Why Fundraising Events Are About More Than Money

Fundraising events are about more than just the money.Does your nonprofit fundraise through major events?

Unless you’re part of an 18% minority, the answer is yes. And these events come with a myriad of upfront costs and planning time.

So, how do you know if you’re making the most of your events?

new report from nonprofit technology review firm Software Advice researched eight types of common fundraising events and their return on investment. What did they find? For one thing, fun runs and walks had the highest return on investment, particularly for midsize and large nonprofits. Check it out:


However, the report also shines light on an interesting, and potentially overlooked fact: Fundraising events are about building relationships with your nonprofit and its cause. More important than the amount of money you raise in a single day, fundraising events can lead to long term donations to, awareness of, and loyalty to your nonprofit.

And incorporating volunteers into your events is a great way to make the most of this relationship building potential.

Let’s break this down.

  1. Many event attendees are already volunteers, in a sense.

Many attendees of fundraising events, especially fun runs and walks, are what I like to call multi-level supporters. What does this mean? Folks that attend these events are not just giving a monetary donation. They’re giving you their time. And some are giving more time than others.

Putting together a basket for an auction. Reaching out to friends for pledges. Publicizing and generating interest in the event. The people doing these things are volunteering their time to grow your event. And these are the people that may be interested in doing more next time around.

  1. One-time event attendees have the potential to turn into loyal supporters.

Sometimes, attending an event may be the first touch point between a potential long-term supporter and your organization. Don’t squander this opportunity. Create what Software Advice calls “transformational” events.

Katherine Wertheim, principal at Werth-It Consulting, says, “By the end of an event, guests should be able to tell you about the nonprofit, its cause and why they should care about it. If they can’t do that, you’ve missed out.”

Attendees that loved your event, and especially those mentioned above as multi-level supporters, are the perfect group to reach out to when looking for volunteers for your next event. 

46K+ volunteers list event planning as a skill on their VolunteerMatch profiles.

  1. Volunteers don’t only attend events. They help build them.

Rather than only posting volunteer roles that include day of set-up and participation, consider involving volunteers through the whole process. Over 46,000 volunteers list “event planning” as a skill on their VolunteerMatch profiles, and a whopping 97% of millennials prefer to use their skills when volunteering, according to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report.

Yes, a fundraising event can raise you a lot of money. But if you do it right, it can also raise your supporters to the next level, and build relationships that will last for years to come.

Photo credit: Sugarsweetcookies

5 Key Data Points You Should Know About Your Volunteers

Guest post by Kim Becker Cooper

Volunteer DataWant to learn more about your volunteers as potential donors?There are five key data points that your nonprofit should find out, and all of this information can be found through the fundraising strategy of prospect research.

Data point #1 – Previous giving to your nonprofit
Past donations to your nonprofit are the best predictors of the potential for donors to turn into future prospects. While annual donors give smaller amounts, they can be nurtured over time to give more.

Imagine you have two volunteers: Stan and Wilbert. Stan makes an above-average annual salary, and he’s committed to giving back to his community by donating to your nonprofit. Meanwhile, Wilbert likes to help out at events, and he’s rich as a king, but he’s frugal and would rather invest his money in stocks and Forever stamps.

Over time, it’s probable that the data gained from prospect research can help to nurture Stan into increasing his donations. He has the means to do so, and his desire to help out increases as he grows closer to your nonprofit. Eventually, Stan could be convinced to give a major gift.

Contrastingly, even if Wilbert volunteers frequently, and even if his appreciation for your organization grows, altering his mindset on how to spend his money is a completely different matter. Just getting Wilbert to donate could be a challenge, let alone convincing him to give a major gift.

Stan and Wilbert demonstrate why philanthropic indicators matter more than wealth markers. It’s easier to convince a volunteer who already donates to give more than it is to convince someone who has no philanthropic tendencies to break from established behaviors.

A will to give matters, and a history of giving to your nonprofit shows that volunteers are already in the giving mindset. Requesting a gift then relies on employing good fundraising strategies.

Data point #2 – Previous giving to other nonprofits
Corporate volunteer grant programs have helped encourage more people than ever to get out and dedicate themselves to important causes. Many of these nonprofits reach out to their volunteers for donations, which is great for them, and also great for you.

How can gifts to other nonprofits be good for your outreach?

It’s likely that at least some of your volunteers also volunteer for one or more other nonprofits. If these volunteers donate to those nonprofits, then there’s a good chance that they’ll be willing to give to you, too.

