5 Best Practices for Converting Volunteers to Donors | npENGAGE

5 Best Practices for Converting Volunteers to Donors

By on Sep 8, 2017


Two passionate nonprofit volunteers

It is not a secret that nonprofits need volunteers and donors to achieve their goals and carry out their mission. The question is, is your organization focusing on the volunteer base that you already have?  Many nonprofits do not know that the line between their volunteers and donors is very thin.  The value of a volunteer who donates is also on average much higher than a donor only prospect (About 10 X Higher).  In other words, your nonprofit would need about ten donors to match the average value of a volunteer who donates.  This statistic does not even include a volunteer’s time commitment and work value.  A volunteer hour is valued at over $24.00 according to an Independent Sector study.  This data all point to one conclusion.  Nonprofits need to focus effort on converting volunteers to donors efferently and effectively.

Here are 5 best practices to help you convert more volunteers to donors.

Personalize Your Prospects’ Experience

In today’s world, volunteers and donors expect a personalized experience when interacting with your nonprofit’s brand.  Creating a personalized experience that focuses on your volunteer’s preferences and the problem they are attempting to fulfill can help to convert them to donors and champions for your cause.  Creating a personalized experience for volunteers demonstrates organization and value.  Volunteers are more likely to donate if they see these qualities in your nonprofit.  Here are just a few ways that your nonprofit can create these personal experiences for your volunteer base:

Acknowledge Volunteer Participation and Accomplishments

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to convert volunteers to donors is to acknowledge volunteer participation and accomplishments towards your nonprofit’s mission and goals.  Remember that on average 70% of volunteers also donate to the cause.  If volunteers feel recognized chances are they are going to be fully committed to your organization and have greater potential as a fundraising prospect. The good news is acknowledging volunteers does not need to be challenging or expensive.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Feature volunteers in your organizations marketing materials and website (make sure they get a copy or link and agree to use)
  • Send personalized thank you notes to your volunteers after their involvement in an opportunity of event
  • Be transparent with your volunteer base and let them know of any changes taking place within the organization (communication is key)
  • Host networking events for your volunteers and their families (This is a great opportunity to leverage who your volunteers know)
  • Provide your volunteers with food and snacks while they fulfill their volunteer commitment
  • Take pictures during each volunteer event and send digital copies to all of your volunteers (sweet memories…and the opportunity for them to share on their social feeds)
  • Ask your volunteers for their opinion on how to better engage with them (again…. this is a two-way relationship)

Provide Rewarding Experiences

People volunteer for the opportunity to make a difference and feel as though their contribution matters. Nonprofits need to deliver this desire and provide volunteers with rewarding experiences that they want to share and re-engage in the future.  Retaining volunteers and converting them to donor prospects all starts with the experience that is being delivered.  Volunteers are delivering your nonprofit with real value (remember $24.00 / hour) are you returning their investment? Here are a few ways to provide volunteers with a ROT (return on their time):

  • Incorporate your nonprofits mission in all you do…always
  • Again, provide a transparent experience to your volunteers and communicate often
  • Reinforce the message that your volunteers time and efforts are valuable to the organization
  • Make volunteer experiences fun and create lifelong friendships
  • Create a brand that people want to stand behind

Implement a Volunteer Management Solution

Volunteers want to make sure that your nonprofit is organized before they agree to provide financial contributions on top of their volunteer efforts.  Volunteer management software can help to create a strategic process for managing volunteer data and promoting new opportunities to your volunteer base.  Here are a few key benefits of volunteer management software:

  • Your nonprofit can streamline the volunteer communication process by creating personalized notifications and correspondence
  • Your organization can create custom dedicated pages for specific opportunities or segmented groups or types of volunteers (remember personalization)
  • Volunteer management software can integrate with your nonprofits CRM solution and donor database to make the process on analyzing and organizing data sets more streamlined.
  • Your nonprofit can free up your volunteer coordinators time by capturing data effortlessly
  • Your organization can use data captured by your volunteer management solution to better understand your volunteers and identify when is the right time to make the fundraising ask.

Integrate with Fundraising Software

If your nonprofit organization does not have a fundraising solution than it is time to look into one.  Fundraising software offers many key benefits that can make the organizational ask easier.  Here are a few benefits of implementing a fundraising solution:

  • Access donor information whenever and wherever with a cloud based solution
  • Easily upgrade major donors with recommended gift sizes
  • Empower your organizations top funders to help your organization reach more donor prospects
  • Communicate with your donor base strategically to maintain or increase donor retention rates


Your nonprofits best donor prospects are often times the people who are already providing their time for your cause.  Your organizations best chance of converting volunteers to prospects depends on your ability to personalize their experience, acknowledge them for their wins, deliver a rewarding experience, and demonstrate organization and structure.  How is your nonprofit leveraging the 70%?


Eric Burger is the marketing communications manager for VolunteerHub, an organization that provides volunteer management solutions for nonprofits across the globe. Eric has worked in the B2B software industry for the past two years and has over five years of experience in digital marketing.

Comments (13)

  • Jerome Tennille, MSL, CVA says:


    This is a very substantive post. Very thorough on communicating what I consider best practices in managing human capital (paid or volunteer). Might I be so bold and say the key element missing is having a dedicated (full time) manager to engage the volunteers. And secondly, giving that dedicated person a seat at the strategic planning table, keeping them abreast of all the necessary touch-points. The content is spot on in that each of the suggestions are vital to giving that volunteer the “customer service” needed for a great experience. But, it’s not at all possible without a dedicated manager. Beyond converting volunteers into donors, this article highlights the necessity of having a support apparatus (dedicated volunteer engagement program) designed to manage volunteers.

    I believe many in our field would agree, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Again, great content, these are all extremely important practices.


    • Eric Burger says:

      Hey Jerome,

      Thanks for your kind words regarding the content of my post. You bring up a very valid point. Yes, having a designated manager to engage volunteers is not a bad idea and the task is most certainly a full-time role. Engagement should also be at the core of any interactions that are made with volunteers or prospects. Training all nonprofit staff with an emphasis on engagement is worth the investment of time and effort. Thanks again for your comment!

  • Meridian Swift says:

    Hi Eric,
    I have to agree with Jerome. Thank you for highlighting the components of engaging volunteers who ultimately either donate to their chosen organizations or help to spread the word about good work and therefore bring in more donations. It is critical for organizations to invest in their manager of volunteers. Without a designated leader of volunteers (hopefully the position is not called a volunteer coordinator), volunteer engagement becomes sloppy, overlooked and mismanaged. Investing in a leader of volunteers means each organization includes educational and management training, a seat at the planning table and resource allocation. Volunteers bring in more than their time; they bring in money, resources, skills, ideas, experience, connections, and expertise. Engaging them takes a very skilled and supported professional.

    • Eric Burger says:

      Hello Meridian,

      I am glad you enjoyed my post! Yes, I agree with your remarks. Having a full-time staff member solely on volunteer engagement is crucial. Creating engagement and processes around engagement is a very important role and one in which the investment of a full-time staff member is worth it. Volunteers are looking for opportunities in which they are recognized for their efforts and are part of something bigger than themselves. Organizations that create a strategy around engagement have a better chance of retaining volunteers in the long run. Thanks again for your comments and support.

  • Susan J. Ellis says:

    Thanks, Eric, for this post — which ought to be second nature to all volunteer-involving organizations, but unfortunately is not. Everything you say is spot on, but may I add a few additional thoughts? First, it’s a false division to refer to “volunteers and donors” as if they are different animals. Organizations have money donors and time donors — and both are part of a continuum of very needed friends/supporters. More important, people can give BOTH money and time, and often already do. Or they move in and out of roles over time. Also, one family member may write the check, but several others in the same family may also be active volunteers. One key recommendation: at least annually, COMPARE the list of money donors to the list of time donors (or, as I like to call them, “skill-anthropists”!). Are all the names different? The same? Neither extreme is acceptable.

    I wrote about this in The Correlation between Time Donors and Money Donors” at https://www.energizeinc.com/hot-topics/2010/july.

    Thanks, too, to Jerome and Meridian for their excellent comments above.

    • Eric Burger says:

      Hey Susan,

      Thanks for your comment. I like how you remind us all that volunteers and donors are not two separate entities. Sometimes your point is easy to forget. Time is often one of our most valuable assets. Good point to when it comes to examining your organizational time donors vs money donors. From my experience, it is often the same people making the list. What have you found in your experience? I will definitely check out your post on the topic. Thanks again for your feedback.

  • Susan Connolly says:

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks so much for helping to raise the awareness that we view and treat volunteers as the donors that they are – love when that is recognized! And dittos to Jerome & Meridian’s added insight into the importance of a skilled volunteer administrator to be at the strategy table incorporating this approach into the organization. Also thanks to Susan for helping us all understand the true value of volunteers and how to engage with them as donors of all sorts of things.

    • Eric Burger says:

      Hey Susan,

      Thanks so much for your kind words! I am glad that the post and the comments have provided you with value 🙂

  • Tricia says:


    Great thoughts about the term return on time! I’ve never thought about using that term but strive for all opportunities to be meaningful in which a lot of what is mentioned above is incorporated. Hopefully many organizations are already have most of those in place.

    Susan, Jerome & Meridian all have great contributions as well.

    • Eric Burger says:

      Hey Tricia,

      Thanks for your comment! I am glad that you found the content useful. Yes- ROT (Return on Time) is not always considered when measuring the success of volunteer engagement. Volunteers are looking for value in exchange for donating their precious time. What kind of return can we provide them?


    Good point to when it comes to examining your organizational time donors vs money donors. From my experience, it is often the same people making the list. What have you found in your experience? I will definitely check out your post on the topic. Thanks again for your feedback.

  • Kaylee says:

    Very helpful article. I would like to know more about this stat. “Remember that on average 70% of volunteers also donate to the cause”. Where is it from and what types of organizations does it include?

  • Rosalinda Miguel says:

    This was very helpful. Something my org is missing is acknowledging volunteer participation and accomplishments and I can see how impactful that could be.

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