Focus On: Volunteers: Mind to Muscle to Money
According to conventional wisdom, the world of fundraising for nonprofit organizations includes separate camps of volunteers and donors. Donors shall give their money, volunteers shall give their time, and never the twain shall meet, right?
Not necessarily. Increasingly, fundraising officials at nonprofits are seeking volunteers willing to make the leap to financial sponsorship. Volunteers are being asked to contribute money precisely because they’re already physically and emotionally involved with the organization. If they’re more or less committed to the cause through volunteer work, it makes sense to ask them to make a monetary contribution.
Jean Anderegg, director of development at Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, says that her organization always gets a good response when it asks volunteers to donate money.
“If someone is bonded to the organization and you make them see that they can be fuller partners by becoming a volunteer and a donor, most people will be willing to do that,” Anderegg says.
The opportunities for bonding are good at a nonprofit such as Habitat, a volunteer-driven organization that builds homes for low-income families. The largest percentage of its volunteers are involved in actual hammer-and-nails construction work and have a fair idea of the amounts of money Habitat must raise to buy the materials it needs to fulfill its mission.
“Sometimes for our volunteers it takes a little while for the light to go on,” Anderegg says. “I tell them, ‘If it weren’t for donors, that two-by-four you’re hammering against that wall wouldn’t belong to us.’”
A good point, but what if volunteers say their job is to hammer the nails, not to buy them? What if they say their volunteer work is enough?
“Well, a lot of people do say that,” Anderegg says. “And we say, ‘That’s wonderful, thank you so much.’ But unless we ask the people who are coming to us, we never know.”