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5 Ways to Engage Volunteers as Donors

Volunteers are your organization’s most invested constituents. They are 4x more likely to give and give 10x more, on average, than non volunteers. If you are not including volunteers in your development plan, you are missing out!

As we celebrate National Volunteer Month throughout April, there’s no better time to consider how to celebrate and engage your most treasured contributors. Here’s 5 key ways you can make a difference:

1 - Seize

The impact of the pandemic still weighs heavily on the nonprofit industry. While the essential role of volunteers has become more apparent than ever to manage workloads and keep programs running, formal volunteer rates have dropped

In addition, the volunteer landscape has evolved, with a new vision of community service and volunteerism emerging. We’ve seen an increased sense of community, a desire to collaborate and share resources, and an increased effort by businesses to support volunteerism through donation matching and paid volunteer days. While technology has enabled more flexibility through virtual and online opportunities, more than eight in ten volunteers prefer in-person volunteer activities. 

For many, this time of emergence from the pandemic is a time to reevaluate how to spend their time. Volunteering is one common consideration in this equation, as it allows people to connect with a deeper sense of purpose. With this in mind, you want to let volunteers know what you are all about from the start by:

2 - Steward

In the United States alone, volunteers are 60.1 million strong. They are the face of your organization, offering their valuable time, talent, treasure, and testimony to help neighbors, serve their communities, and provide their unique expertise. 

As gift officers, there are a number of ways that we can recognize and celebrate their invaluable contributions:

Consider implementing some of these activities throughout the year, but particularly during National Volunteer Week, celebrated this month from April 21-27.

3 - Strategize

If your agency doesn’t currently engage volunteers as donors, you may be asking yourself where and how do you get started? The first step is finding out which of your volunteers already donate. These are the people you want to meet with, ask strategic questions, understand their motivation, and get advice from.

The information you gather here and the relationships you build will inform your cultivation plan going forward. These meetings will offer great insights and allow you to create meaningful surveys, giving levels, appeals, and recognitions. These are your champions!

If your agency already solicits volunteers, you can still benefit from the activities listed above. You may also want to audit your current appeals and work toward best practices, such as personalization. No matter where your agency is on the spectrum of engagement, be sure to invite volunteers to donate. And that takes us to number 4.

4 - Solicit

Once you have provided a positive volunteer experience, celebrated their contributions, and gathered feedback from your volunteer donor base, you are ready to ask. The most commonly cited reason why people donate? Because someone asked them to!

Volunteers are their own special segment and should be treated accordingly. Employ annual giving best practices when developing the voice, giving levels, and story for their appeals.

Giving levels, when used correctly, are a method of cultivation. They are another way to tell your story! Consider the chart below and how it uses giving levels to intentionally tell a story to engage with potential donors.


Giving Level

Appeal to the head and the heart of the donor

$100 supports five client interviews, qualifying them and connecting them to our services.

Motivate donors to upgrade—especially to that $250+ retention sweet spot

$275 provides 10 hours of volunteer training.

Show the full spectrum of your services and impact with your giving levels

$500 supports one ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Show a client’s experience start to finish

$1,000 can provide lumber for six feet of ramp, bringing clients that much closer to freedom.

Promote major gifts or a special campaign—anniversaries, milestones, etc.

$3,000 delivers a complete ramp and a life-changing experience for our clients, their families, and caretakers.

5 - Swap

There is no doubt that in today’s changed landscape, keeping volunteers connected and engaged, and connecting with new volunteers is challenging. Along with the changes we’re facing in a post-COVID world, you may have organizational culture barriers to overcome. Oftentimes, the program and development departments can be siloed. It may be time to evaluate this relationship:

  • How does your program department feel about fundraising?

  • How can you demonstrate the value of engaging volunteers as donors?

  • How can you involve them in fundraising?

The program and development departments are partners in resource development.

  • What information can you share with one another to grow the agency as a whole?

  • What can interdepartmental collaboration look like?

  • How can you regularly and reliably do this?

  • How can you overcome objections if they are hesitant?

A healthy and ongoing collaboration between program and development ensures a successful volunteer giving program. When donors are vested in making an impact, financial and volunteer support go hand in hand–with nearly two-thirds of charitable individuals also volunteering. At KHS Consulting, that’s what we call a “C” contribution–working toward a common goal, we believe everyone can win!

If you’re looking for more ideas to engage with this audience, or other tactics to help you reach your goals, we’re here to help!


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Hi, I'm Kristi

Throughout my career, I’ve watched organization after organization hire consultants that are ineffective or don't take time to truly understand your organization. You're left without an actionable plan
or a mess to clean up
after they walk out the door.  

I’m committed to meeting you where you are and walking alongside you to build a plan that translates your vision into action now and into the future.

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