There are a thousand reasons to fall down, but only one to stand up, so the saying goes; but it really does apply to Paul Schmitz.
Paul Schmitz and his wife Rhonda founded ShowerUp in 2016 in Springhill, TN. This nonprofit provides mobile showers and personal care services to the unhoused in six cities. In 2021, they had net assets of $770K.
Paul Schmitz, left, and Rhonda Schmitz, right, embrace Spooky, an unhoused man.
Paul had a BIG problem, though; but not the problem you would think.
He had figured out how to reach chronically unhoused men and women and build trust with them. He’d sorted out how to scale their services into Nashville, TN, Wichita, KS, Huntsville, AL, Chicago, IL, Chattanooga, TN, and Tampa Bay, FL. Further, he found capital to fund the unique equipment needed—mobile shower units are not cheap!
And he had created a culture of care to deliver much-needed services and build relationships with their constituents. These are not easy problems to tackle, let alone establish sustained impact.
Despite these successes, ShowerUp’s BIG problem was organizing their 1,449 volunteers. “It’s not as easy as it sounds,” says Paul, “because there’s a second related BIG problem: how to invite those volunteers to also be donors.”
Paul had previously tried two volunteer management databases before discovering that Bloomerang, well known for highly effective donor management, is equally effective at managing volunteers!
Paul also knew that today’s volunteers are tomorrow’s donors; he needed to nurture his greatest advocates. The conversion rate of volunteers into donors can be as high as 50%, so it’s advisable to use a donor base that prioritizes volunteers.
The fact that Bloomerang integrates both these functions was a home run in Paul’s extensive vetting process.
How to turn volunteers into donors
Transforming volunteers into donors requires a multifaceted approach that combines strategy, data-driven insights, and a deep understanding of your volunteers.
The first step is to collect and analyze volunteer data understanding their demographics, interests, and engagement. Segmenting volunteers based on these insights helps you to craft personalized messages and appeals that resonate with each segment. Building strong relationships is essential, involving regular communication, appreciation events, and engagement opportunities to make volunteers feel valued and part of a community.
Sharing compelling stories that showcase the impact of both volunteering and financial contributions and involving volunteers as ambassadors for your organization are also effective strategies. It’s important to maintain a consistent presence in volunteers’ lives, to offer special opportunities to volunteers-turned-donors, and choose the right moment to ask for a donation. Often, after a volunteer has had a particularly positive experience or achieved a milestone in their volunteer work, they may be more receptive to giving.
Of course, always personally thank and recognize volunteers who become donors. Publicly celebrate their journey from volunteering to donating, as this can inspire others.
Be sure to continuously test different fundraising techniques and messages to see what resonates most with your volunteers. Use A/B testing to refine your approach.
Lastly, create a feedback mechanism where volunteers can express their preferences and expectations, helping you tailor your approach even better.
Remember that the process of turning volunteers into donors is ongoing and may take time. Be patient, adaptable, and willing to learn from your experiences to continually improve your strategies.
After using Bloomerang for two years, Paul answered a few questions about his experience:
What do you like best about Bloomerang Volunteer?
“What I love most about Bloomerang Volunteer is how intuitive and easy it is for our volunteers, for our team, and for our folks who work on the back end. I’ve used other [applications], including free ones (that we have quickly outgrown), and even one that has been talked about as the best of the paid ones. Bloomerang is less than that paid one, and it’s unbelievably better. Plus, the support has been beyond good. Super responsive and solution-oriented, we’ve had a tremendous experience. Our volunteers love it too. We get lots of compliments about how easy the process is. We love how Bloomerang has added to our organization!”
What do you dislike about Bloomerang Volunteer?
“You might think that the pricing is a negative, but I have to be honest, it’s totally worth it if you rely on volunteers for your organization. You can pay less, but you absolutely get what you pay for. You can also pay more and have a product that isn’t easy for your volunteers, your staff, and your admins. Plus, you get tremendous support! Plus take into account all that you get and the tools that you will have to communicate with and manage your volunteers. Absolutely worth it.”
What problems are Bloomerang Volunteer solving, and how is that benefiting you?
“Our biggest needs were to be able to manage multiple events each week, be able to report on the volunteers and their hours, and give our volunteers an easy-to-navigate experience with a login that will allow them to track and manage their contribution. Bloomerang solves all these issues for us and for our volunteers.”
That’s Paul Schmitz walking by one of the mobile shower units. Learn more about ShowerUP.
With Bloomerang, you have three takeaways to move your volunteers from hands-on help to heartfelt support, making your volunteers the lifeblood of your cause.
1. Tap into your volunteers’ giving potential
Bloomerang Volunteer activity syncs to Bloomerang Donor and updates something we call “the Engagement Meter” to show you which volunteers to focus on. It’s visually astute. “Since we started with Bloomerang, we have more first-time donors than ever before.”
2. Save time with one entry
Two-way sync keeps records up to date in both systems, regardless of where you made the update—saving time and virtually eliminating the risk of error. According to Paul, “The donor database/volunteer management now only requires about two hours a day compared to three times that with our previous donor database.”
3. Sync your data on your terms
Use manual sync anytime you need instant updates for the freshest data, or automatic sync so you can set it and forget it.
BIG problem solved
From service to stewardship, volunteers’ impact knows no bounds. Neither does Paul’s love for Bloomerang. All of ShowerUP’s 1,449 volunteers are now well-organized in one place, despite being in six cities. And it couldn’t be easier for Paul and the ShowerUp staff, “Our volunteers are now able to directly access their own record and time slips, that’s a phenomenal time saver for our small staff.”
Their related BIG problem, inviting those volunteers to also be donors, is advancing nicely.
When ShowerUP received their free Volunteer Handbook Template, they were elated! Get yours today.
What’s your experience with integrating volunteer management and donor relations? Please share with us below.