The idea of cross-pollinating donors and volunteers is nothing new. It’s a great way to build deeper advocacy with your constituents. Volunteerism is an excellent channel of engagement for your current and prospective donors. Likewise, donating is an excellent channel of engaging volunteers.
A lot of folks will cringe a little bit at that last sentence. Why is it that we are comfortable engaging donors as volunteers but not volunteers as donors? Here are 3 reasons your volunteers aren’t donating to your organization.
- You aren’t asking your volunteers to donate. It sounds all too simple, but don’t overlook this key point! Not asking someone to donate to your cause is the top reason people aren’t giving (The Fundraising Coach). For encouragement, take a glance at one of my past blog posts where I address common concerns. You are a fundraiser. Don’t be afraid to ask!
- Volunteers are not your priority. Alex Sheen, founder and CEO of Because I said I Would, volunteered at 52 different nonprofits (one per week) across the country for an entire year. Unfortunately in his TEDx Talk, Alex shares that his experience was “boring, disorganized, and lonely.” Half the battle is getting volunteers in your doors. The other half is just like fundraising: cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. Having clear volunteer job descriptions in place can go a long way. If you don’t value your volunteers as much as your donors, they’ll never become one. A simple thank you video can work wonders. Treat them as if they were a top tier donor and they just might be in the future!
- Your volunteer opportunities don’t align with their passions. It’s tough to stay committed to something you don’t care about. It’s okay to bless and release prospects whose passions don’t align with your mission. Be sure to create volunteer activities that allow your volunteers’ passions to be fulfilled while accommodating their schedule. Explore new ways of engaging prospects while raising awareness. Doing this will give volunteers a chance to become emotionally invested before becoming financially invested.
When I was coordinating workgroup volunteers at a nonprofit, I met with a gentleman who wanted to bring a group of 50 people to benefit the at-risk youth we served. Due to various restrictions we had to get creative and put half the group to work deep cleaning our sports facility while the other half went to work creating “weekend meal packs” for our kids.
Before starting any workgroup activity, I always shared stories about our kids and their challenges and how the volunteers’ efforts would be helping in both the short and long term. Stories inspire people and give the volunteers a purpose to work towards. We had clear expectations of which volunteers would do what and made sure it was easy for the entire family to get involved.
Without boring you with logistics, the volunteering event went off without a hitch. The volunteer activities were family friendly so it allowed our volunteers to fulfill two passions: 1) spend time with their kids and 2) alleviating hunger in our neighborhood.
Here were some outcomes from the event:
- I asked the volunteers as a group to consider joining one of our monthly giving programs and sponsor a child for $27 per month. It’s a pretty easy sell when prospects see the potential outcomes for less than a dollar per day. (You should have a monthly giving plan in place.) We had several volunteers sponsor a child within the next two weeks during our follow up.
- The gentleman who brought the group became an advocate for us after his daughter fell in love with our mission. He coordinated several more volunteering events which led to his organization contributing tens of thousands of dollars in annual financial support. While he initially declined to sponsor a child, he eventually became a donor and continues to give to this day.
- The organization that volunteered wanted to focus on deeper partnerships with fewer nonprofits. At one point they considered cutting their support to five local nonprofits. We made the cut and they are still heavily involved long after my departure.
Cross-pollinating your donors and volunteers is a no-brainer. Create your process of cultivating, stewarding, and soliciting volunteers and execute with these 3 tips in mind and you’ll create more advocates. What other ideas do you have? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section below!