What to know about volunteer grants: Q&A with the experts
Guest blog by Double the Donation
Nonprofit causes often rely heavily on fundraising and volunteerism to help support their efforts. But did you know that the two concepts can have significant overlap? One of the best ways for an organization to factor volunteers into its overall revenue generation strategy is with corporate volunteer grants.
Find out everything you need to know about the topic by exploring these questions (and answers) with the corporate giving experts:
- What are volunteer grants?
- Why do companies offer volunteer grant programs?
- How do nonprofits benefit from volunteer grants?
- How prevalent are volunteer grant opportunities?
- How does the volunteer grant process work?
- How does volunteer hour-tracking affect volunteer grants?
- What kinds of tools can help an organization collect volunteer grants?
Double the Donation and POINT each work to increase corporate philanthropy and optimize the benefits to nonprofits, donors, volunteers, and companies alike.
Let’s dive in to see what the nonprofit professionals have to say about volunteer grants and how to best utilize the funding stream for causes like yours.
Q — What are volunteer grants?
A — Volunteer grants are a popular form of corporate philanthropy program where companies agree to provide funding to the nonprofits with which their employees volunteer. This typically occurs when a company offers a predetermined dollar amount per hour an employee volunteers with a qualified charity, though some businesses opt for a set grant amount once an individual reaches a minimum hour threshold.
In the end, volunteers get to see their contributions to their favorite organizations being stretched further toward a cause they care about, while the organizations themselves are able to do more for their missions with increased charitable funding.
Q — Why do companies offer volunteer grant programs?
A — Companies offer volunteer grant programs for multiple reasons, many of which have to do with increasing the businesses’ CSR or corporate social responsibility. And of these reasons, most can be considered “internal” or “external” benefits.
Internal benefits are those that have to do with the company’s own staff and overall workplace culture. People like working for businesses that make a positive impact on society. People like working for businesses even more that make a positive impact on the causes that they themselves support. Enter—volunteer grants! Employees volunteer with nonprofits, and their employers turn around and provide financial support to the same organizations. This, in turn, leads to substantial increases in employee engagement, decreases in turnover, and additional selling points for recruiting new candidates.
On the other hand, supporting nonprofit causes (through volunteer grants or otherwise) is a great way to boost a brand’s external reputation among consumers. Buyers like to feel good about the products they purchase, and, as a result, companies with high levels of CSR tend to see significant marketing and sales benefits as well.
Q — How do nonprofits benefit from volunteer grants?
A — Though each party involved benefits greatly from participation in workplace giving programs like volunteer grants (and matching gifts, for that matter), the nonprofit ultimately receiving the funds is arguably the most (positively) impacted. And that’s for a good reason, too!
Not only do nonprofits that collect volunteer grants get to leverage the bonus funding made available by their volunteers’ employing companies, but they’re also benefiting from the value of the individuals’ volunteer hours in the first place.
And, taking things a step further, volunteers are significantly more likely to be retained over time when they see the tangible impact of their contributions. Corporate grants multiply giving impact, meaning more volunteers will be more likely to continue supporting causes like yours in the future.
Q — How prevalent are volunteer grant opportunities?
A — According to corporate giving research by Double the Donation, over 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer generous volunteer grant initiatives for their employees. And that’s not including the thousands of smaller companies following suit!
Popular companies with volunteer grant programs include Apple, Disney, Microsoft, Google, and many more.
Unfortunately, however, the vast majority of individuals that work for these companies have no idea that their employers offer volunteer grants to the causes they support. As a result, tons of available grants are going unclaimed each year.
With the right tools and strategies in hand, though, just think about how much of a difference volunteer grants could make!
Q — How does the volunteer grant process work?
A — When it comes to collecting volunteer grants, the exact process involved can vary from company to company and nonprofit to nonprofit. It typically begins, however, with an individual volunteering their time with an organization they care about.
From there, the individual is usually encouraged (sometimes by their employer, other times by the nonprofit itself) to look into volunteer grant opportunities offered by the company. If their employer does offer such a program, they are then prompted to explore the businesses’ program guidelines—including types of eligible employees, qualifying nonprofit causes, minimum hour thresholds, and expected grant amounts.
Then, the volunteer is typically instructed to complete a simple online grant application on behalf of the organization they support. This should include basic information about the nonprofit (such as its mailing address and EIN) as well as hour logs and details on time spent volunteering.
The company (or a third-party management provider working on the company’s behalf) then reviews the employee’s request and verifies the volunteer information with the nonprofit in question. If approved, the volunteer grant is disbursed to the organization, typically in the form of a check from the company!
Q — How does volunteer hour-tracking affect volunteer grants?
A — One of the most important pieces of data required for most volunteer grant applications is proof of the volunteer hours being worked. And the more accurate and detailed the documentation, the better! This is especially true considering most organizations determine the size of the grant offered based on the number of hours an employee works with the cause.
Inaccurate and out-of-date volunteer data can lead to additional and unnecessary roadblocks in the grant request process and ultimately delay or hinder organizations from receiving their funding. In such a case, the company may have no reason to believe their employee donated their time to the organization and, therefore, be eligible to collect a grant on the institution’s behalf.
With effective volunteer management practices (including time tracking and impact reporting), the process can go smoothly, providing a positive experience for the volunteers, employers, and nonprofits involved.
Q — What kinds of tools can help an organization collect volunteer grants?
A — Like any operation within your organization, having the right software to manage your processes is essential for optimal results. In terms of volunteer grants, there are two key pieces of software we recommend looking into—which are a corporate giving database and a volunteer management system.
Equipping your team with a comprehensive corporate giving database essentially allows your organization to quickly conduct research on thousands of companies and their volunteer grant programming. A volunteer can uncover information about their employer’s initiative in just a few clicks, and your team can locate data on tons of other charitable companies as well!
Once volunteers are made aware of the opportunities at hand, as well as their own eligibility status (which is also simplified with corporate giving automation software), making sure they have the time tracking and reporting abilities through your VMS is essential.
In addition to tracking and reporting data, the right volunteer management platform can ensure a seamless and positive experience for your organization’s supporters in the first place. This makes them more likely to continue working with your team and, thus, qualify for corporate grants at all.
Volunteer grants are a powerful—yet significantly underutilized—stream of funding for nonprofits around the globe. In order to begin utilizing the source to its highest potential, it’s important to equip your team with the right tools on top of a solid foundation of knowledge. Best of luck!