Corporate Volunteer Grants 101: A Beginner’s Guide
Although it’s tempting at times to think of the nonprofit and the business worlds as completely separate, they actually rely on each other in a number of significant ways.
In a socially conscious age, businesses genuinely want to support good work in their communities to be rewarded with positive public image. The organizations they support then receive funds that are crucial to their ongoing campaigns. Businesses can become some of your most important regular major donors this way.
The relationship between nonprofits and corporations is mutually beneficial and can function largely through a number of different corporate giving programs. Specifically, volunteer grant programs represent a huge opportunity for the savvy nonprofit to deepen its relationships with its volunteers and with companies of all sizes.
By making use of volunteer grant programs, your organization can benefit from the support of socially minded businesses, while also attracting even broader bases of volunteers for future projects.
In this article, we’ll walk through the basics of corporate giving and dive into volunteer grant programs more specifically:
- What are corporate giving programs?
- What are volunteer grants?
- How do I receive volunteer grant funds?
- How can my nonprofit benefit from volunteer grants?
- How can I market volunteer grants?
If the idea of growing your donation revenue, while strengthening your base of volunteer support, sounds attractive for your organization, read on for a helpful overview and tips on this too often overlooked aspect of corporate giving!
If you’re unfamiliar with the ways that businesses can complement volunteer support, then you might also be unfamiliar with all the ways that businesses might support nonprofit organizations more generally.
Broadly speaking, corporate giving is any way in which a business, small or large, formally supports a nonprofit organization. This could take a number of forms, including:
- Direct financial or in-kind donations
- Official sponsorships and recurring support
- Matching gift programs
- Volunteer grants
Direct donations and sponsorships are fairly self-explanatory, but matching gift and volunteer grant programs are often overlooked by nonprofits simply because they’re not familiar with how these programs work.
So what are corporate matching gifts?
Matching gift programs involve a company matching part, all or more than twice an employee’s donation to your organization. These programs incentivize employees to support nonprofit work in their communities, while creating a structured way for the business to do the same.
The funds generated through corporate matching gifts, volunteer grants and other forms of corporate philanthropy could become a major source of support for your organization, allowing it to more fully focus its fundraising efforts on new projects rather than its own operational costs.
Takeaway: Businesses support nonprofits in a number of ways, some of which, like matching gifts and volunteer grants, tend to be under-utilized by donors and organizations.
Bonus! Interested in learning more about matching gift programs? Check out a complete guide to matching gifts from 360MatchPro.
Volunteer grants are essentially a kind of matching gift program in which businesses will financially match the time that their employees donate to a nonprofit organization.
If this sounds like an incredible opportunity for your nonprofit, you’d be right.
Volunteer grants are a major opportunity with surprisingly low awareness, both among nonprofits and volunteers. Organizations with large or integral volunteer engagement programs particularly stand to benefit from volunteer grants.
How might this work in practice? Let’s say 10 volunteers help at a small fundraising event:
- They help set up in the morning and work your event until the afternoon for a total of about five hours.
- You thank them and remind them to check if their employers offer volunteer grants, providing them with a link to a search tool either in person or via email.
- Five of your volunteers are eligible to have their donated time matched!
- Eligible volunteers submit their requests to their employers or add their volunteered hours to a running total.
- You verify their volunteered hours and receive a corporate donation.
In addition to the generous support of the 10 volunteers, you’d receive bonus donations once the five eligible volunteers’ submitted requests are approved, and these bonus donations could be quite generous.
For some real-world insight into these programs, check out the policies of the top 10 volunteer grant companies. For instance, Apple will match a five-hour volunteer period for $25 an hour, and CVS Health will match 15 hours with a $500 grant.
Additionally, many companies will encourage team volunteering for groups of coworkers to work at larger nonprofit projects, and they’re another simple way to boost your donations, while bringing in new volunteers.
Takeaway: Through volunteer grants, a company will financially match its employees’ donated time and labor, representing a major opportunity for the organizations where they volunteer.
