Creating and sustaining donor relationships is one of the most important tasks your organization should focus on to help your mission grow. Building strong donor relationships makes it easier to plan future fundraising goals and efforts as you know you can count on your donors’ contributions. 

Therefore, it’s essential to take the time to get to know donors and form genuine connections with them so they have reason to continue supporting your organization in the future.

Nonprofits usually carry out a variety of donor retention strategies to maintain this long-term support. These include re-engaging lapsed donors, connecting with donors on digital communication platforms and meeting with them one-on-one to get to know them better. 

One donor retention strategy you might not have thought about is engaging donors in volunteer opportunities. This allows donors to see the impact of their donations first-hand, gain on-the-ground experience helping your cause and build connections with your staff, constituents, and fellow donors and volunteers. 

To engage donors in volunteering, your organization should:

  1. Offer a variety of volunteer opportunities to appeal to donors’ interests.
  2. Segment your donors to reach out with personalized opportunities.
  3. Highlight the impact of volunteer work. 
  4. Solicit donors’ feedback.
  5. Thank donors for their participation. 

Proper volunteer management isn’t that different from donor management. Both require deliberate efforts to get to know each supporter and appeal to their preferences. Let’s dive in!

1. Offer a variety of volunteer opportunities to appeal to donors’ interests.

Your donors will likely have a wide range of interests when it comes to volunteering, and it’s crucial to offer roles that match their preferences. Appeal to these interests by offering a variety of volunteer opportunities. These can include:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities – In peer-to-peer campaigns, donors can become fundraisers themselves and collect contributions on behalf of your organization. They can create personal fundraising pages, bringing awareness of your cause to family and friends. If these opportunities are well-managed and donors are well-stewarded, they can help boost donor acquisition and build stronger existing relationships.
  • Virtual volunteer opportunities – Virtual opportunities appeal to those who are more comfortable participating remotely, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual participation offers more flexibility and can be tailored to suit anyone’s needs and restrictions, whether it’s geographical, physical or any other barriers. Also, virtual volunteering provides busy donors with a chance to connect and volunteer in a way that suits their availability. 

Remind donors that their volunteer contributions can translate into real money earned for your nonprofit when they apply for volunteer grants. Volunteer grants and corporate giving programs are put in place by companies to encourage volunteerism in communities where employees live and work. Encourage donors to research their eligibility and fill out the necessary forms to contribute volunteer grant funds to your cause. 

Donors will appreciate your efforts of offering multiple ways to get involved and appealing to their interests and busy schedules. 

2. Segment your donors to reach out with personalized opportunities.

Segmentation is the process of grouping donors based on shared characteristics and needs. Segmentation can be done in multiple ways, depending on your organization’s goals. Capture all the necessary data from your donors to help you determine how you will group your donors, such as by:

  • Their preferred communication platform – You can segment your donors based on their preferred communication method to ensure you get your message across and meet supporters where they are. Use your past interactions with donors to determine which platform they use the most. 
  • How long they’ve been involved in your nonprofit – New donors may require more information than those who have been supporting you for a long time. New supporters may need more background information on the mission and purpose of your volunteer program, while longtime donors are more familiar with your volunteer activities. You can reach out to each group with different types of information to ensure everyone has what they need to get involved.  
  • Demographic information – Grouping donors based on their age, geographic location, job or education status allows you to communicate with each group in ways that resonate. For example, donors who are younger may prefer to communicate through social media or video conferences, while those who are older may prefer communicating through email or phone calls. 

You can use these segments to reach out with personalized volunteer opportunities. For example, you can offer more social opportunities for your younger audience members. Or, present virtual opportunities for older members who prefer to participate from home.

3. Highlight the impact of volunteer work. 

Donors want to know the impact of every donation they make, and this is also true of their non-monetary contributions. In fact, according to an Accenture study, 80% of donors state that it’s important to know the outcomes of their donations or volunteer work with a nonprofit organization.

Therefore, you should show donors how volunteer work fits into your organization’s larger mission. They’ll be able to see firsthand how their donations allow your organization to conduct vital on-the-ground activities to help the community or cause. This can inspire them to continue donating. 

