Most nonprofits can’t do what they do without volunteers. Volunteers have the potential to help with almost every aspect of a nonprofit, from simple administrative tasks to large-scale projects and events. We take a pretty progressive view of this group of supporters and feel that the better matched a volunteer’s skills/abilities/goals are with an opportunity, the more invested they will feel in the organization (and therefore, the longer they will stick around).
We are also finding; however, that many nonprofits have an unspoken culture that puts volunteers on a lower level than donors or board members. Why? Because many nonprofits are looking at engagement solely in terms of physical dollars. However, it’s important to remember that volunteers bring in money too–billions of dollars annually in aggregate across all nonprofits–in the amount that their time is worth. An average volunteer hour is worth roughly $25. That can quickly add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a nonprofit–and in some instances, probably more than your donors and board members’ contributions combined. This isn’t just something to highlight in your annual report–it’s something that should be celebrated and highlighted year round. All supporters should know the value they bring to the organization.
Volunteers are your most invested organizational supporters. They are the ones willing to donate their time/talents/skills/interests to your organization on a regular basis. Hence, they have a very strong connection to your mission and the work you are doing for the community. They don’t just answer an annual appeal, but they work year-round to ensure the success of the organization. This can not (ever) be undervalued.
Volunteers are a crucial part of a successful continuum of engagement within an organization. Because they are so invested, they make for great advocates and can reach more community members than your PR department ever can. They have spent a lot of time with your organization, and assuming they have had good experiences, can be wonderful ambassadors of your mission and work. Volunteers are also in a great position to move to other areas of engagement within a nonprofit. They understand the inner workings and the mission, so becoming a donor or a board member isn’t that much of a leap for them.
The key to successful transition to another engagement type or the addition of an engagement type is ease. It has to be simple and painless. The ask has to be personal. Volunteers have put a lot of themselves into your organization, so any appeal has to come from someone they trust within the organization and should tie in their talents and skills. A generic email to become a donor won’t make much impact on a volunteer, but a phone call thanking them for their service and specifically highlighting their contributions will.
Is it easy for volunteers at your nonprofit to move from one type of organizational supporter to another? How many of your volunteers are also donors? We’d love to hear your comments/feedback.