For a variety of organizations across the nonprofit, academic, and healthcare sectors, volunteers provide an essential source of aid. They help to ease the flow of everyday operations, promote their organizations, and maximize the success of events and fundraisers.
Yet while many organizations understand the importance of volunteers and want to expand their recruitment, some are overlooking an important group of potential volunteers within their own database: donors.
This includes regular, monthly givers, or even one-time donors who might not be able to afford a consistent or sizable donation but still want to pitch in. Either way, all of your donors have already shown support for your organization, and with the right strategies, you can expand that support to your volunteer program.
If your organization is eager to begin recruiting volunteers among your donor pool, look no further. This guide will soon have your donors taking their support to the next level through volunteering. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- 3 Tips for Engaging Donors in Volunteering
- 3 Benefits of Engaging Donors in Volunteering
But first, a note on the tools you’ll need to effectively steward donors towards volunteering:
Promoting, managing, and recruiting for your volunteer program is no easy feat. Maintaining a high-value program can become overwhelming when considering all of your other tasks, and many organizations may consider investing in a volunteer management solution to optimize their operations. To learn more, Galaxy Digital’s guide to volunteer management software provides some valuable resources on volunteer program best practices, engagement and retention strategies, and top providers.
Whatever software solution you may choose, the following essential steps will help you convert more donors into dedicated volunteers. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
3 Tips for Engaging Donors in Volunteering
Most nonprofits, universities, and healthcare organizations should be a bit familiar with the basic volunteer recruitment process. Whether it’s posting flyers around the community or contacting local volunteer centers, spreading the word about your volunteer opportunities to the public is a common practice that many organizations seem to know a bit about.
However, promoting these opportunities to donors will be different. Your donors are unique, with a more complex relationship to your organization and different channels through which they should encounter these volunteer opportunities. On top of that, there is far more at stake if your messages and promotions to donors are crafted poorly.
That’s why you will need some donor-specific tips to successfully engage them in the most comfortable, natural, and persuasive manner.
Promote volunteer opportunities on your donation page.
Your donation page isn’t just a funnel for incoming gifts. This section of your website is a highly versatile data collection tool, and there are dozens of donation page best practices to keep in mind that will allow you to leverage this device as effectively as possible.
For example, this page is a great place to give donors a sense of other ways they can support your organization, like through matching gifts, monthly giving, and, of course, your volunteer program. Here are a few strategic ways you can incorporate volunteering information into your donation page:
- Include a link to a volunteer recruitment survey.
- Incorporate pictures of volunteers at work on your donation page.
- Enable donors to sign up for a volunteer newsletter on your donation page.
Including this information on the donation page will introduce your volunteer program to new donors right at the beginning of their engagement history with your organization. Additionally, these widgets will encourage donors to explore these opportunities during a window of the donor journey where they are most intrigued by your work and eager to learn more.
Share volunteer stories in your email newsletter.
People love the human aspect of volunteering. The opportunity to join a team of volunteers, uplift the community, and create a real, tangible impact will be a strong incentive for your donors to give more than just their financial support. This is where nonprofit storytelling techniques become a major asset to your program promotions.
According to Getting Attention’s guide to nonprofit storytelling, positioning your campaigns through the lens of a story can be an incredibly compelling way to empower your audience to play their part as humble heroes of the community. The key elements of this technique are:
- Establishing the major characters of your campaign or story
- Emphasizing the conflicts that your mission and constituents are facing
- Outlining a solution and a clear plan of action for your donors to follow
For example, let’s consider how a university might tackle storytelling in their email recruiting messages:
In their latest newsletter, the university might set up their “conflict” by briefly highlighting how difficult it has become to put on lucrative and engaging fundraisers without volunteers to help carry out the events. Then, they would establish the characters and solution of their narrative by detailing how donors can alleviate the struggle by volunteering to work alongside faculty and staff to pitch in with these initiatives. Finally, the message should end by outlining volunteering next steps and a link to their program page.
Additionally, photos of volunteers and other high-value images are fantastic resources to bring your volunteer narrative to life. They not only give donors a literal snapshot of what a day in the life may look like, but they give your audience real faces and individuals to associate with the abstract concept of your program.
Ask for feedback on your volunteer program.
Even after donors have begun engaging in volunteering, you still need to take steps to improve your volunteer program. This will ensure that donors stick with the program after their first few engagements, creating long-lasting support and guaranteeing the longevity of your program.
Send out occasional volunteer surveys to gauge their opinions, reactions, and criticisms. Asking volunteers for their feedback is a particularly effective way to get an honest outlook of your volunteer program and begin building actionable goals to improve their experiences.
With the right questions, these polls will help you to improve every stage of the volunteer experience, from recruitment to the volunteer training process and event management:
- What initially drew you to our program, and what motivates you to continue volunteering with us?
- Do you feel that you received enough training and onboarding to integrate into the program and your work? Why or why not?
- What work have you done with the organization that has been most rewarding to you? Why?
- Are there any ways that our organization could make you feel more supported or valued as a volunteer?