Prospect research can help reveal the donation lists of other organizations. You can identify who among your volunteers gives to other organizations, how much they give, and how often. Your fundraisers can then reach out to the right volunteers, and keep their resources focused on high quality prospects.

Volunteers who give between $5k – $10k to a nonprofit are five times more likely than the average volunteer to donate elsewhere. When you’re efficiently identifying these donors with prospect research that ‘elsewhere’ can be your organization.

Data point #3 – Nonprofit involvement as a foundation trustee
Some of your volunteers may also volunteer as trustees for foundations. While foundation trustees tend to be wealthy, this is far from a sign of a prospect’s capacity to give.

People who work for nonprofits, even on the volunteer basis of being a trustee, understand the importanceof giving. With these people, receiving a major gift could be as simple as opening your mouth to ask.

An analysis of over 400 nonprofits demonstrated that a prospect’s participation as a foundation trustee was a more powerful predictor of future philanthropy than any wealth indicator.

Additionally, trustees tend to be well connected with the trustees of other foundations, as well as with nonprofit board members. These connections can prove to be future fundraising prospects – it can’t hurt to ask your volunteers for an introduction or two.

Data point #4 – Political giving
Political giving is a philanthropic sign that not only do volunteers want to give, but they donate to the causes they care about. When prospect research reveals that a volunteer has donated $2,500 or more to political causes in his or her lifetime, the data says that this volunteer is 14 times more likely than your average volunteer to make a philanthropic donation.

When your fundraising team knows which volunteers have proven histories of giving, they can more confidently approach these people for donations and ask for appropriate amounts.

Data point #5 – Real estate ownership
While real estate groups that encourage volunteerism help nonprofits to raise money, real estate itself can help your fundraising efforts, too. Volunteers who own $2+ million in real estate are 17 times more likely than the average volunteer to give to a nonprofit.

Even once you find fundraising prospects among your volunteers, don’t expect them to give too generously right away. A first donation is rarely a donor’s biggest gift, and it takes time to build a relationship that results in a volunteer wanting to donate a substantial amount.

In the meantime, your nonprofit can continue to leverage volunteer grant programs, as well as matching gifts that can double the smaller initial donations that your volunteers give.

Volunteerism can mean more than meaningful donations of time to your organization. While VolunteerMatch found that a volunteer’s lifetime service equates to about $3,075 worth of value, your nonprofit may be able to get more than that through donations.

Volunteering matters. It’s what allows nonprofits to do what they do and deliver positive impacts for communities. However, nonprofits need money, too, and volunteers can be a great place to look for donors. Volunteers already care about your organization, and a donation is just another step in building a long, happy, mutually beneficial relationship.

Kim Becker Cooper is the Marketing Director at DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. She has ten years of experience serving as a frontline fundraiser, prospect researcher, and consultant to nonprofits.

Six Dollars for Doers Programs Doing It Right (And What This Means for Your Nonprofit)

Guest post by Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation

Dollars for doers programs doing it rightAtypical children choose to mow the lawn before dad offers payment. As with any person with a job, kids want their hard work to amount to more than inherent byproducts, such as a green field with a proverbial buzz cut.

Thankfully, most nonprofit volunteers truly want to help, but a corporate incentive to volunteer regularly can increase the value an individual can bring to his or her community.

However, many volunteers don’t submit volunteer grant requests because they either don’t know that such programs exist or they don’t know how to submit requests. It’s up to you and your organization to promote these programs to volunteers.

When nonprofits know who is eligible to request a dollars for doers grant, they can reach out to those people and increase fundraising from the very same folks who already dedicated their valuable time to the organization’s mission.

The following sample of companies with volunteer grant programs showcases businesses that place a high value on volunteerism and offer volunteer grant programs that do a great job of incentivizing and rewarding community involvement by employees.

We all know that gas is expensive, but this oil and gas giant has more incentive to donate through its dollars for doers program than not knowing what else to do with an excess of money. Chevron and other companies offer volunteer grant programs to give back to communities and to increase employee engagement.

Chevron Humankind supports nonprofits that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognizes as 501(c)(3) organizations or that the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) views as public charities.

Chevron’s Grants for Good Volunteers program rewards volunteerism by both employees and retirees through generous monetary gifts to the nonprofits where employees give their time:

  • 20 volunteer hours = $500 grant
  • 40 volunteer hours = $1,000 grant

While Chevron’s grants equate to $25 per hour, the money is only awarded once employees reach the above time benchmarks, and the 40 hour grant is the maximum. This ensures that grants are awarded to consistent, dedicated volunteers, and that there are enough funds to go around to all employees as well as to a plethora of organizations.

