Lola’s story: Turning volunteers into super supporters
When Lola Woods went into the Idaho Youth Ranch thrift store she wasn’t thinking about runaway or homeless youth.
As a recent retiree and empty nester, Lola had started reducing her carbon footprint doing something she loves—thrifting—and she entered the store that day excited to find that perfect one-of-a-kind item.
Walking down the aisles of neatly hung clothing, she noticed some collateral spotlighting the services Idaho Youth Ranch offers: emergency shelter, residential care for kids who are hurting or homeless, suicide prevention, youth and family therapy, including equine therapy, and more.
As she waited in line with her item she overheard an ad on the instore radio about the ways Idaho Youth Ranch helps struggling kids and families. Lola had never met any kids who were homeless or who had run away.
When she got home Lola went to their website to sign up to volunteer. She immediately heard back from the volunteer manager who gave her one of the most popular assignments—sorting donated items and grading clothing in the distribution center.
Every week she looked forward to her volunteer shift. The people dropping off items were so friendly and kind. Most of all, she loved the camaraderie amongst the volunteers and staff, trying on funny donated items and singing jingles to shoppers on the store intercom.
Several months later Lola went to her mailbox to find a printed newsletter from the organization with heart-wrenching stories of kids they had helped. Kids like 11 year old Mikey, who found his way to the shelter at 2 am when the fighting and yelling in his house woke him up.
Lola felt like a hero to these vulnerable kids, but she wanted to do more than just volunteer.
She wrote a check for $1,000 and drove to the thrift store to give it to the staff in person.
Lola knew the staff working the register that day. They were some of the kids from the job readiness program she’d worked with sorting donated items.
They were overjoyed at Lola’s generous gift and came behind the counter to hug her. Lola felt such a rush of pride for these kids who were turning their lives around. She realized how much the whole volunteer experience had given her—these amazing people who just a short time ago were all strangers now felt like family.
Later that day Lola got a personal phone call thanking her for her gift from the major gifts officer.
Lola’s gifts continued to grow and she quickly became a super supporter! Her last gift to Idaho Youth Ranch was $10,000. Even though she left Idaho and now lives out of state, she remains a loyal and dedicated donor.
3 steps to create super supporters
Fairy tale stories like Lola’s can come true for your organization, too!
- It starts with inviting audiences to see and feel the power of your work. For Lola, this meant seeing the collateral about Idaho Youth Ranch in the store.
- The next step is a frictionless volunteer sign-up process. Nothing dissuades a motivated prospective volunteer like a clunky, cumbersome, and defeating process trying to help you!
- The final and most important step is inviting volunteers to give. Many organizations have an internal struggle with this where a volunteer manager might be reluctant to ask and feel like doing so could offend them or make them not want to volunteer again. A whopping 85% of volunteers also donate where they volunteer.
Having your volunteer and donor data in one place makes it infinitely easier to know more about your volunteers, their giving, and communicate with them appropriately. There is no better way to make them feel known and valued by you!
The key to growing stellar super supporter experiences, like Lola’s, is closer than you think.