Jumpstart the volunteer experience

Donors give more when they’re engaged with an organization in multiple ways. One of the best ways for donors to deepen their relationship with an organization is through volunteering. But, it can also be one of the most frustrating experiences.

Therefore, it is critical to deepen relationships with volunteers by challenging them to give both time and money…and making the experience enjoyable to boot.

Here are four key concepts to consider as you think about building a better volunteer experience for your organization:

1. Cultivate Volunteers From The Start

Begin cultivating a meaningful and long-term relationship with volunteers right away, even before they set foot inside your building. Ideally, you should create a volunteer cultivation strategy similar to your donor cultivation strategy. But, you could also implement some simple tactics right away. Some of these tactics could include:

At signup:

  • Welcome newsletter (no ask).
  • Thank you email.

After volunteering:

  • Thank-you email.
  • Handwritten note card.
  • Share the results of their volunteer work, e.g., “We served “x” meals for Thanksgiving/Christmas.”

2. Make Volunteering Easier

Offer an online registration, or for those who haven’t preregistered, allow them to sign up online at your location. If you offer offsite registration, make sure volunteers don’t have to sign up again if they have preregistered.  They should just be able to check in upon arriving at your facility since they’ve already registered online. Digital registration (onsite and offsite) allows for:

  • Easier sign up.
  • Streamlined data entry (no stacks of volunteer forms for volunteer coordinator to enter).

3. Cross-Promote Deeper Engagement

Use digital properties to cross-promote other ways for volunteers to get involved, whether it’s encouraging them to sign up for resources, learn more, join a ministry opportunity or give. Tactics could include:

  •  As part of digital registration, encourage volunteers to “Like” your Facebook page.
  • Encourage volunteers to post with specific hashtags to Twitter and Instagram during their volunteer experience.

4. Ask for feedback

To gather resource and make improvements, ask for, and listen to, the opinions volunteers have about their experience.

  • Include an onsite digital form and paper comment cards for immediate feedback.
  • Follow up to a sample group with a more in-depth survey and consider using cause marketing partnerships to provide incentives for participation.

By improving the volunteer experience, you can show your volunteers how very grateful you are for all that they do. Volunteers are valuable to ALL nonprofits.

The Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund study reports that volunteers donate significantly more money to nonprofits than non-volunteers and many contribute both time and money.

  • On average, those who have volunteered in the last 12 months donate 10 times more money to charities than non-volunteers.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of those who have volunteered in the last 12 months say they donate to the same charities they volunteer at.
  • These volunteers also say they are more likely to increase their charitable donations (32%) vs. 26% of non-volunteers.

Improving your volunteer experience just might be one of your best strategies for increasing donations in the coming year!