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Should Your Volunteer Program Be A Source of Leads?

• donors • donor relations • volunteers
Ellen Bristol

Many organizations place tremendous value on all their volunteer programs and the volunteers who donate their time to a cause. During the COVID pandemic, many organizations have missed out on key fundraising events, which have left them looking for new ways to bring in more donations. Like many other nonprofit leaders, you might be overlooking an existing, valuable source of donors: your volunteer base.

Your volunteers already have a clear affinity for your cause, and especially during times of hardship, they’re willing to step up to the plate and support your work in whichever ways they can. It’s up to your team to locate these prospects through plenty of research and encourage them to donate. 

So that you can take advantage of this opportunity, we’ve pulled together some tried-and-proven strategies to determine if any of your volunteers will donate to your cause. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Table of contents

Why Volunteers Often Make Great Donors

How to Locate Donor Prospects Among Your Volunteers

Best Practices for Turning Volunteers into Donors

Make each volunteer experience memorable.

Simply ask your volunteers to donate.

Add a donate button on your volunteer sign-up page.

Encourage information sharing.

Your volunteers offer tremendous value and enable your organization to work toward its mission and reach its goals. Encouraging monetary donations can further this impact and result in even more progress for your work. Let’s dive in so that you can find the right prospects. 

Why Volunteers Often Make Great Donors

volunteerVolunteers donate their time, skills, and effort to a cause that they believe in. Volunteering with an organization requires commitment, focus, and drive to make a difference which is why an organization's volunteers are one of its most important assets. 

When comparing volunteers with donors, you are more likely to notice the similarities than the differences. However, volunteers often make the most committed donors. While some volunteers donate their time because they don’t have the funds to give monetarily, there are often great opportunities to raise some extra donations using your existing pool of volunteers. 

Here are some statistics that illustrate why volunteers make good donors: 

  • 67% of worldwide donors also choose to volunteer locally in their communities, and 56% regularly attend fundraising events. Source: Nonprofit Tech for Good’s 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report 
  • Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) donors volunteer for a charitable organization, indicating their interest in providing more than financial support for their charitable causes. Source:  Fidelity Charitable’s Time and Money: The Role of Volunteering in Philanthropy
  • Nearly 2 in 4 (42%) donors volunteered at a charity before making a donation to that organization, indicating that for a significant number of donors, volunteering can be an important way of evaluating an organization for future support. Source: Fidelity Charitable’s Time and Money: The Role of Volunteering in Philanthropy

While we’re more likely to notice the differences between these two types of supporters, these statistics convey that volunteers are often a great source of donors and vice versa. Donating offers volunteers a way to contribute financially in addition to their time and skills, and cross-pollinating these relationships can help deepen supporters’ impact and cultivate lasting relationships.

How to Locate Donor Prospects Among Your Volunteers 

Most nonprofits invest in a donor management system to manage all their donor data and optimize their fundraising strategies. While that works great for fundraising efforts, that excludes all the great contributions your volunteers provide. 

A volunteer management system (VMS) is what most organizations use to collect and manage all their volunteer data. All volunteer details like shifts worked, communications, and sign-up data are tracked and stored in the system. When it comes to well-targeted campaigns, data is king, and that should apply to any efforts to convert volunteers into donors. 

A volunteer management system should allow an organization to filter their volunteer data by many attributes like the number of hours worked or which opportunities and programs they volunteered for. By filtering key attributes in your volunteer database, you will be able to find your organization's most committed volunteers which are most likely to convert into donors as well. 

When segmenting your prospective volunteers and creating communications to convert them, remember that they are already donating their time. The last thing you want to do is come across as pushy and poison the well. Consider using a more educational-style campaign that informs volunteers how much more good they could do with a small monthly donation. 

Best Practices for Turning Volunteers into Donors

In order to successfully convert volunteers into donors for your organization, you need to ensure that every interaction they have with your organization is a positive one. You can only ask so much of people, but if they are receiving value from their experience with your organization and are committed and engaged with your cause, then there are some steps you can take to convert them. Here are a few best practices to help kickstart your efforts. 

Make each volunteer experience memorable.

If your organization’s volunteers have great and meaningful volunteer experiences, then they are more likely to want to invest more in your cause. Treating your volunteers as valuable assets from day one will set you up for success in retaining them and converting them into donors. Go out of your way to personalize the volunteer experience, communicate with them on a regular basis, implement the right volunteer appreciation ideas, and create a welcoming environment. 

Simply ask your volunteers to donate.

Sometimes, the easiest and most straightforward way to acquire donations is to ask. For the best results, personalize your requests based on the volunteer data you’ve gathered over time.

Your volunteer database in your volunteer management solution offers you the opportunity to filter and target volunteers based on what programs they have volunteered for. This enables you to reach out and ask for a little more support for that specific cause through a donation. Some volunteer management solutions offer communication features that will allow you to send out donation emails directly to the volunteers, no exports required. 

Add a donate button on your volunteer sign-up page.

Simply adding a donate button on your volunteer sign-up page is a more passive but effective way to encourage donations. This indicates to volunteers that donations are also helpful contributions to the cause they are committed to. Plus, you’re much more likely to convert them into donors by making giving as quick and convenient as possible.

Encourage information sharing. 

Some volunteers may not have the monetary means to donate to your organization, but they have a large network of people that might. Consider simply asking volunteers to share donation links on their social media and explain why your cause is so important to them. That can broaden your reach and bring in some donations that you otherwise wouldn’t have collected. 


Now it's time to start reviewing your volunteer database and brainstorming some donation campaign ideas for your organization’s volunteers. As long as you look after your volunteers, they’ll continue to support your cause in any way they can. Just be mindful that not every volunteer can donate, and convey that you value any support they can provide. Good luck!

Cassandra

Cassandra Smallman, our guest author, is the 
Head of Marketing at InitLive, a software platform for event staff and volunteer management. We thank Cassandra for this excellent and very strategic article.
Cassandra is a passionate content creator dedicated to fostering positive impact through thought leadership in both the Nonprofit sector and live events industry. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.
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