Even if you’re not the one in your household who pays the electric bill, checks your bank statements, or transfers the money into savings, you are still invested in the financial health of your family. How money is spent affects you and you’re therefore conscious of the financial impact your actions make.
The same mentality should apply in the nonprofit world to all stakeholders in your organization. While most nonprofits are in the habit of regularly sharing financial information with their board and perhaps donors, volunteers are usually left off the list.
Oftentimes, volunteers are so far removed from the budget and the balance sheet that they may have no clue how the organization is doing. They’re likely devoting every bit of energy to programmatic or fundraising efforts that there’s no time left to dig deeper and do the research on the organization’s financial health. Frankly, some volunteers may not care about the numbers.
But it’s important for volunteers to understand the numbers for two reasons.
First, transparency leads to a greater sense of ownership. When your volunteers understand more about the financial foundation of the organization, they feel a bit more responsible for their small piece of the pie than before. When they feel a greater sense of ownership and responsibility, they will ultimately become more engaged. They’ll stay involved longer and make a deeper commitment when they understand how their work impacts the big picture. Opening up about the inner workings of your nonprofit will help address frequent volunteer turnover and low volunteer engagement.
Second, when volunteers understand the financial health of the organization, they can speak to others more confidently and well-informed. Many organizations use volunteers, such as a young professionals board, for fundraising and this is a perfect opportunity to inspire and inform them. Armed with important information around the organization’s financial health, your volunteers can be more successful fundraisers.
Many nonprofit leaders don’t share more about their financials because they don’t know how or what to share. They aren’t comfortable translating the financials into useful and interesting information, but you don’t have to be an accountant to be transparent about your financial health. Here are three easy ways to share your financials with your volunteers to help increase volunteer engagement:
- Send your 990, annual report, and audited financials to your volunteers. By sharing these critical documents with your volunteers, you demonstrate that not only are the numbers important but your volunteers are important too. Include a few bullet points in your email highlighting some important facts they should know so they don’t get lost in the details, like how you exceeded your fundraising goal for the year or successfully finished up a clean audit.
- Add a quick finance update to volunteer meetings. If your volunteers regularly meet, add 10-15 minutes to the agenda to present the financials. By sharing a recent fundraising win or new investment made (like a new employee), volunteers will get even more fired up about your organization and the cause.
- Visualize special volunteer numbers info. Decide upon a few financial metrics that would be the most interesting to your volunteers, such as total funds raised for a particular program, or breakdown of money spent on a specific project. Create a couple simple graphs or charts in Excel to connect volunteers to their projects or fundraising work and share them quarterly.
The benefits of financial transparency with all of your stakeholders are endless. For those of us who dread black and white spreadsheets full of numbers, these three easy ways of sharing your financials will help tell your volunteers a much richer story of your organization’s financial health and long-term sustainability, resulting in an increase in volunteer engagement and a greater impact.