The following article was originally posted on the GuideStar Trust blog. Click here to read the original post.
“Super supporters” are those who contribute significantly to your nonprofit’s fundraising and volunteerism programs. So, when you take a step back and look at your donor and volunteer lists, how many contributors could be classified as “super supporters?”
In this article, we’ll offer our suggestions for identifying and converting more people to this distinctive group.
Why Focus on Super Supporters?
To answer this question, let’s take a lesson from the for-profit world. The old sales and marketing adage asserts that it costs much less to keep and engage a current customer than it does to get a new one. In other words, one of the most value-added marketing activities is to upsell existing clients. The same can be true when it comes to volunteers and donors. As opposed to going out and searching for new constituents, start by examining your existing donor and volunteer lists. You probably already have a few in mind as you read this article.
Identify Your Target
The first step in obtaining more super supporters is establishing your definition for the group. There’s no hard and fast rule here, but you will probably want to come up with some parameters. Decide what minimum number of hours volunteered and minimum number of dollars contributed each year constitutes a super supporter.
Once your parameters are set, you can begin to identify which individuals have potential. Use the reporting system from your volunteer management and donation software systems to tackle this step. (Ideally, these two systems have the ability to snyc with each other.)
Coordinate Your Efforts
As you refine your list, you may begin to worry about asking more from your top stakeholders. Fear not. As pointed out by Susan J.Ellis in Donors and Volunteers — More Alike Than Different, those who volunteer generally donate more to charity than those who do not give their time. Ellis also notes that, conversely, a donor’s contributions may wane over time. However, being asked to volunteer may refresh the donor’s commitment to an organization.
Before you try to cross-pollinate lists, it is important to ensure both sides of the house (volunteer and fundraising groups) are meeting regularly and working in coordination. As pointed out by the Energize article, “If you are going to ask for donations from volunteers and ask donors to give time, it is critical that all such appeals be done with the involvement of both departments.” Staff involved with fundraising should ask donors about their occupations and interests; staff involved with volunteerism should support the donor campaign. This information should then be managed in a location accessible to management and those involved in the initiative.
Now it’s time to execute. How are you going to convert regular supporters to super supporters? Below are a few ideas. Thanks to industry guru Joyce Lewis-Andrews for her helpful article, which got our creative juices flowing.
- Start by recognizing those who are already super supporters. Reward those who are already on the list – and subconsciously create awareness with those who aren’t.
- Tell your story to donors. Illustrate that you need their helping hands as well as their dollars.
- Share your organization’s successes and your future goals with both volunteers and donors regularly. Use social media, newsletters, and events as opportunities to do so.
- Let both donors and volunteers know the cost of specific materials and programs. Putting a price tag on them heightens awareness of what it takes financially to keep your agency running.
- To incentivize, you may even consider tangible gifts for those who either volunteer or donate at certain thresholds. If your budget doesn’t support this, try lining up donations from local businesses.
- Ask those with potential to head up a project. This may be just the thing to put him or her over the top into super supporter territory.
- Request help in recruitment from your super supporters. Consider asking this group to be mentors to those who are close to joining their ranks.
- Be critical of your opportunities. Would you have more super supporters if your events were at different times or durations? Maybe they just need to be better organized. Tell volunteers that you really enjoy their work and ask what it would take to get them to volunteer more.
The above points are just some suggestions. Every organization and situation is different. The main takeaway here is to understand that with effort you can grow your base of super supporters. With a little cultivation, someone who is high on one list can easily be a star performer on both.
I’d also recommend you check out these free letter templates we built for converting more super supporters. Click here for the letter to existing volunteers and here for the letter to donors.
Tweet your ideas to us @VolunteerHub and we’ll be sure to retweet.