Working With Volunteers in Fundraising: A Guide

Guest blog by Sandra Davis of Donorly | Content updated 4/2/2024

Whether they’re weeding your facility’s flowerbeds, giving tours of your museum, 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

Despite how much well-meaning organizations value volunteers, though, some nonprofits struggle to integrate volunteers into their overall fundraising strategy. That’s why we’ve created this guide with five tips to help you better factor volunteers into your fundraising. Let’s get started!

Factoring Volunteers Into Your Fundraising Strategy: A Guide

🤝 Build volunteer activities into your fundraising plan from the beginning

From the start of the planning process, you should identify opportunities for volunteers to get involved in fundraising. Choose multiple ways to account for volunteers in your fundraising plan, such as:

  • Building in volunteer training opportunities. Consider planning a campaign-specific training session for your volunteers and factoring it into your overall timeline. For instance, are you jumping into a peer-to-peer campaign? Host a virtual training session on how to create and personalize their online fundraising pages.
  • Planning volunteer-specific marketing strategies. Marketing plans are essential to any fundraising strategy, but they don’t have to be limited to donors! If one of your secondary goals for the campaign is to boost volunteer recruitment, determine the best channels and messages to reach new volunteers and incorporate them into your plans.
  • Sharing your campaign’s timeline with volunteers. Engage important volunteers from the beginning by making them well aware of your campaign’s timeline before launch. Communicate specific dates in your messages like, “We’ll need extra help on July 10 with the major donor luncheon,” so volunteers can clear their schedules now.

To be as inclusive of volunteers as possible, make sure to keep your volunteer coordinator heavily involved in the campaign planning process. After all, no one knows your volunteers better than them. Work with them to determine how to best use your volunteers’ strengths and talents, and brainstorm ideas for ways volunteers might like to get more involved.

🙏 Provide meaningful ways to get involved

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 participate.

These might look like:

  • Skills-based opportunities. According to Double the Donation, opportunities that allow volunteers to use their specialized skills are more fulfilling. Find out what unique talents your volunteers bring to the table, and provide them with opportunities to use those talents. 
  • Customizable experiences. Give volunteers more flexibility by empowering them to customize their experiences with activities that interest them most. One volunteer might opt to write donor thank-you notes, while another might choose to decorate your event venue. 
  • Virtual options. Volunteering virtually can be meaningful and more accessible than in-person activities. You might let volunteers tutor students virtually, manage the chat in your hybrid event, or write an article for your blog on an issue they’re passionate about.
  • Gamified volunteering. Everyone likes a little friendly competition now and again. Try gamifying the volunteering experience by offering a prize for the volunteer who logs the most hours or sharing leaderboards that highlight the most involved volunteers.

No matter what kind of opportunities you offer, remember to keep the work mission-focused. Your volunteers give their time to your organization because they believe in your mission. Keep your mission at the forefront of every opportunity and invitation to remind them of what they’re working towards.

📝 Give volunteers a role in multiple parts of the fundraising cycle

You know that fundraising isn’t a one-and-done endeavor—so don’t limit volunteering to just one part of your efforts! Involve volunteers throughout the fundraising cycle to give them a holistic look at the process and let them make more of an impact.

Donorly’s guide to major donor fundraising breaks down the four key stages of the typical fundraising cycle like this:

  1. Identification: Your nonprofit researches potential donors, looking for data that indicates they’d be a good prospect for higher giving.
  2. Cultivation: Once you’ve chosen likely prospects, your staff, board members, and volunteers work to strengthen your organization’s relationship with each prospect.
  3. Solicitation: This is the stage when you make a formal fundraising appeal and secure donations from prospects.
  4. Stewardship: After receiving a donation, your nonprofit works to effectively thank and recognize the donor to maintain your relationship and keep them involved.

While volunteers may not be involved in solicitation if you have a dedicated major gifts officer or large fundraising team, there are plenty of ways they can help out with the other stages. For example, you might ask volunteers to provide testimonials about your organization’s impact to help with cultivation. Or, they could handwrite thank-you letters and film personal appreciation videos to help you steward major donors after they give.

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. 

👉 Read more about creating a great volunteer experience

👥 Add a peer-to-peer component to your campaign

Have volunteers who want to be more directly involved in fundraising and show their support publicly? Empower them to become dedicated ambassadors for your organization by fundraising on its behalf.

In a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, volunteers create their own personalized campaign pages to raise money for your nonprofit. On these pages, they can add photos, testimonials, and information about why they support your cause. Then, they share these pages with friends and family and ask them to donate.

You can add a peer-to-peer component to just about any fundraising campaign. Being so directly involved in fundraising can increase these volunteers’ investment in your mission, leading to better retention throughout your campaign and beyond. Plus, your nonprofit gets access to brand-new audiences who are likely to donate to support their friends. These new donors may even turn into volunteers in the future!

🎁 Invite your volunteers to donate

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 make 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 to help your organization pull in support. Two of the best ways to do so are by highlighting:

Volunteer grants:

Many companies offer employee volunteer grants where they donate to the organizations their employees volunteer with after the volunteer has put in a certain number of hours. Encourage your volunteers 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 employee gave to. For example, if your volunteer gives $20, their employer would submit their own $20 contribution, doubling the volunteer’s impact. 

Your volunteers give their time to your organization because they believe in your cause, and many of them likely donate already. Don’t be afraid to ask them to give, seek out opportunities like matching gifts, or even simply share your online donation page on social media. 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 it pays off by helping you accomplish your goals and retain volunteer support. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your approach to volunteer involvement often to make sure you’re providing them with the best experience possible.

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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.

Photo Stephanie Page
Stephanie Page
Head of Outreach

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