Working With Volunteers in Fundraising: A Guide
Guest blog by Sandra Davis of Donorly
Volunteers make the nonprofit world go-’round, and working with volunteers in fundraising makes it go round and round!
Whether they’re weeding your facility’s flowerbeds, giving tours of your museum, serving on your board, assembling hygiene kits for refugees, or sharing your donation page on social media, volunteers are essential to your nonprofit’s success. The dedication and skills they bring to the table make them valuable assets, especially regarding your fundraising efforts.
Some nonprofits, however, struggle to integrate their volunteer program into their overall fundraising strategy. That’s why we’ve created this guide with three tips to help you better factor your volunteers into your fundraising:
- Plan volunteer engagement into your strategy from the beginning.
- Focus on meaningful engagement.
- Invite your volunteers to donate to your campaign.
As you go over these tips, you’ll likely want to tighten your overall strategy, too. Donorly’s fundraising plan template is a great resource to help you conceptualize that larger strategy and how you can more effectively involve volunteers in your upcoming fundraising work.
1. Plan volunteer engagement into your fundraising strategy from the beginning.
As you look to your upcoming fundraising campaign, identify opportunities to get your volunteers involved from the very beginning. Working with volunteers in fundraising can increase their investment in your mission, leading to better retention throughout your campaign and beyond.
Here are some ways you can create volunteer engagement in your fundraising strategy:
- Keep your volunteer coordinator heavily involved in the campaign planning process. No one knows your volunteers better than your volunteer coordinator. Work with them to determine how to best use your volunteers’ strengths and talents. For example, you might have a volunteer who is a graphic design expert design posters for your next fundraiser.
- Offer training opportunities specific to your campaign to prepare volunteers. Eliminate volunteering roadblocks by providing campaign-specific training for your volunteers. Jumping into a peer-to-peer campaign? Train your volunteers on how to make their online fundraising pages and encourage donations from their friends and families.
- Make volunteers aware of your campaign’s timeline. If working with volunteers in fundraising is important include them from the beginning and make them well aware of the timeline. Communicate specific dates in your messages like, “We’ll need extra help on July 10 with the major donor luncheon” or “We’re planning to build a new playground in the first week of March and need help hauling supplies the weekend before.” Clearly communicating your timeline will give volunteers a chance to free up their schedules and mark their calendars.
As you’re ramping up for your next big fundraising campaign, ensure you don’t leave your volunteers in the dust! During the planning phase, design opportunities for your volunteers to engage in your campaign and help you make it successful.
2. Focus on meaningful volunteer involvement in fundraising.
Often, volunteering during a fundraising campaign will require your volunteers to do a little extra—extra shifts, extra training, and more. To encourage your volunteers to put in that additional effort, provide them with meaningful opportunities that motivate them to help and participate.
Check out these four ways you can make working with volunteers in fundraising more meaningful:
- Keep the work mission-focused. Your volunteers were first drawn to your organization because of your mission. Keep your mission at the forefront of every invitation you send your volunteers to get them excited about participating in your fundraising.
- Lean on professional expertise. As mentioned above, your volunteers likely have unique talents they can bring to the table—from gardening to fixing bicycles to making the perfect chocolate mousse. Finding opportunities to use those talents in your campaign is an excellent way to recognize your volunteers’ contributions and deepen their loyalty to your mission.
- Give them their choice of assignments. Some fundraising campaigns allow a little more flexibility regarding volunteer engagement, empowering volunteers to customize their experience. One volunteer might opt to write donor thank-you notes, while another might prefer to clean your facility or enjoy decorating an event venue.
- Gamify volunteering. Everyone likes a little friendly competition now and again. Try gamifying the volunteering experience for your campaign. For example, you might create a prize like a date night gift basket and award it to the volunteer who logs the most hours over a month. (Psst – track all of those volunteer hours on POINT for freeee! Get started here 👀)
When making your volunteers’ experiences with your campaign more meaningful, consider what you know about them. You can use the volunteer data you’ve collected or brainstorm opportunities based on what you or your volunteer coordinator have learned in conversations with individual volunteers.
Finding ways to customize the volunteer experience, even in the midst of a large campaign, will help you deepen your relationships, increasing your chances of retaining your volunteers in the long run.
3. Invite your volunteers to donate to your campaign.
Some nonprofit professionals feel uncomfortable asking volunteers to donate to their fundraisers. After all, aren’t volunteers already giving their time and energy to your cause?
However, chances are that your volunteers will see donating as a natural extension of everything they already do on behalf of your cause. Because they’re so familiar with your organization’s mission and operations, they’re actually great candidates for donating.
While you can (and should!) ask volunteers to give monetary donations if they can, you can also get creative and offer out-of-the-box opportunities that will help your organization pull in support.
Creative Ideas for Fundraising
- Volunteer grants: Many companies offer employee volunteer grants. Through these programs, a company commits to making a donation to an organization their employee volunteers with after the volunteer has put in a certain number of hours. Encourage employees to learn whether their employer offers volunteer grants and to apply for one if they do. This is an easy (and free!) way for your volunteer to help you raise more.
- Matching gifts: Matching gifts are similar to volunteer grants in that they involve support from a volunteer’s employer. With a matching gift program, employers provide a matching donation to the organization their employees gave to. For example, if your volunteer gave $20, their employer would submit their own $20 contribution, doubling the volunteer’s impact.
- Peer-to-peer donation pages: You can add a peer-to-peer component to just about any fundraising campaign. In a peer-to-peer fundraiser, supporters create their own personal fundraising pages to gather donations from their families and friends on your organization’s behalf. This can be a great way to directly involve your volunteers and can even lead to relationships with new volunteers or donors who discover your organization through your current volunteers.
Your volunteers spend their extra time giving to your organization because they believe in your cause, and many of them probably donate on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to ask them to give, seek out opportunities like securing matching gifts, or even simply share your online donation page on their social media profile. As “insiders” to your organization, they recognize the need to continually raise support, and will be happy to help!
Working With Volunteers in Fundraising
Factoring volunteers into your fundraising strategy takes extra planning and consideration but can pay off, helping you accomplish your goals and retain volunteer support. Start planning how volunteers can get involved in your strategy early, find meaningful activities for them to do, and don’t be afraid to ask them to give a monetary donation.
Founder and President Sandra Davis leads Donorly with 30 years of fundraising experience and leadership. Sandra has consulted on numerous capital campaigns, led strategic planning and feasibility study efforts, and managed board development and recruitment efforts, planned giving, special events, and annual giving programs. Under her leadership, Donorly has grown to support the fundraising efforts of over 75 clients to date.