7 Reasons to Invest in a Volunteer Program

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any nonprofit. Your services, fundraising campaigns, and even day-to-day operations of your nonprofit can depend on volunteers.

And supporters are eager to help! According to an AmeriCorps published survey, “an estimated 30 percent of Americans or 77.9 million people reported they volunteered for an organization or association.”

So, if people want to volunteer, the key to garner willing volunteers is to:

  • Communicate your needs
  • Share your “why”
  • Make it easy

While all nonprofits know they need volunteers, investing time and energy into building a program can naturally fall by the wayside. As you look to recruit and retain volunteers, a best practice is to put a strategic volunteer program in place.

You may be asking, “What’s the benefit to me, the nonprofit?” Let’s dive into it!

The Basics

First, let’s start with the basics — what are the top reasons to invest in a volunteer program? We’ve got you covered. A dynamic volunteer program:

  1. Creates ambassadors for your mission. Volunteers spread the word in your community and increase your community engagement. They can advocate for you with their friends, family, and local and state legislatures. Provide your volunteers with messaging so they can share their “why” on social media and by word of mouth. One pro tip shared by Points of Light is to provide a digital badge to add to your volunteer leaders’ email signatures.
  2. Develops new funding sources. The line between a volunteer and donor should be fluid, not separate. A 2014 study by Fidelity Charitable found that 83% of volunteers report supporting the same nonprofits with their donations. Don’t silo your volunteers and your donors!
  3. Reduces your operating costs. According to the Independent Sector, the value of a volunteer hour was estimated at $28.54 in 2020. Since payroll is often the largest expense for a nonprofit, volunteers provide essential support to your cause with minimal costs to you.
  4. Increases the quantity and quality of your programs and services. It’s a win-win situation for professional development and your lengthy project list! That list will be met by an eager, talented volunteer, and your volunteer will improve their professional skills at the same time.
  5. Maximizes your limited staff resources. We’re sure there’s been a few items on your wish list that you’d love to check off if you had more resources, like being open on holidays or offering more services to your community. Volunteers can fill in those gaps! Maybe they are looking for ways to give back over a holiday, or they may have the connections to develop a new service opportunity for you.
  6. Increases your diversity and brings in new ideas. Although your nonprofit may always strive to diversify or get out of the “we’ve always done it this way” rut, you may not meet the potential of those goals with your staff. Volunteers can provide unique perspectives, different experiences, and even that spark of excitement that comes with a new idea.
  7. Minimizes volunteer turnover. Just like staff onboarding, volunteer onboarding takes time and money. If you recruit and onboard well with easy-to-access opportunity matching, training, and tracking mechanisms in place, your volunteers will be well on their way to a successful experience. Build on that by learning more about your volunteers’ interests and skills, and they will feel seen and appreciated. An upfront investment will pay off in years of dedicated service.

How Do I Get Started?

Are you convinced? If so, it’s time to take the next step of how to start putting a volunteer program into place. Then you can scale your volunteering as your nonprofit grows!

Here are our 5 fundraiser-approved steps to developing a bullet-proof volunteer program.

Step 1: Quantify your current volunteer impact.

Gather data on number of volunteers, hours and skills contributed.

Measure the return on investment (ROI) including your program cost and total estimated volunteer value (# of volunteer hours x est. volunteer wage per hour). You can even take it a step further and consider the monetary savings to the community when volunteers provide the service or in-kind donation versus a private provider (e.g. number of children tutored or trees planted).

Step 2: Educate your staff and board on the benefits of volunteering.

Share your ROI and other data with your executive team and board and garner to get them on board. Recruiting, onboarding, engaging, and retaining your volunteer base will be much smoother when you have their support.

Step 3: Purchase or build a volunteer management software system.

Track volunteer hours, record your volunteers’ information, and create reports. Your software/tracking system should include a personalized volunteer dashboard where they can track their hours and volunteer services provided, demonstrating to them their impact in real-time.

Step 4: Develop a plan for recruitment, training, and growth opportunities for your volunteers.

Share the plan with your current volunteer leaders and solicit their feedback before rolling out to the community.

Step 5: Make the case for even more investment in your program next year.

Give insight into how your efforts to recruit, engage, and retain volunteers positively impact your mission and your bottom line.

Bringing a proper volunteer program and management strategy into the picture can be a great step in helping your organization push your fundraising forward for the mission you serve daily.

Wrapping Up!

More fundraising resources are just a click away.

Guest Author:
Laura Thomson

Laura Thomson
Consulting Manager