My heart sank. This time I had screwed up, big time.
We had 10 volunteers from a big corporation coming to volunteer with us for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The HR person and I had exchanged a couple of emails. I thought I had been clear that we needed people to do a phone-a-thon with us to fundraise for our cause. In hindsight, I should have made sure that people knew what they were coming for.
Volunteers thought they were coming to tutor kids. When they arrived and didn’t want to do a phone-a-thon, I said, “Well, I guess you could clean up the office.”
That did not go down well, at all. The volunteers made a halfhearted attempt to clean up some of our shelves, and then one of them said, “No, this is awkward; I’m leaving.”
She took nearly everyone with her, except for one stalwart volunteer who used to work at our nonprofit, and who did the phone-a-thon with me, like a trouper. And though we made $5,000 that day with that phone-a-thon, I felt like a failure as a fundraiser, volunteer manager and nonprofit professional.
Since then, I’ve learned what corporate volunteers want, and I hope that you can learn from my mistakes.
Corporate volunteers expect a meaningful experience
One of the hardest things to do in a small fundraising office or a one-person volunteer recruitment office is to find ways of engaging volunteers, especially corporate volunteers. Saying, “Uh, I guess you can clean up the office” does not cut it anymore.
Even though this corporate volunteering experience backfired on me big time and creating a meaningful volunteer experience takes time, it’s worth it.
Why? Three reasons:
Because corporate volunteers can get a visceral experience of your mission, they are much more likely to become donors.
You can get exposure to a whole new audience for your nonprofit.
You can get money from their corporations that comes with their volunteer hours.
What do corporations want out of nonprofits?
More and more, corporations don’t want to give you money. They want to give you people.