Including volunteer grants, Microsoft employees have donated over $1 billion to nonprofits over the past 30 years. Think about how many lawns you’d have to mow to make that much money.

The company started its dollars for doers program in 2005 in order to expand upon its already popular and productive matching gift program. Since then, employees have volunteered for over 2 million hours.

Employees must volunteer for a minimum of 4 hours to receive a grant. Microsoft pays $25 per hour, which easily puts it on Double the Donation’s list of leading providers of volunteer grants. This encourages employees to spend as much time volunteering as possible, as every hour can help to build towards grants worth thousands of dollars.

Since 2000, Verizon employees have volunteered for 6.8 million hours to raise money for over 54,000 nonprofits.

Employees who volunteer with an organization for a minimum of 50 hours can earn a grant worth $750 for the organization.

The maximum number of nonprofits that an employee can submit grant requests for is two. If an employee volunteers for 50 hours with two separate organizations then he or she can allocate two $750 grants.

Verizon also offers team volunteer grants for groups of ten or more employees who participate in charitable walks, runs, bike rides, and similar events. The company will match money raised by teams up to $1,000 per person and $10,000 per team. This is a great way to encourage team-building that fosters employee loyalty while, of course, helping communities.

Allstate is famous for the slogan, “You’re in good hands,” but you want to pay attention to what type of Allstate employees volunteer for you, as some nonprofits may receive better hands than others.

Allstate employees can earn $500 for volunteering for nonprofits, but volunteer benefits can go twice as far for agency owners, who receive $1,000 grants. Allstate awards its grants after employees have volunteered for 25 or more hours with a nonprofit in a calendar year.

Great coffee and great employee benefits. Starbucks encourages its employees to volunteer by offering various tiers of volunteer grants:

  • 25 – 49 volunteer hours = $250 grant
  • 50 – 74 volunteer hours = $500 grant
  • 75 – 100 volunteer hours = $750 grant
  • 100+ volunteer hours = $1,000 grant

A program with such tiers requires employees to dedicate significant amounts of time in order to earn increased amounts. This is Starbucks’ way of ensuring that employees truly care about volunteering while making sure that there is enough money to go around to all company volunteers.

Best Buy
Akin to how people seek unique clothes, some dollars for doers programs stand out by simply being different.

Best Buy does not offer individual volunteer grants. Instead the company offers team grants which makes Best Buy’s program a little different and encourages team-building among its employees.

There are a number of rules surrounding this dollars for doers program:

  • There is no minimum number of volunteer hours, but grants can only be earned when employees volunteer as a team.
  • Teams must consist of no less than 5 employees.
  • A maximum of $500 can be earned at an event, even if multiple teams volunteer.
  • Team members must volunteer for a minimum of one hour each.
  • A single nonprofit can earn up to $10,000 per year from Best Buy donations.

Best Buy’s program may require more reading than most to understand, but they encourage their employees to work in groups to better their communities. The detailed rules allow for the spacing out of gifts to ensure that Best Buy is helping out year round and aiding multiple groups and people while supporting varying causes and events.

Companies with dollars for doers programs understand that more employees will volunteer when they’re promised greater rewards, and nonprofits have a real incentive to get more people to volunteer. Of course, doing good for the world is at the heart of volunteerism, but people do more good for the world when they are able to donate money on top of lending a helping hand.

Nonprofits can use an array of strategies to figure out who works for companies that offer volunteer grants. The complete list of which companies offer volunteer grants includes both the above list and many additional employers. In fact over 40% of Fortune 500 companies provide grants when their employees volunteer on a regular basis with a nonprofit.

Nonprofits can better capitalize on all types of volunteer grants by performing prospect research to discover which donors work for companies that offer dollars for doers programs or by learning more about Double the Donation’s matching gift and volunteer grant service.

Finally, don’t forget to thank your volunteers who submit their dollars for doers grants. Studies show that an organization’s volunteers are likely to be larger donors than average and thanking volunteers or donors is one of the keys to fostering relationships and improving donor or volunteer retention.

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of matching gift and volunteer grant tools for nonprofits. You can connect with Adam on LinkedIn or via email.

Photo credit: www.stockmonkeys.com

Volunteers OR Donors? Think Again.