- Have you noticed an area of our organization where we could do more or do things differently to serve the community?
- Are there any additional suggestions or comments you have to share that haven’t been addressed?
These targeted inquiries will help you to pair volunteers with opportunities they’re interested in, address trouble spots in your operations, and retain the donors that you’ve gained. If you’d like more help building these feedback surveys or implementing improvements in your volunteer program, a dedicated volunteer management software can help to streamline your objectives.
3 Benefits of Engaging Donors in Volunteering
The goal of any successful volunteer initiative shouldn’t just be to get as many people as possible into the program. While it’s great to have a populated pool of volunteers, your core objective should be to gather a group of passionate, capable volunteers who believe in your cause.
These are the kinds of individuals who will stick with your program for the long run and work to improve your organization, and that is why it is so important to involve your dedicated donors in your volunteering opportunities.
Donors are already invested in your cause.
Donors already contribute to the success of your organization through their donations. As such, whether they’re board members, one-time donors, or major-gift givers, they’re likely to contribute to your organization in other ways.
While anyone can add value to your organization through volunteering, you will quickly find that the passion of your volunteers will make a significant difference in the quality of your program.
For example, particularly with nonprofit organizations, many individuals will volunteer in order to fulfill credits, program requirements, or court-mandated service. These individuals should be highly valued and respected, but they are less likely to continue to participate in your program after their requirements have been fulfilled.
On the other hand, the main motivation for donors to pitch into your volunteering initiatives is to further your mission and work together with other individuals who are dedicated to your organization. Their interests align directly with the interests of your organization, and their drive to fulfill your project objectives goes far beyond the day-to-day tasks that they will be asked to fulfill.
Volunteering deepens loyalty.
With so many different organizations, causes, and programs fighting for donors’ attention and financial support, donor attrition becomes a very real problem for many organizations.
Volunteering is one major way to combat that flood of lost donors. Volunteer programs create memorable, deeper connections between donors and your organization. While a small donation can be quickly completed and forgotten, the hours that are put into a volunteering experience will leave a lasting impression with your supporters and thereby increase retention.
True, while a successful volunteer program takes a good deal of time and resources to correctly manage, the benefits that this initiative will bring in terms of donor retention alone are critical:
- Offers a cost-effective source of revenue. Donor acquisition is a costly process. Marketing your organization, guiding people through the donor journey, and crossing your fingers for a donation can be a heavy drain on your organization’s funds. By engaging and retaining the donors you’ve already gained, your organization is building reliable channels of recurring support, all without having to start from scratch and lead them to back your cause.
- Allows you to plan for the future. Donor data is essential for building plans and strategies for fundraising, marketing outreach, event planning and promotions, and a variety of other important initiatives. If your organization is continually losing your current donors and having to log and study new ones, your future plans could quickly fall apart.
- Provides security for your organization. Finding potential donors and encouraging them to support your organization is a bit of a gamble. There are steps that you can take to try and convince them to aid your mission, but even individuals who have made it to the donation page could very well leave before making a gift. A far smaller challenge is maintaining your current donors, who have already demonstrated their commitment to your organization and will take far less convincing to give again, so long as you engage them with the right strategies.
As personal as your organization may make your communications and online presence, there is little substitute for real, human interactions. Your volunteer program offers donors a place to become intimately involved with the operations of your organization, deepen their sense of value in your mission, and hopefully remain with your organization long term.
Donors can help you build your volunteer program.
While your organization should continue its own promotional efforts for your volunteer program, donors can help you to find new volunteers and may even bring them in on their own.
Here are just a few of the ways in which your donors may spread the word about your organization and increase the number of volunteers in your program:
- Personal networks. The friends and families of your donors will be some of the first people to hear about their experiences as volunteers, and if they ever feel the urge to uplift their community then your program may be the first opportunity they inquire about.
- The local community. Donors who both financially support and volunteer for your organization are likely quite active in the community. Through their interactions with locals in the course of their volunteering and their personal outreach, your donors can strengthen your reputation in the local area.
- Other donors and giving organizations. If your organization has a network in place for supporters to form a community, then your donors are far more likely to share their positive experiences in your organization with other donors.
- Their employers and colleagues. Not all volunteer program support is in the form of actual volunteering. Your donors could not only encourage their coworkers to join your program, but they could also bring in precious revenue in the form of volunteer grants from their place of employment.
If your organization is searching for ways to redouble your volunteer recruitment strategies, keep in mind that your donors are a great resource to expand your pool of candidates and bring together a strong and eager group of volunteers.
Too often, donors and volunteers are thought of as completely separate entities within the context of organizational success. The reality is, these two forms of supporters not only share many characteristics in common, but they can often spill into one another as volunteers begin to donate and donors increase their engagements by volunteering for your organization.
By bringing donors into the fold of your volunteer program, your organization will see significant improvements across various levels of your operations, from donor retention to expanded local support to an increase in the size and success of your program. With these strategies, your organization will soon be able to turn donors into dedicated volunteers with greater ease than ever before.