4 Ways to Turn Volunteers Into Donors
Some of your best donor prospects are already invested in your organization. They're your volunteers.
When coaching fundraising volunteers, we ask them to think of the top five organizations they give to and how many of those five they have been personally connected with, as a volunteer or recipient of services. The alignment is uncanny.
About 64.3 million people volunteered in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The volunteer rate of women was 29.9 percent and men was 23.5 percent. Interestingly, people with a bachelor's degree were more inclined to volunteer for more than one organization.
Independent Sector's Giving and Volunteering in the United States (2001) provided a comprehensive picture of the giving and volunteering habits of Americans:
- 46 percent gave
- 42 percent gave and volunteered
- 2 percent only volunteered
- Households that volunteered gave twice as much on average as households that did not volunteer
If you are not asking your volunteers to give, you are leaving substantial money on the table.
Here are four tips to enlist your volunteers as donors.
1. Orient them
Get volunteers off to a great start by providing an appropriate, engaging volunteer orientation in groups or individually. Be sure they understand what is expected of them and what kind of support they can count on. Let them know their volunteer hours are vital and contributed dollars are essential to your fulfilling your mission.
2. Give them a rewarding volunteer experience
Volunteers provide incredible service and resources, but your organization has to invest in supporting volunteers. Be sure that you provide regular communication and support to your volunteers. Ask them how you are doing and how the experience can be improved upon. Give them a personal experience and connection to your organization, and they will invest their time and money with you.
3. Ask them
Don't be timid. While honoring their volunteer service, invite volunteers to participate financially. Two health clinics we are assisting are nervous about asking doctors, nurses and other medical profession volunteers for donations. Create a positive culture of philanthropy among volunteers, celebrate giving regularly and ask in an appropriate manner. The timing and manner of a gift request to donors must be honed, as any special constituency. Give them time to be settled and fulfilled in their volunteer experience, but don't let a year go by.
4. Recognize them
Pay special attention to those who both volunteer and give to your organization. There are lots of opportunities, ranging from your website, to volunteer gatherings, to the annual report.
An arts organization had a major donor self-identify — at $1 million. There had been no track record of financial support, but years of volunteer service. Consider wealth screening or at least a peer review of your volunteer roster to find potential major donors who are already committed to your cause.
While recognizing the special opportunity to thank them for their volunteer service, nurture relationships with your volunteers and encourage them to join your donor ranks as well. Treat your volunteers as among your best donor prospects — because they are!
What is your organization doing today to promote volunteer opportunities and provide volunteers with a stellar experience? Your volunteer donors can be among your most passionate, loyal and generous friends.
Jeff Jowdy is the president and founder of Lighthouse Counsel and a member of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board. Reach him at email@example.com
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.