For some, asking a volunteer to donate might seem like a faux pas.
“The volunteer is already giving so much time and energy to our organization, and loves our mission, so can we really ask them for more?”
The answer is a resounding yes!
It is for the same reasons that the individual makes a great volunteer that the individual would also make a great donor. The title of “volunteer” can be a double dose of value for “donor” – as long as you are able to build a strong enough relationship with them and show how beneficial they are to the organization.
Show your appreciation
Volunteers are not typically subject to any contract or work performance; instead, they are using their free time to benefit your organization. While some volunteers might have their own independent, altruistic motives for spending their time this way, they often can be extremely helpful in completing tasks that are out of the capacity of staff members. But, because they are not employees, they need to be compensated in other ways. One of the easiest ways to do this is to write thank you notes to volunteers to show how much you value their time and effort contributed to your organization.
Invite them to all of your events
Individuals are volunteering because they want to be involved – so keep giving them reasons to stay involved! Provide them with invitations to upcoming workshops, campaign launches, public meetings, and – of course – fundraising events. Better yet, after they attend one event, give them free tickets to come to the next one and tell them to bring a friend! This can also bring in new volunteers and new potential donors. Continue building a relationship with them and providing them with opportunities to be more involved in the organization and connect with the mission.
Make sure they receive all your newsletters, follow all your communications, and have any advertising gear to show off to their networks
Your organization is (hopefully) sharing stories of successes among clients, volunteers, and donors. Be sure that your volunteers are all connected on the platforms of which you are sharing these stories – whether it be social media, paper or electronic newsletters, and solicitation papers.
Some of them might take this as enough of a hint, and donate through your different campaigns without being specifically asked. For those that don’t, it gives them the opportunity to hear your story in another way and see what else is going on in the organization that they might not be directly interacting with. Also, make sure that the really engaged volunteers have your giveaway materials, such as t-shirts or mugs, that they can wear or display among their networks. It’s not only a conversation starter but can bring you more volunteers and donors!
Learn more about them
How did these volunteers get involved with your organization? Why do they feel connected to the mission? What are their intentions for helping? Does their company contribute financially to organizations or offer a matching donation option? Find out! Whether at a coffee meetup or at an event where you are working together side by side, get to know each of your volunteers, especially those who consistently show up.
Take notes on their likes, dislikes, and how they could maybe get involved in other aspects of the organization in the future. Cultivating volunteers into donors can take very similar steps to your development process, except you have the advantage of interacting with them more casually and developing a more consistent rapport.
Make the ask
Volunteers do a lot, and can often be a critical backbone to your organization. You want donors that get you, your mission, and your organization. If a volunteer continues to be there for every work day and packing event, and potentially even serve on a committee, they are becoming the strongest advocates for your mission.
So after you’ve done your work with cultivating, learning more about them, and engaging them in all that your organization has to offer, then the only thing left to do is ask! While often seeming cumbersome, the ask is important. How will they know that you’d like them to donate if you don’t ask them directly?
Set up a time to talk about their commitment to the organization, letting them know that you’d like to talk about how they can become a bigger supporter of the organization as a whole, or part of a specific project that they’ve shown interest in.
Asking for money is hard, especially in a one-on-one interaction. Here are a few tips for the actual ask:
- Always make sure it is in the form of a question, not a statement. “Will you give a gift?” elicits a response, rather than “We hope you will consider giving.”
- Always give a specific donation amount. They can always change it, but at least start somewhere.
- Give time for the person to answer. You asked a question – so let them answer!
- Follow up with them. Provide them with a thank you note and share any additional information you agreed upon during the conversation.
Volunteers are a natural donor source for your organization. Even if they only give small amounts, or are interested in particular parts of your organization, they are easily converted into your individual giving program because of their connection to your mission.
Try it with one especially eager volunteer and test what their ability to give is based on your conversation with them. Every volunteer can be a donor in some capacity – as long as they are asked.
Is your volunteer program appealing to volunteers? Download our list of volunteer satisfaction questions your organization should be asking.