In your communications with donors, highlight how volunteers are vital contributors to your organization’s environmental cleanups, weekly community meals, or after-school mentoring programs. Make the connection between volunteer work and donations by sharing statistics and hard data. For instance, describe how a $100 donation allows volunteers to create four care packages for families in need. 

Then, when donors participate in your volunteer opportunities, they’ll recognize the link between their donations and the good work done by your volunteers. 

4. Solicit donors’ feedback.

According to InitLive’s volunteer engagement guide, asking supporters for feedback after volunteer opportunities gives your organization access to valuable insights about what’s working within your volunteer program and what needs to be improved. 

Collecting feedback from your donors shows them that you value their opinions and reminds them that they’re an essential part of your mission. 

Send your survey right after donors finish participating in your volunteer opportunity. Be sure to ask the right questions to help you understand donors’ true feelings about your volunteer opportunity.  

For instance, you can ask questions like:

  • Before you participated in today’s opportunity, how familiar were you with our volunteer program? (provide a sliding scale between “very familiar” and “not familiar at all”)
  • How likely are you to participate in a future volunteer opportunity?
  • How likely are you to recommend our volunteer program to family members or friends?
  • What was your favorite aspect of the volunteer opportunity?
  • What do you think we can do to improve our program?
  • Did you feel like the activities or tasks you participated in felt relevant to our organization’s overall mission?

These questions help you understand how effective your volunteer opportunities are for showing participants what your mission looks like in action. 

5. Thank donors for their participation.

Everyone likes to be appreciated and thanked for their work. By showing appreciation for your donors after they participate in a volunteer opportunity, you demonstrate that your organization values and appreciates their non-monetary contributions as much as their financial ones. There are many ways you can show volunteer appreciation, such as with:

  • A team lunch or dinner – Everyone loves free food! Offering a team lunch or dinner event provides a fun atmosphere and opportunity to get to know your donors properly. Use the meal as an opportunity to thank donors for their engagement and ask for their feedback in a casual setting.
  • Personalized merchandise – You can show your appreciation by designing your own t-shirts, face masks, tote bags, or any other merchandise and offering it to volunteers for free.
  • A volunteer appreciation gala – This event offers volunteers the opportunity to dress up,  socialize and celebrate what they have accomplished. You can cater dinner and hand out awards to volunteers who went above and beyond. You can even consider adding a photo booth or a surprise guest or any other fun activities to ensure the night will be remembered.

With these efforts, you can remind donors that they are essential members of your team and that your organization appreciates their dedication. Even sending a personalized email or handwritten thank you card can go a long way in expressing appreciation to your donors for taking the time out of their day to volunteer.

Bonus: Encourage Your Volunteers to Become Donors

On the flip side, it’s important to note that all of these tips can also be applied to stewarding volunteers to become donors. Volunteers are often overlooked as fundraising sources since nonprofit fundraising professionals often aren’t as strongly linked to volunteer programs. But in fact, 79% of people who volunteer with nonprofits also donate to those same organizations. 

Your regular volunteers demonstrate a high level of commitment to your mission, and they likely have the capacity to donate to your cause as well. You just have to ask!

By following these same stewardship strategies, from offering a wide range of volunteer opportunities to requesting their feedback and thanking them for their participation, you can encourage your volunteers to become donors themselves.

All of these activities help intertwine your volunteering and fundraising efforts, strengthening your nonprofit by inspiring greater engagement from all supporters. 

Now that you’ve learned some of the ways your nonprofit can build strong donor relationships through volunteering, you can plan how you will implement these tips! Keeping your donors engaged in volunteering, acknowledging their contributions, and collecting feedback will encourage your donors to continue supporting your cause. Remember, your donors are the backbone in helping your organization grow, and offering them a memorable experience is essential.

Shreya Tragad

Digital Marketing Specialist at InitLive

Shreya is a creative content creator focusing on delivering information about the importance of volunteerism for nonprofit organizations. She is passionate about creating engaging content, writing, and graphic design to help viewers easily retain information. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.

Shreya Tragad is a content creator at InitLive.

Aly Sterling Philanthropy