can sell the most tickets, or which event raised more donations.

The official revenue recognition policy will state clearly that all revenue, regardless of the event in which it was earned, will be attributed to the non-profit’s major revenue account categories, which are determined by the operational team. This sort of formal policy will ensure volunteers understand that all revenue is part of the bigger picture and everyone, friendly competition aside, is working towards the same goal.

Write TWO policies. No, really.

A just-for-fun bragging rights policy can dictate how results will be shared in a friendly manner in monthly newsletters or on social media. Stats, results, and breakdowns can be used as a marketing tool to attract more volunteers with one group challenging the other to do better. The actual just-for-fun policy can be included on volunteer sign-up forms or on the organization's website.

An official revenue recognition policy will make it crystal clear that annual reports, budget reports, and the audit will all use the non-profit’s major revenue account categories. Stats, results, and breakdowns will be used less often a marketing tool and more as a way for the non-profit ensure it follows accounting standards. The policy can be recorded as a sentence or two within an operational policy that explains how revenue will be received and processed.

Keep the volunteers happy, but within policy.

Volunteers are vital to the success of many non-profits, especially those that can’t afford a big staff team. Developing ways to keep volunteers happy and engaged while still respecting the big picture goals of the organization will ensure supporters for years and years.

Your turn.

Your turn. What have you experienced with volunteers and fundraising at your non-profit? Have you seen friendly rivalries get a little too serious? I want to know! Please use the form on the side of the page to let me know, send me an email, or message me on socials.


Hi, I'm Christie. I help executive directors develop the systems and processes needed to run a non-profit.

I learned early in my career, there is no non-profit school. Browsing the internet for resources from big-city experts doesn’t provide practical solutions to balance the budget, write a work plan, or conduct an employee evaluation. Leadership development tips don’t really resonate when you are also taking out the recycling and cleaning the washroom.

I created ChristieSaas.com so non-profit leaders never need to wonder how to do the job – no matter how big or small that job is.

I have been the executive director of small-team, small-budget, non-profits for 20+ years. My experience isn’t theory. It is the real, operational, and practical solutions I use every day.

I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

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