Three Ways to Turn Volunteers into Fundraisers

Volunteers are often an untapped resource in fund development. They work on projects, run programs, and can be the most knowledgable about the hands-on work of the organization. They are the ones feeding people in soup kitchens, visiting children in homeless shelters, and running donation drives. They are the heartbeat of the work—representing the face of the organization.

These are the people that should be trained to raise money for the non-profit. They know the story of the entity—all they need to learn is how to ask for support. If paid staff are expected to contribute to the fundraising goal, imagine how much more revenue could be attained if volunteers were encouraged to assist in the effort.

I’ve found three great ways to turn volunteers into fundraisers:

Invite volunteers to join event planning committees.

Think about it—these are the most passionate individuals connected to your organization. Why not have that passion drive solicitations for sponsorships, silent auction items, and general donations? When these individuals talk about the important work the non-profit is doing, their passion spreads like a wildfire. It is contagious. Train your volunteers to approach potential sponsors. Teach them how to cultivate relationships with corporate decision-makers who have the authority to make a contribution.

Have Volunteers Coordinate the Alumni Network

Do you have individuals who have graduated from your program? Do your program participants eventually age out of the program? Alumni—or former program participants—are often the cream of the crop within a donor base. These are individuals who have benefitted from the program and their experience compels them to believe the non-profit is important and needed in the community. These people give with the hope of seeing the work continue. In my experience, alumni connect better with one another, especially when the senior leader is not an alum. Ask a few alumni to volunteer to coordinate the alumni network. When the time comes to ask for a financial gift, have the volunteers make the solicitation.

Make Your Volunteers Community Ambassadors

Your volunteers believe in the organization, and naturally want others to support it. Train your volunteers to approach people in the community. Have them target professionals who can bring resources to the non-profit—either in skills or in a financial contribution. Ask your volunteers to invite their personal networks to be a part of the work—by volunteering or adopting a special project. People often give time before opening their wallets, so volunteering is a great way to establish an emotional connection. Volunteers not only hear the story, but also become a part of it.

Question: How have volunteers contributed to your fund development efforts?