Donors + Volunteers = A Powerful Combo
Fundraising ideas are always needed, and as a nonprofit professional, you understand the importance of engaging supporters, including volunteers and donors, to promote retention and maintain reliable support. But how do you engage supporters who volunteer and make donations to your organization? What does that mean for your supporter engagement strategies? Let’s take a closer look.
Exploring the connection between volunteers and donors
You probably see this in your organization firsthand, and the research backs it up. Compared to the general public, volunteers are more likely to donate, and donors are more likely to also volunteer. In one survey, 87% of volunteers said there is an overlap between the organizations they volunteer with and those they support financially. Plus, 50% of volunteers said that volunteering leads them to contribute more financial support.
However, many organizations tend to treat donor and volunteer engagement differently. They place volunteers in one bucket and donors in another. Creating separate engagement and appreciation strategies for each group, despite the significant overlap between audiences.
This approach has some benefits, as some volunteers and donors might respond differently to different types of outreach messages. But it can also be useful to blend your volunteer and donor engagement strategies, leading to stronger relationships with both audiences.
By using an overlapping engagement strategy, you’re showing your supporters multiple ways to engage with all the parts of your mission. You also reinforce that however they choose to help, their support is critical to your mission.
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4 ways to integrate volunteer and donor engagement
After seeing how donor and volunteer engagement can work hand in hand. You may be interested in merging these activities more closely within your organization. Here are a few strategies to bring your volunteer and donor engagement activities under the same roof:
1. Track volunteers and donors in the same database.
Some donor management software solutions will allow nonprofits to track both volunteer and donor information in the same system. This will enable you to keep track of individuals who both volunteer and donate, volunteers who haven’t yet donated, and donors who haven’t yet volunteered. With these insights, you can identify opportunities to encourage supporters to get involved in a new way.
Keeping volunteer and donor information within the same platform reinforces the idea that volunteers and donors are essentially the same audiences and are more alike than different.
By tracking your volunteers and donors in the same database, you can:
- Assess volunteers’ engagement level, which can tell you how likely they are also to donate. You can identify your most valuable prospects to reach out to with personalized donation requests that reference their past volunteer experiences.
- Analyze donor engagement levels to identify long-time or highly engaged donors interested in volunteering.
- Leverage existing donor and volunteer segments to send targeted email marketing campaigns.
- Pull reports to assess both volunteer and donor data side by side.
2. Invite volunteers to give and donors to volunteer.
Some donors and volunteers might not be involved in other opportunities at your nonprofit simply because they haven’t been asked.
With the help of your donor database, you can identify the volunteers who haven’t yet donated but are likely to. Using information like how long they’ve volunteered, how frequently they volunteer, and what roles or programs they volunteer with, you can send personalized donation requests.
If you have a lot of corporate volunteerism, you can reach out to ask the company if they also do volunteer grants. This is a donation made by a company to a nonprofit after employees have reached a certain threshold of volunteer hours. Companies recognize that their employees want them to support the nonprofits they care about. This can turn corporate volunteerism into additional funding. With these types of donations, volunteers don’t have to reach into their own wallets. Their volunteer work can translate into real funding for your cause.
On the flip side, don’t hesitate to invite donors to participate in volunteer opportunities! They help make the work you’re doing possible and many appreciate seeing their impact firsthand. Volunteering can help them form a deeper connection to your cause, inspiring them to continue giving.
To assess your success in blending volunteer and donor engagement, ask for feedback. Create a survey with questions about what motivated them to get involved in a new way and whether they’d be interested in donating or volunteering (or both!) again in the future. Responses can help you understand how successful your current volunteer and donor engagement strategies are and where you can improve.
3. Highlight peer-to-peer fundraising ideas.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is an effective way to engage donors and volunteers more deeply in your nonprofit’s work. Volunteers get the chance to get involved in fundraising ideas, and donors get the chance to participate more deeply as volunteer fundraisers.
Bloomerang’s guide to peer-to-peer fundraising recommends presenting these campaigns as an opportunity for your supporters to become ambassadors for your cause and get more involved in your mission.
Regardless of how engaged your volunteer fundraisers have been in other organizational activities, you’ll want to make sure they have the fundraising training resources.
Give them a guide to running a successful campaign with tips on the following:
- Personalizing their fundraising ideas pages with details about their own connection to your cause or organization
- Regularly posting about their fundraiser on their social media pages
- Using direct messages, emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings to ask family members and friends to donate
Encourage participants by commenting on, sharing, and liking their posts throughout the fundraising campaign. As you wrap up the campaign, thank all participants for their support and highlight their accomplishments using your nonprofit’s marketing platforms. Be sure to showcase these funds’ impact on your mission, so your fundraisers know what a key difference their efforts make.
Creating a positive experience for peer-to-peer fundraising ideas increases the chances that these supporters will participate in future campaigns, boosting your retention rate.
4. Thank all supporters equally.
Your supporters should know how much their involvement means to your organization. Donors provide the funding necessary to push your programs and projects forward. And volunteers provide valuable on-the-ground support—in fact, the current estimated value of one hour of volunteer work is $29.95. Expressing gratitude builds goodwill between supporters and your organization, showing them that you care about creating a positive, engaging experience for them.
Because their support is equally important, your nonprofit should thank its donors and volunteers equally.
Make your appreciation known by:
- Being specific in your thank you messages. Fundraising Letters’ guide to volunteer thank you notes recommends personalizing your gratitude messages with specific references to supporters’ impact. Don’t just thank a donor for their gift or a volunteer for their time and effort. Thank a donor for their gift of $150 made on July 29 or a volunteer for the 3,000 cans of food they helped sort during a recent volunteer event. Being specific shows supporters that you recognize and value their individual contributions.
- Inviting both groups to the same appreciation events, whether galas, auctions, networking nights, etc. Keep your target audience in mind when planning these events for fundraising ideas. For example, younger Millennial and Gen Z supporters will likely be interested in more casual events, like a happy hour or pub crawl.
- Offering a surprise. Don’t just thank donors and volunteers right after they give or participate in a volunteer event. Send unexpected gifts to surprise them and catch their attention. These gifts don’t have to be grand gestures. A free water bottle, sticker, magnet, or tote bag can go a long way in showing your appreciation.
Remember, donors and volunteers both fall under the larger umbrella of nonprofit supporters. Adjusting your engagement strategies to engage these groups equally can help build stronger, longer-lasting relationships that will benefit your organization for years to come.
Looking for an easy way to recruit, manage, and engage volunteers? Talk to our team today.
Joshua Meyer brings more than 20 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the VP of Demand Generation for Bloomerang. As a member of the Bloomerang marketing team, Josh manages the organization’s growth marketing efforts. Through his previous roles at the Human Rights Campaign and OneCause, he has a passion for helping to create positive change and helping nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.
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