As a fundraising professional, it’s your job to raise the revenue your organization needs to successfully serve its mission and its constituents. Sometimes that means getting creative and thinking outside the box when it comes to how you can fundraise.
One method many nonprofits don’t think of right away is corporate volunteer grants.
Corporate volunteer grants are a powerful way to help raise the funds you need, while you also benefit from the time and energy supporters already commit to your organization.
Whether you’re starting a volunteer program as a way for your small nonprofit to grow, or you have quite a large operation going already, corporate volunteerism should be a key part of your strategy.
In this article, we’ll go over:
- The Basics of Volunteer Grants
- Why Volunteer Grants Matter to Nonprofits
- How to Find Volunteer Grants
If your team is wondering why corporate volunteer grants matter to your nonprofit, read on!
1. The Basics of Volunteer Grants
Corporate volunteer grants are a common form of corporate philanthropy. According to Double the Donation’s guide to volunteer grants, volunteer grants encourage volunteerism in communities where employees live and work. Companies provide monetary grants to organizations where their employees volunteer on a regular basis.
Here’s a breakdown of how volunteer grants work:
- An individual volunteers with a nonprofit.
- The individual looks up their eligibility for a volunteer grant with their company.
- The individual submits a request for a volunteer grant to their company.
- The company verifies the volunteer hours with the nonprofit.
- The company sends a check to the nonprofit.
The process is pretty straightforward, and volunteer grants are great because your nonprofit essentially gets paid for the hours volunteers commit to your organization.
Companies generally pay for volunteer hours in one of two ways:
- An hourly rate, sometimes with a required minimum number of hours (e.g., $25 per hour).
- A specific amount based on a set number of hours (e.g. $500 for 20 hours).
It seems simple enough! But many nonprofits don’t actively pursue volunteer grants. This is due to a general lack of awareness on both sides: Nonprofits don’t know whether their volunteers are eligible for volunteer grants, and don’t encourage them to check. Individual volunteers aren’t always aware their company even offers a grant program.
But, as you’ll see in the next section, the impact of volunteer grants can be huge for your nonprofit.
2. Why Volunteer Grants Matter to Nonprofits
According to these statistics, 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer volunteer grant programs. That’s right—volunteer grant programs are more common than you might think. This means the chance of your volunteers working for a company with a volunteer grant program is pretty sizable.
Beyond the number of volunteer grant programs out there, these corporate giving programs offer a lot of value to your team.
Here are the top reasons why volunteer grants matter to nonprofits:
Double Value in Volunteer Work
As we’ve touched on already, when individual volunteers secure a grant for your nonprofit, you’re getting double the value: many hours of time, skills, and energy from dedicated volunteers, as well as money for that time. Basically, nonprofits are working toward their fundraising goals and volunteering goals at once.
Increased Number of Volunteers and Hours
Because many companies require a minimum number of hours to be met before they’ll issue a monetary grant, this encourages volunteers to commit more time to your organization so they can meet the threshold. Even better, if they enjoy working with your organization, they may refer their friends to volunteer as well.
Valuable Volunteer Skills
When employees volunteer with an organization, they tend to have valuable knowledge and expertise that can directly benefit your cause. If a volunteer has specific training or skills, you can match them to the right opportunities within your organization, leading to higher volunteer engagement and retention rates.
Deepened Relationships with Supporters
When volunteers know their time and efforts are performing double duty for your organization, this keeps them engaged and active with your team. Just knowing that their efforts can be doubled simply by submitting a grant request will deepen their relationship with your organization.
Supporters like to know their efforts are making a difference.
Engaging your volunteers is actually quite similar to engaging donors. You’ll want to continue cultivating your relationships with them by recognizing them, demonstrating the impact of their support, and finding multiple ways for their support to go even further.
And just like with donors, your team should be making efforts to retain volunteers and avoid attrition. This means actively promoting volunteer grant opportunities to your volunteers so they know their efforts are appreciated and also have the potential to grow.
It’s obvious by now that volunteer grants are an essential source of revenue for your team, but the impact goes beyond that. You might be wondering at this point exactly how your nonprofit can start incorporating volunteer grants into your strategy. We’ll cover that next.
3. How to Find Volunteer Grants
When it comes to actually finding volunteer grant opportunities for your organization, there are multiple avenues you can take:
- Performing community outreach: Promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR) in your community is a great way to help businesses, small and large, find ways to help organizations like yours. This is especially true for smaller businesses that are looking for a way to give back to their community. With smaller businesses, it can also be easier to set up meetings with their leadership teams to share information about your cause and why you would benefit from their help.
- Marketing: Promoting volunteer opportunities within your community will encourage employees from local companies to sign up with your team. Be sure your staff is responsive to volunteer signups and inquiries, as that has a huge impact on the level of engagement you receive.
- Strengthening existing relationships: Let your current volunteers know how much of an impact their work is having on your cause, as recognition is key to volunteer retention! Additionally, ask your volunteers if they know whether their companies offer volunteer grant programs, and encourage them to invite their friends or coworkers to participate.
- Researching volunteer grant companies: Understanding which companies offer volunteer grants in your area will help you fine tune your outreach. For example, does a certain company in your community offer team volunteer grants? According to Crowd101’s guide to volunteer grants, team volunteer grants give companies an opportunity to provide a teambuilding event for their employees, while nonprofits get to benefit from a group of dedicated volunteers. Consider reaching out to companies offering team grants to set up a group volunteer event.
- Using a matching gift database: Use a matching gift database that also houses information on volunteer grant companies. Databases that offer information on both types of programs help your team raise more awareness around volunteer grants; when it’s easy for volunteers to look up their eligibility for a grant, they’ll be more likely to start and complete the process.
The way you manage your volunteers will affect how they perform and whether they stay engaged with your cause. Be sure to reach out to the community, be responsive when approached about volunteer opportunities, and engage with local businesses in your area. Beyond that, incorporating tools like a database that lists volunteer grant companies can help streamline the process even further.
Monetary grants add value to the volunteer hours your organization is already receiving. But that value goes beyond revenue.
When your organization actively promotes and pursues corporate volunteer grants, you’re giving your team the opportunity to engage existing volunteers, recruit new ones, deepen relationships with your supporters, and build alliances with companies in your community. As you continue cultivating these relationships, you might even land a corporate sponsorship for an event, or get more revenue from team volunteer grants!
Case in point: Volunteer grants matter to your nonprofit. Now that you have a basic understanding of corporate volunteerism and how it works, you’re in a better position to start raising more for your cause. Good luck!
Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via email or on LinkedIn.