Do more with less. Nearly every non-profit organization I work with is asked to raise more money this year with little—or no—added fiscal or human resources. More visits, deeper cultivation, broader fundraising reach and more impressive events will take their toll on even the best fundraising professionals.
Yet, even with limited resources, achieving elevated goals is possible. Consider one of the most under-utilized resources: volunteers.
Don’t cringe! Admittedly, coordinating and motivating volunteers requires time and dedication. And maybe that’s energy you’re not feeling these days. But, volunteers are impact generators. They expand the impact of your organization by as much as 60% by offering connections that staff may not have; they can open doors for gifts that may have gone unnoticed without the volunteer’s connections. And engaged volunteers increase their financial giving!
Volunteers humanize your organization beyond those who are paid to tell the mission story. Often, because of limited resources, organizations focus on efficiency to complete tasks. But fundraising is heavily influenced by relationships, and building relationships is a task not done “efficiently”. When cultivated properly, volunteers become an integral part of the organizational mission and are among our greatest organizational resources. Equipped and engaged volunteers generously grow their giving and draw others to the cause.
Unfortunately, volunteers are often relegated to roles which do not maximize their knowledge, skill and network, left ill-equipped to help extend the organization’s impact reach.
As you re-evaluate programs and chart goals, how will you intentionally use volunteers in your efforts? Here are 3 tips to get you started:
Consider the unique value each volunteer brings
It’s more than simply what volunteers can do for the organization. And, it’s more than the money they may contribute.
Find ways to thoughtfully incorporate volunteers’ skills and knowledge from careers and other volunteer experiences to help make your programs, administrative operations, and public relations stronger. Volunteers see your organization from a different point of view and find fulfilment in helping solve problems for causes they care about. Ask for help; in most cases, they’ll be delighted to give it.
Equipped volunteers are the best advocates
Educate your volunteers—continually, and packaged in ways so they can be an ambassador for the good work you’re doing. Keep in mind, you and the volunteers are working together toward the same goals.
Volunteers and donors alike want to know they’re making a difference. Share stories and outcomes in national, regional or the organization’s historical context to help them understand both the broader need and the impact value they’re partnering to address. At every gathering of volunteers, share a story or two of the benefit of your work together. It’s okay to repeat the same story several times; the more a volunteer hears it, the more confident they’ll feel about retelling the story themselves.
Don’t burden volunteers with mountains of statistics and internal jargon. Be intentional to identify specific examples of success stories.
With thoughtful consideration to confidentiality and discernment for appropriate information, let volunteers understand the challenges and obstacles the organization faces. If the environment demands new services, but you don’t know how to offer or fund them, bring volunteers into the conversation about it. Presenting an impression that your organization faces no opposition suggests that there’s no room for growth and expansion, therefore minimizing the added value of new donors and volunteers. Clearly define the prioritized needs and communicate how meeting those needs will improve the services you provide. Volunteers may have connections or insights to achieve those needs in ways you may have not anticipated.
And when you close a gift which a volunteer helped to introduce, encourage or nudge, tell them of your progress and thank them for their support in this way.
Use volunteers to share your story, recruit donors and other volunteers
Market volunteers as valuable assets to your organization. Use organization publications and social media outlets to highlight volunteer efforts, interviews about why they volunteer and the value they experience in making a difference through your organization—and have them encourage others to volunteer.
Sometimes people want to volunteer, but don’t know who to contact or how to get started. Whether it’s completing an online form or filling out a checklist from your publications, make volunteering easy with clear contacts and ways to sign-up. Then follow-up—maybe with an assigned volunteer!—and use that energy to benefit your organization.
For information on how GSB can help to kick-start your planned and deferred giving efforts with a time- and cost-effective plan, contact me at Jennie@gsbfr.com.