How To Involve Volunteers in Your Virtual Fundraising
As more and more nonprofit organizations turn their attention to virtual fundraising, there are new skills to learn, new goals to meet and more people who get involved. But as your organization continues moving its efforts online, it’s important to remember that you have another group of supporters who can help make everything run smoothly — your volunteers.
Just as you steward donors, you should build relationships with your volunteers. After all, your volunteers are the ones who work on the ground, giving their time to help further your cause. In the age of COVID-19, there are numerous opportunities to get them involved with your virtual fundraising efforts.
But first, it’s important to recognize the benefits that come with going digital with your volunteering opportunities. These include:
- More flexibility in scheduling, location and involvement level. Volunteers don’t have to worry about commuting to your volunteer events, giving them more flexibility to get involved.
- More diversity in the tasks that can be covered by volunteers. For example, volunteers can get involved in marketing outreach or website development tasks.
- Greater access to qualified volunteers. You can cast your volunteer outreach net wider because you have access to more than just your local community. You can connect with anyone in the country or even the world using virtual volunteering opportunities.
Your volunteers are integral to your nonprofit’s success, and they can absolutely be part of your virtual fundraising efforts. With the continued impact of the global pandemic, your team needs all the help it can get, and virtual volunteering presents a unique opportunity to encourage involvement at a safe social distance.
1. Fundraising Outreach
Fundraising outreach includes a variety of marketing efforts. Your volunteers can help support your outreach in a hands-on capacity by connecting with your audience members one-on-one. But, to make the most of their support, it’s important to place volunteers in roles that align with their interests and skills.
Reach out to volunteers using surveys via social media and email to ask about their preferences and interests. Then, see if they can help with the following:
- Phone calls. Do you have a group of particularly outgoing volunteers? Assign some virtual volunteers to make phone calls on behalf of your organization. These calls can be to thank donors, solicit new donations or invite donors to upcoming events.
- Social media. Chances are, many of your volunteers are well-versed in social media, especially your millennial and Gen Z supporters. Recruit some of these volunteers to help with your social media outreach. Have them run the accounts behind the scenes and post on your behalf. Make sure you also have a social media schedule in place to ensure all important content is shared.
- Email marketing. Some of your volunteers may also have experience with email marketing. Do you have a newsletter or email blasts that you regularly send out? Invite your volunteers to help out with content creation or sending these messages.
- Campaign promotion. If you’re running an online fundraiser, such as a crowdfunding campaign, make sure your volunteers help to promote this on their own. Encourage them to share the information with their friends and family so you can widen your reach.
There are many ways your volunteers can get involved in your outreach efforts. Identify their special skills and interests so you can match them to the tasks that suit them best. You’ll be amazed at the major difference their involvement can make.
As your volunteers assist with all of these tasks, it’s also worth checking their eligibility for a volunteer grant through their employer. Many companies offer monetary grants to nonprofits where their employees regularly volunteer. If you have a dedicated group of volunteers, encourage them to find out whether their company offers a volunteer grant program. This could result in payment for each hour your volunteers work, depending on the company’s policy.
2. Virtual Events
As a direct result of COVID-19, virtual events have made up many fundraisers for the past year and a half. These events offer nonprofits a way to keep supporters safe while still bringing in valuable donations and assistance.
Normally, at an in-person event, you’d have volunteers who take tickets, help with seating and assist with keeping the event on schedule. But now, it may seem like you don’t have a use for volunteers at your events since they occur online.
However, there are plenty of opportunities to include volunteers in your virtual events, whether they’re online auctions, conferences or networking opportunities. Here are some ideas:
- Include volunteers in the event planning process. During the planning process, seek additional input from volunteers on how to run your virtual event, or even decide what type of event to put on. This engages volunteers and allows you to host events that supporters are interested in. Plus, supporters feel more valued when you make efforts to directly involve them in event planning.
- Involve volunteers throughout the event. Your volunteers understand your mission and goals. So why not include them in your actual event? For example, volunteers can lead breakout rooms during your video conference or share volunteer program updates during your annual gala.
- Ask volunteers to contribute tech advice. Many of your volunteers probably have experience with certain technologies and tools. For instance, if you’re live streaming an event, ask volunteers who are familiar with live streaming tools to monitor the video stream. That way, you’ll have extra help in case anything goes awry.
- Invite volunteers to attend events. Even if your event has been planned and all tasks have been assigned, be sure to invite your regular volunteers to come as attendees. This gives your event attendance numbers a boost and shows volunteers that you value their support.
Of course, regardless of whether your event is in person or online, you’ll want to keep it organized, especially when recruiting volunteers and assigning tasks. Consider using volunteer management software to streamline the sign-up process and ensure all volunteers have what they need to run a successful event. These solutions can assist with every aspect of virtual volunteer management, from scheduling to communications to training.
3. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
When you have a solid group of supporters who love volunteering with your nonprofit, you can expand your virtual fundraising capabilities with their help. One of the most popular and effective ways to do this is through peer-to-peer fundraising.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a form of social fundraising in which your nonprofit’s supporters fundraise on behalf of your organization. Here’s how it works:
- Your nonprofit invests in peer-to-peer fundraising software.
- Your nonprofit sets a fundraising goal and creates the main campaign page.
- You recruit volunteers to set up their own campaign pages.
- The volunteer fundraisers promote their campaign pages to their larger circles of friends and family.
- You track the campaign’s progress and provide ongoing support to your volunteers.
With a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, your nonprofit can expand beyond its normal reach because supporters promote the fundraiser to a wider audience. Because each supporter has their own campaign page, donors can give to their individual pages, but the proceeds will still go to your organization.
Peer-to-peer fundraising allows you to engage supporters virtually, introduce many new donors to your cause, and bring in more revenue. And by incorporating additional elements like gamification and leaderboards, you can encourage friendly competition among your supporters and increase the amount you raise.
At the end of the campaign, be sure to thank all volunteer fundraisers and donors. You can even host a virtual event, like a live-streamed concert, to thank supporters for their hard work and contributions.
Involving volunteers in your virtual fundraising efforts doesn’t have to be a challenge. There are several opportunities to include them in fundraising outreach, virtual events and peer-to-peer fundraisers.
Once you have a strong system in place for managing your volunteers, you’ll be in a better position to host successful virtual fundraising campaigns. Plus, volunteers will have a more positive experience and be more likely to sign up for another volunteer opportunity.
Cassandra Smallman is the head of marketing at InitLive, a volunteer management software for programs and events. Cassandra is a passionate content creator dedicated to fostering positive impact through thought leadership in both the nonprofit sector and live events industry. You can find her work at on the InitLive blog.