A business with a volunteer grant program will establish a threshold of minimum volunteer hours needed for eligibility. Once a volunteer reaches this threshold for grant eligibility, the following will need to happen to complete the grant process:
- You remind them to check for their employer’s volunteer grant policies, or your volunteer management system can automatically remind them.
- The volunteer checks for their eligibility with their employer or through a search tool.
- The volunteer submits their grant request to their employer.
- The company notifies your organization of the grant and then requests verification of recorded volunteer hours.
- You simply verify the volunteer’s hours, and the employer issues a check for the grant.
Your volunteers will need to be aware of a number of things about their employer’s program, including the threshold of required hours and any applicable deadlines for submission. Make this step easier for them by providing a simple search tool on your sites and emails!
You’ve already developed some effective volunteer engagement strategies, so simply making your volunteers aware of these grant programs is the first step in beginning this process and seeing a boost in your donation revenues.
Takeaway: It’s important that volunteers know about hour minimums and submission deadlines, so raise awareness and make the process easier for them whenever possible.
Making use of volunteer grants is an especially simple and impactful strategy for nonprofits because they enable you to grow your corporate fundraising revenue directly in proportion to your volunteer engagement.
Volunteer grants can be an effective solution for any nonprofit wanting to organically grow its fundraising capacity, but there are several other major benefits, as well. These are some of the ways that volunteer grants can become an integral and useful part of your ongoing strategies:
- Tie revenue growth to volunteer engagement growth. By having a built-in fundraising element to any of your volunteer campaigns, you can focus more on growing and retaining important volunteers who help you get work done. Of course, fundraising boosts are always a plus, too!
- Strengthen and affirm your relationships with volunteers. Grant programs allow your volunteers to amplify the positive impact they have on your organization. They’ll feel even more useful in doing work they believe in, and you’ll feel even more grateful to them for that work.
- Create stronger relationships with local employers. If many volunteers come from one local business and take advantage of matching grants, you can forge a strong positive relationship with that business. You’ll provide it with a great public image, and it will provide you with crucial support that can lead to a more structured sponsorship in the future.
You already know that your volunteers do so much more than simply promote your campaigns or spread your hashtags; volunteer grants are just one opportunity to increase the impact of their hard work without asking them for more.
Takeaway: Your organization can greatly benefit from volunteer grants in ways that reinforce each other; simultaneously grow your revenue, engagement and community relationships.
To make use of volunteer grants in your community, all you need to do is market them and raise awareness among your volunteers.
Thankfully, services exist to make this process as simple as possible for both your organization and your volunteers. Search tools allow participants to find their employers’ matching and volunteer grant rates, along with eligibility guidelines. These can be integrated into every aspect of your existing marketing strategies, including:
- Your organization’s website and donation pages
- Dedicated search pages linked from social fundraising projects
- Email campaigns to donors and volunteers
- Live fundraising events with printed or digital materials
Simple matching gift widgets let your volunteers search for corporate volunteer grant programs within your site. Here’s how the National Kidney Foundation integrated this tool from Double the Donation into their donate page.
Once you begin to raise awareness of volunteer grants, you should consider tracking any useful information that is revealed through digital donor and volunteer management tools.
The feedback and information revealed through volunteer grant programs can go a long way to guide your future fundraising strategies, making them more effective in the long run.
For larger organizations, there are full CRM-style software solutions designed specifically to track corporate philanthropy data and automate reminders to donors and volunteers.
Takeaway: Benefit from volunteer grants by making your volunteers aware that they might be eligible for such programs, and then provide them with tools to search for their employers.
There are no drawbacks to marketing volunteer grants; many of your volunteers are likely already eligible for them! Do some research about your local business community, but, most importantly, provide your volunteers with the tools they need to check for grant opportunities through their employers.
By tying donations to engagement, you can boost your revenues while simultaneously affirming your relationships with the most important people in your organization, your volunteers.
Adam Weinger is president of Double the Donation, an organization that helps nonprofit organizations and schools increase fundraising from corporate matching gift and employee volunteer grant programs.