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Expanding Your Volunteer Base by Engaging Donors

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times – “Time is money!”

Perhaps, this is why many nonprofit organizations are squeamish about asking their donors to also consider helping with volunteer opportunities. Ironically, this reluctance might be shortsighted as well as a missed opportunity to improve donor loyalty rates.

In 2009, the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund published a study on volunteerism and charitable giving. While there were many findings, the following data point makes the case for asking donors if they would like to get more involved:

“Two-thirds of those surveyed (66%) agree that “true philanthropy” includes the giving of both time and money.”

Still not convinced? Then look no further than the donor data in Penelope Burk’s iconic book “Donor Centered Fundraising.” One of her many discoveries was:

“The question that should really matter to the fundraising industry is “Why do you stop giving?” . . . When we asked our study donors that question, we found that 46% would stop giving to a not for profit they once supported for reasons that are tied to insufficient or poor quality information concerning their gifts at work.”

Asking your donors to consider giving their time in addition to their money will likely:

  • Improve donor loyalty numbers
  • Increase lifetime giving
  • Support your organization’s upgrade strategy

The following are a few simple ideas you might find helpful in getting donors to consider giving their time – in addition to their money.

Create a Diversity of Volunteer Opportunities

Not all donors have time to volunteer on the frontline, working with your clients every Tuesday and Thursday. The reality is that donors are like snowflakes and each one is a little different.

Creating a menu of volunteer opportunities with various levels of time commitments will increase the likelihood of donors being able to fit volunteerism into their complicated calendars.

Additionally, volunteer opportunities shouldn’t all have a programmatic focus. Use your organization’s standing committees (e.g. finance, resource development, board development, etc.) as well as fundraising campaigns and events to find volunteer opportunities.

Finally, make sure to include one-time volunteer opportunities in addition to recurring volunteer jobs.

Align Charitable Giving Interests with Volunteer Opportunities

While many donors are engaged in a transactional fundraising relationship with you (e.g. direct mail, special events, annual campaign pledge drive), you likely have some donors who make restricted contributions to very specific programs.

When you know a donor is giving for a particular reason or specific program, identify volunteer opportunities in those areas for their consideration.

A few weeks ago, I solicited a husband andgardening volunteers wife for their financial support of a community gardening program. At the same time, I asked one of them to volunteer their time by working with kids in the garden. This alignment not only made the solicitation meeting feel very comfortable and natural, but it also escalated their giving significantly.

Remain Humble & Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Good fundraising professionals have learned that it is their job to ask; it is the donor’s job to consider the request and say yes or no.

The reality is that busy people are the ones in our world who get things done. Essentially, it is the reason they are busy in the first place. Don’t assume that you know where and when someone else might want to volunteer his or her time. Ask your donors and maintain a positive tone. You might just be surprised by how many donors say yes to volunteerism.

Free Letter to Send Donors

Headshot of Erik Anderson

About Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson is Founder & President of The Healthy Non-Profit. For over 15 years, Erik has helped organizations develop capacity and engage donors. His Donor Dreams blog is one of the most widely-read sites in the industry.

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