An effective volunteer program is a truly incredible feat. Your supporters are coming to your nonprofit to donate their time. With the hustle and bustle of the world today, it’s amazing that people have any free time at all, and they give away that free time and ask for nothing in return.
When it comes to asking your volunteers to donate, you may feel uncomfortable or even guilty for asking them to give even more. But when you think about it from the perspective of the volunteer, they’re working with your nonprofit because they want to help. Therefore, your nonprofit should never feel guilty about leading volunteers to donation opportunities.
Notice how we said that you should “lead” your volunteers to the “opportunity.” The ultimate decision to give is up to the supporter.
There’s already a natural inclination for your supporters to donate. In fact, 87% of volunteers say there is overlap between the organizations they volunteer for and those they donate to. Many times, simply providing the opportunity to give is enough to convince volunteers.
We’ve compiled a couple of strategies to help your nonprofit lead your volunteers to donate. These strategies include:
- Track all engagement metrics in your donor database.
- Improve the volunteer experience as much as possible.
- Acknowledge your volunteers as strongly as you do your donors.
- Simply ask your volunteers to donate.
- Don’t apply too much pressure in your donation ask.
- Tell everyone about volunteer grants.
- Don’t forget to say thank you.
- Celebrate your volunteers.
Ready to show your appreciation for volunteers while boosting your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts? Let’s dive in to learn more!
1. Track all engagement metrics in your donor database.
Too many nonprofits only focus on donors and donation amounts when they set up their donor database. These organizations forget that other engagement metrics are just as important as donations.
When you customize your CRM, be sure you set it up to track your supporters’ engagement metrics such as volunteer hours, event attendance, email open rates, social media interactions, survey results, and more.
These metrics give an indication as to the relationship a donor has with your organization. From this complete donor profile, your nonprofit can better nurse the relationship, identify even more engagement opportunities, and best craft a personalized donation ask.
If your CRM doesn’t support the storage of these engagement metrics, it may be time to rethink your choice in databases. Check out Bloomerang’s CRM buyer’s guide to find the best software solution for your nonprofit.
2. Improve the volunteer experience as much as possible.
Put yourself in the shoes of your organization’s volunteers for a moment. Why do they volunteer with your nonprofit? What drives them? How could you make their experiences better so that they’ll keep coming back?
Volunteers may come to your nonprofit for any number of reasons. They probably chose to volunteer for your nonprofit because they believe in your mission, but there are some personal motives behind volunteering as well. Your volunteers may be looking to network with new people, sharpen soft skills, gain experience, develop new skills, build their resume, and more.
By considering the personal motives that your volunteers have, you can adjust your volunteer program to help them meet their goals.
When you help your volunteers reach their goals by improving their experiences, you’ll keep them coming back and grow your program. A growing program naturally encourages donations because of the overlap between volunteers and donors.
3. Acknowledge your volunteers as strongly as you do your donors.
Many nonprofits make the mistake of focusing so heavily on their financial donors that they forget that their volunteers are also donating. They’re donating time and energy to work with your nonprofit. Therefore, volunteers should be acknowledged just as donors are.
That means the same stewardship rules apply to volunteers as they do to donors. Thank you phone calls, handwritten notes, personal emails and videos should be employed for volunteers with the same earnestness as you would towards donors.
If you segment your donation acknowledgments by gift amount, you can do the same by measuring the work of your volunteers. It’s a difficult step to quantify the work your volunteers do, but this is the first step to showing them their impact.
Start by measuring the impact of your volunteers in your donor management software. Try measuring things like the total volunteer hours or projects completed. Then you can create a volunteer program annual report from the collected data or otherwise recognize the work.
Sometimes, simply showing impact is enough for recognizing volunteers. Make sure your volunteer program annual report accurately exemplifies your organization’s appreciation. They want to see the results of the incredible work they’ve done and to hear your organization say “thank you.”
4. Simply ask your volunteers to donate.
Many nonprofits feel guilty asking their volunteers to give to their organization. They feel as though the volunteer has already given so much that they don’t want to ask them to give any more. In reality, if volunteers are not already donating money, it may be because they don’t know where or how to give.
Simply asking for donations can lead your volunteers to the correct location to give. Your job is to ask and show them how they can further contribute to your mission.
Leverage your fundraising software to send appealing asks to your volunteers. But be sure you don’t harass them. Tell them that their work is appreciated and that if they want to further support your mission, they can give.
Some volunteers may actually think it’s odd that you haven’t ever asked them!
5. Don’t apply too much pressure in your donation ask.
As we stated in the last section, don’t harass your volunteers to give. If you ask them over and over again for money, they’re likely to get frustrated with your organization and may not return to volunteer again.
Instead of approaching volunteers like any other donor, take the pressure off and introduce them to ways they can give that will impact their role.
One of the major myths about volunteering is that people are only motivated by money. In fact, people are also motivated by knowing that they made a difference. If you give a volunteer the opportunity to give that is directly related to their volunteering, they’ll feel as though they’re making an even bigger difference.
For instance, if you’re hosting a canned food drive, you might tell donors, “If you want to further help the cause, contribute to our transportation fund to transport these cans to food banks all over the city!”
6. Tell them about volunteer grants.
Did you know you can collect donations from your volunteers without ever asking them to give a dime? Many companies have volunteer grants available for their employees.
If volunteers are eligible for such grants, they simply need to fill out a form and say how many hours they volunteered. The company will donate money to the nonprofit as a match for their employee’s hours spent volunteering.
The trouble is that many volunteers don’t know about their eligibility. Ask volunteers to check their eligibility by typing their employer’s name into a matching gift database to see if they can obtain these volunteer grants.
360MatchPro’s list of the top matching gift companies can give you an idea of the huge companies that have these types of programs.
7. Don’t forget to say thank you.
As we said in the beginning, an effective volunteer program is truly incredible and it’s your volunteers who make it all possible. So remember to thank them. Unique ways to say thanks stem from the interests, goals, and motivations of your volunteers.
Listen to your volunteers in surveys, conversations, and other opportunities for communication to learn what’s important to them. Then, make notes about these items in your donor database.
You can use this information to send more personalized thank-you messages to volunteers. For instance, you may offer education opportunities, mentorship, or other growth opportunities to show your appreciation.
8. Celebrate your volunteers.
It’s one thing to thank your volunteers for giving their time, but it’s another thing to celebrate that giving. In addition to saying thank you, be sure to recognize them in other ways. For instance, you may choose to:
- Feature volunteers on social media platforms.
- Point out volunteers with the most hours in your annual report.
- Provide custom t-shirts for your volunteers with your nonprofit’s logo.
- Send hand-written cards thanking them for their hard work.
If the t-shirt idea caught your eye, click here to get more information about how to customize merchandise to meet the needs of your nonprofit. Your volunteers can wear them to your nonprofit’s next event and show off their volunteerism.
Anyone can send an email thanking someone for their time. Taking an extra step encourages your volunteers to build their relationship with your organization. Building that relationship improves the chances of volunteers donating to your nonprofit.
Volunteers are a great resource for your nonprofit. They also are some of the most likely individuals to donate. Encourage them to do so by stewarding your relationship with volunteers and showing them how they can make an even bigger difference for your mission.
Jay B. Love is a Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth.