Posted , by Elizabeth Vana, Client Coordinator. Topic: Donor Prospects, Donors, Nonprofit Management.

Engaging Your Volunteers for Fundraising Success


Elizabeth VanaBy Elizabeth Vana, Client Coordinator

Spring is officially here­­—the days are getting warmer, flowers are blooming, and that pesky pollen is making everyone sniffle. But did you know that April brings so much more than flowers? April is National Volunteer Month!

Nonprofits depend on the generosity and expertise of their volunteers. According to data from AmeriCorps and the U.S. Census Bureau’s 
2021 Volunteering and Civic Life in America report, approximately 20%-30% of Americans (more than 60 million individuals) formally volunteer with organizations annually. Even with rates of volunteering dropping during COVID-19, from 2020-2021 volunteers were estimated to have served 4.1 billion hours with an economic value of $122.9 billion. 

As fundraisers, we should celebrate our volunteers as ambassadors, advocates and even potential donors. Data confirms that people who volunteer are more likely to give to charity. For example, in their 2020 research report, 
The Role of Volunteering in Philanthropy, Fidelity Charitable found that 62% of charitable donors were also recent volunteers. According to the 2023 Bank of America Study of PhilanthropyCharitable Giving by Affluent Householdsthe median gift amount by volunteers with high-net-worth is nearly four times more than that of non-volunteers ($4,200 compared to $1,100, respectively). (See “What Motivates Affluent Households’ Giving?” for more information on high-net-worth giving). 
With all of this compelling data, it is important to make sure volunteers are incorporated into your organization’s fundraising plans. Here are a few recommendations for how your nonprofit can best utilize your volunteers for fundraising success:

  • Engage Your Volunteers: Volunteers, like donors, will be more likely to give their time and resources when they feel appreciated. Make sure you are frequently providing updates on your programs, sharing the impact of their volunteerism on your work, and thanking them for their support. Consider giving them a shoutout on social media, gifting them swag or appreciation gifts, or even having annual awards to highlight and recognize outstanding volunteers at your events (see our blog post “How to Engage Your Volunteers” for more ideas).
  • Don’t Forget Your Board: Your board members are volunteers too! Just as you would engage any other volunteer, make sure you are thanking your board and demonstrating impact. Your board is one of your organization’s most important fundraising tools. Board gifts help set a precedent of financial support from leadership, which can be motivating for other donors. Your board members can use their connections to champion a donation on your behalf. Do you have a contribution policy for your board members? Establishing a requirement to give meaningfully among your board members can strengthen your culture of philanthropy, as well as demonstrate their “buy-in” and belief in your work. Make sure any board solicitations are personal; we encourage a board champion or your staff to meet individually with each board member when making the ask, and emphasize the importance of the board’s participation in fundraising. (See our webinar “Improving Your Board’s Engagement” to learn more.)
  • Volunteers as Ambassadors: Volunteers are often the best ambassadors a nonprofit can have — passionate about your mission, personally connected to your work, and willing to share their experiences with others. Make a powerful appeal for your cause by collecting volunteer testimonials and sharing their stories through your newsletters and on social media. Use their passion to inspire support from others; ask your volunteers if they’d be willing to share some of their heart-warming stories at donor events. Consider asking your volunteers if they have a neighbor, friend, or colleague who would be interested in your work, and offer to coordinate a tour or other engagement opportunity. With proper prep and training, your volunteers are also great individuals to bring along on cultivation and solicitation visits. Volunteers are also a great place to look for potential board members.
  • Convert Your Volunteers to Donors: Your volunteers and donors are two sides of the same coin. Individuals that feel personally connected to an organization’s mission are more likely to financially support that nonprofit­­—and who is more engaged with your work than your volunteers? Converting your volunteers to donors relies on you — start by thanking and communicating impact, then let them know the impact that a financial contribution will have on your mission. Often, conducting prospect research on your volunteers to identify potential major donors is a good place to start.

    By engaging and utilizing your volunteers, you can strengthen your organization’s fundraising and secure the future sustainability of your work.

What is one thing from the above list that you could incorporate into your fundraising strategy for 2024? We would love to support your and grow your donor pipeline.

Reach out to the Curtis Group, and let’s brainstorm together!

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