Strategies for Transforming Non-board Volunteers Into Donors
Many nonprofit organizations consider it taboo to ask loyal volunteers for money. Their rationale: Volunteers are donating their time and talent, so asking them to be donors too might be pushing too hard.
This viewpoint is rapidly changing, as organizations are beginning to realize that they should view volunteers as life-long donors, and that the terms “volunteer” and “donor” must be interchangeable.
According to the Independent Sector’s study on “Giving and Volunteering,” people who volunteer are more likely to donate to causes. If you have volunteers who are not giving to your organization, chances are they are giving somewhere else. More nonprofits need to give their volunteers an opportunity to contribute money — not just their time and emotional commitment.
Once you begin to think of volunteers as potential donors, you’ll need to make some important changes in your organization. Volunteer programs should be operated hand in hand with fundraising programs, and they should be located in the same suite of offices. The volunteer/donor should have a contact person — the donor-service representative — who will help customize the volunteer experience. The donor-service representative essentially is the equivalent of a personal shopper and customer representative all rolled into one. Everyone interfacing with the volunteer/donor should treat this person as a respected member of the organization who has the potential to be a major donor.
The following are four key strategies for transforming non-board volunteers into donors.
1. Create collaboration between the volunteer resource department and the development department. Meet regularly to discuss the organization’s fundraising plan and develop a strategy to coordinate solicitations to volunteers.
2. Know your volunteers by collecting important information about their employment status, family circumstances, education, community contacts and where their interests intersect with your organization. Maintain this information in a database shared by both the volunteer and development departments.
3. Engage your volunteers in focus groups to determine their awareness of your mission and interest in becoming a donor to your organization. Find out how they want to be treated and solicited. Create a leadership committee and/or advisory group to launch a fundraising project aimed at attracting new volunteer/donors.
4. Keep volunteers well-informed and connected to your organization through orientations that contain information about your mission, clients served and how your funds are raised. Update volunteers on recent projects and initiatives through newsletters, e-mail updates and news releases. Volunteers need to be kept informed about how and why you are fundraising.
Nonprofit organizations should never underestimate the giving power of a volunteer who is knowledgeable about and committed to the mission of the organization.
Norma S. Gindes is the director of voluntary initiatives at the United Hospital Fund. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org