Volunteer Grants: Turning Service into Support By Hayley Waynick, GPC

In our April blog series, we are focusing on “Helping Hands.” Last week, we explained how to track volunteer time and efforts and how to include these figures in grant budgets (click to read the blog). Volunteers can add significant value to your project budgets and your agency’s bottom line, but did you know they can also leverage additional grant dollars for your organization? Let’s explore some of the strategies you can use to successfully in pursue volunteer grants.

Get Organized Internally:
When it comes to volunteer management, there are a few things you can do to attract more volunteers to your organization (that could result in grant dollars). First, designate who at your organization will oversee volunteers; most likely, you already have done this. Be sure this person is well-connected and works alongside your grant writer and/or development department. This coordination is so important from a donor stewardship, cultivation, and recognition standpoint.

In addition, ’formalizing’ your volunteer program (so to speak) will make your organization more attractive to corporate volunteer groups. It is clear that no one size fits all when it comes to volunteers. Some organizations essentially run off of volunteer time and labor, while some have numerous volunteer committees helping to fundraise, and others use volunteers as a significant value added to their services. So be sure you have outlined specifically-designed opportunities for various types and sizes of volunteer groups with several opportunities that are team oriented. This will help potential volunteers have a clear understanding of what volunteer work you need when they visit your website or call.

Examples of Volunteer Program Opportunities:

  • Reading Buddies: 10-15 volunteers to come to our Children’s Shelter and read to the kids for 1 hour one time per week.
  • Heroes program: One individual per week to come speak to a group of teens about their profession and give advice/answer questions.
  • Committee work: Individuals to serve on the agency’s gala, golf, and 5K committees. Volunteers can assist in event planning and soliciting auction items and sponsorships.
  • Campus Brightening: Looking for groups of ten to work on landscaping and community garden projects for two-to-three hours each month.
    Meal Packing: Need groups of five to pack meals two-to-three times per week for two hours.

Be sure you also have a formal way to track volunteers so you can record the history of who/what companies volunteer at your organization and how many hours they contribute. Ask individuals if they are willing to provide the name of the company they work for in case you want to reach out in the future. You can do this using a formal volunteer tracking software or the always reliable Excel spreadsheet. Another important tip is to always educate your volunteers, during your conversations or during orientation, on the possibility of their company having a volunteer grant program. Suggest ways they can look into this (contacting Human Resources, looking on their company’s website/intranet) and be sure to remind them to track their own hours as well.

How to Identify Volunteer Grants:
Now that your volunteer program is all set up, you can begin strategizing about what connections you already have within your organization and what connections you might be interested in making. Volunteer managers and development staff can sit down and look at list of sponsors and past/current donors together and investigate whether they have volunteer giving programs. You might suggest to your fundraising team that sharing volunteer opportunities and asking about volunteer-based grants or corporate volunteer giving programs might be standard during their donor meetings.

There are several ways that grants and volunteering intersect:

  • Some companies give money to non-profit organizations based on the number of employee volunteer hours. So, your organization might leverage support after they have volunteered. These could come from brand new partners or long-established relationships. Here are some examples of the top volunteer grant companies: https://doublethedonation.com/tips/matching-grant-resources/list-volunteer-grant-companies/
  • Expert tip: This is where it’s so important to educate ALL volunteers (even your committee/board members) regarding the potential of these programs at their place of business so there is not a missed opportunity! 
  • Other companies allow you to apply for their grant program through a formal written process after you have established a volunteer relationship with their employees. This might be through group volunteer opportunities or a grant funder may require someone from their company to be on the non-profit’s board or committee in order for you to apply. Other companies ask that the employee who is involved with the organization submit the grant.

Expert Tip: There could be an opportunity here to ask your current board/committee members if they have connections at these businesses to get them involved as a volunteer. Here are a few examples of companies that require employee involvement/volunteering to apply for grants:

Expert Tip: Really sell the volunteer opportunity and how important it is to your organization and those you serve. Include information about how you would publicize the grant/volunteer work.

In Summary, volunteer grants are a great way for:

  • Your volunteer manager to get involved in helping raise funds for your organization.
  • Engaging new partnerships with local corporations through volunteerism and creating a win-win situation for their employees and your organization.
  • To get your existing grant funders and/or corporate partners involved in a volunteer capacity.

Competency #1: Knowledge of how to research, identify, and match funding resources to meet specific needs

02. Identify major trends in private grant funding
03. Identify methods of locating funding sources
04. Identify techniques to learn about specific funders
05. Identify methods for maintaining, tracking, and updating information on potential funders
07. Determine best matches between funders and specific programs

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