How Your Best Volunteer Could be Your Next Donor

Volunteers are an integral part of so many nonprofit organizations. You rely on their help with fundraising events, social media buzz, and getting others engaged in your brand. Your board of directors and decision makers are often also made up of volunteers. Both volunteers and nonprofit organizations have an amazing opportunity to mutually benefit and help each other. It’s really one of the most effective ways to contribute to a community.

Who Volunteers?

Volunteering is still a very important way that people feel connected to their community. In 2017, about 30% of adults in the USA volunteered. In Canada, about 43.6 of adults 15 years or older volunteered in 2017.

According to this same research, the breakdown of generational volunteering is interesting.

In 2017, Generation X had the highest volunteer rate among age groups at 36.4%, and Baby Boomers had the highest number of hours at more than 2.2 billion. Millennial volunteering increased more than 6% since the last report, now at 28.2%.

According to this research, a higher percentage of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are enrolled in a monthly giving program. However, a higher percentage (84%) of Millennials give to charity overall. In terms of getting involved, Gen Xers are most likely to make pledges, volunteer, and fundraise on behalf of an organization. The way that Millennials engage is also interesting. They are most likely to get involved through work-sponsored initiatives, watch videos and look online before making a gift, and most likely to donate through mobile.

These statistics are prone to change with an aging population and the nonprofit space changing as well. But, they are great to keep in mind when you’re thinking about who is involved in your organization, and who could be.

Untapped Potential

People who volunteer are more likely to give not only their time, but also their money. Now, this is a statistic you should be paying attention to: 79% of people who volunteer with a nonprofit also donate to that organization. Wow. What a great way to segment your prospects!

Now is a great opportunity to make sure that you are tracking information on your volunteers and your donors. Right within your database could be a whole list of volunteers who could also be faithful donors to your cause. And beyond your own database, read more about finding volunteers through prospect research in our blog post here. A quick tip: you can select the filter “volunteer” in iWave’s charitable giving database to see volunteers giving their time to you or other organizations.

The Volunteer Test: Do I Want to Give to This Organization?

Many people will often volunteer to see how an organization works, to see how their impact looks in the real world. They might even be volunteering with your cause to see if they want to give a monetary gift. And can you blame them? I know you all know nonprofits out there that don’t necessarily put their money to good use. When donors and volunteers are cautious about donating, it makes sense for them to want to see your cause in action. This kind of a test should keep us all on our toes! It’s nothing to be worried about. But rather, it’s an opportunity to show your value and impact on your community!

Managing Volunteers is Part of the Job

In some cases, volunteers can be a difficult part of the nonprofit machine. They take time and expertise to manage as a group and they can also be hard to find. But is it worth it? We think so. The pros of having volunteers invested in your cause really do outweigh the cons.

People Really Love Volunteering

When I launched my nonprofit, we had to send volunteers away. We had to actually shut down the list. People were so invested and excited about our cause, that we had to say no. A great problem to have right? Absolutely. But we didn’t necessarily feel that way at the time. At the time, we felt overwhelmed. But over the course of that first year, we figured out ways to plug volunteers into our mission. Did it look differently than at the beginning? Yes. Was it worth the steep learning curve? You bet. We learned a lot from the first few months of operations and now rely on key volunteers regularly.

The key to investing in volunteer relationships is having a wide range of volunteer activities available and the power to manage them within your team. Volunteers will not be effective without someone to manage that effort. And having an answer to the question of, “What can I do to help?” is going to save you time. What can your volunteers do? What goals can you accomplish with them? Volunteers love volunteering. That’s why they do it! So having a clear plan for how to accept free help, is always a good idea.

If you are an organization that has a strong relationship with volunteers already, it’s a great best practice to ask them questions. You’ll want to know how their volunteer experience has been with you, what you can do better, and other areas of opportunity that you may have not considered before. A great way to do this is with a volunteer survey at the end of a big event.

Those Who Give Money and Those Who Give Time Are Both Invaluable

Volunteers and donors should be treated in much the same way in your organization. One set is giving their time. The other is giving their wealth. Both are invaluable to the success and impact of your organization. Thank them. Tell them what their impact has been. Update them on your organization’s success. Ask them to be involved. Although you might have volunteers lined up at the door for some events and in some seasons, people still love to be asked. 42.1% of people became volunteers with an organization after being asked to volunteer. You never know who you are going to miss if you don’t ask.

Both volunteers and donors are going to go through cycles of involvement with your organization. Some years they may be committed monthly donors. Other years they may only be able to give their time to help organize an event. Donors could be incredible future volunteers or even board members. And volunteers could make a huge investment in your organization that you weren’t expecting. Both groups need to be appreciated where they are and to feel engaged with your cause.

About the author: Liz Corney is iWave’s Content Marketing Manager. She has a degree in Journalism, is a fiercely positive team-player and a creative self-starter. She has experience working in software technology, video/mobile games, learning & development, social & traditional media, and communications. Liz is also the co-founder of a local nonprofit organization working to better the lives of homeless women in her community.

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