Volunteer-donor hybrids are more common than you might think. This post looks at why this is the case and how to encourage it, as well as how to avoid some common mistakes.

Volunteer Donor Overlap is More Common than You Might Think.True or false?

Volunteers donate their time because they are unable or unwilling to donate money.

Sometimes? True. Most of the time? False.

According to research, two thirds of volunteers donate money to the same organizations they volunteer for. Also, volunteers tend to donate much more than non-volunteers.

Surprised? It’s actually pretty simple.

When someone volunteers for your organization, they are likely to feel closely connected to your organization and your mission. This is especially true if you regularly:

  • Show volunteers the impact their work has on the organization and its mission.
  • Keep volunteers in the loop on what’s going on throughout the organization.
  • Involve volunteers in organizational planning by encouraging feedback.

I know that I feel personally invested in the organization I volunteer for. I get excited about the organization’s successes, and I advocate vocally for the mission. And when I was asked to donate as part of a seasonal fundraising campaign – you bet I pulled out my credit card. I knew I was already making an impact, and I saw a chance to make that impact even bigger.

But (yes, there is a but)…

How would a volunteer feel if they received a generic thank you letter for their donation that didn’t acknowledge the other ways in which they contribute? Probably not so great.

How would a donor feel if they started volunteering, and received no acknowledgement of their history with your organization? Again, probably not so great.

This is one of reasons why separating your supporters into volunteers OR donors is a mistake. Does your volunteer manager know when one of their volunteers makes a donation? They should. Make sure these communication procedures are in place.

The ultimate goal is, of course, to make your all your supporters – volunteers, donors, and those who are both – feel like the amazing part of your organization that they are.

The Volunteer as Brand Ambassador

Guest post by Tracy Kosolcharoen, Eventbrite

Eventbrite provides tips, tools and discounts to help nonprofits engage volunteers in fundraising around #GivingTuesday.As #GivingTuesday quickly approaches, many nonprofits have a single point of focus: fundraising. Nearly one third of nonprofit events on Eventbrite occur in the last quarter of the year. And during this busy time, organizers are constantly asking themselves, “How can I ensure my fundraiser is a smashing success without breaking my bank?”

Eventbrite has created an initiative, Give More Together, to help answer this very question. We’re waiving our service fees for nonprofit events occurring from December 1-6, 2014, and are excited to help you sell more tickets and collect donations when you sign up.

Another way to save money as you raise funds is through your volunteers. The truth is, volunteers can significantly impact the way attendees think of your organization. Oftentimes, guests cannot distinguish between a volunteer and a staff member, so the interactions they have will be directly associated with your brand.

This gives you the opportunity to turn every touch point – from parking to cleanup – into a positive reinforcement of your brand. By elevating the importance of your volunteers, you’ll also create a more meaningful experience for them, ultimately increasing their commitment to your cause.

Here are 3 easy steps to help you turn your volunteers into brand ambassadors:

1. Provide pre-event coaching

First, share the basics. Instill a love for your cause by explaining just how impactful your work is. Be sure to cover:

  • Your organization’s work, values and mission.
  • The purpose of this event, and how it fits in with the broader mission.
  • A general idea of why attendees are coming to the event.
  • Key leaders in the organization that will be at the event: founder, board members, etc.
  • The attendee profile and demographics so volunteers know what to expect. If you have VIP attendees, you may even want to show volunteers their photos and provide a brief background on each one, so volunteers are able to recognize guests that might need extra attention.

Then, set clear expectations:

Share your ground rules for dress code, your policy on eating, particularly if there’s food at the event, and general customer service guidelines, such as making eye contact and smiling. These pointers take only a few minutes to discuss and go a long way.

Also share your contact information or even create a chat group (Group Me, Line, and WhatsApp offer free solutions) so that volunteers can easily stay in touch and raise issues to you during the event.

2. Encourage greater involvement

Beyond assigned roles, each and every volunteer has a different vantage point on the live pulse of your event. Encourage them to use encounters with guests as an opportunity to gather feedback, with questions such as:

  • How is the event so far?
  • Anything more we can do to help you?

Have them compile feedback during their free moments, or after the shift. Encourage proactive service. If someone looks lost, volunteers can offer to assist or answer questions.

During the giving season and especially on #GivingTuesday, fundraising social media activity will be high. Your volunteers can serve as additional firepower behind your social media efforts, ensuring your event has a presence during this busy time. Encourage volunteers to share your posts and tweets with their networks.

If you have a dedicated person managing social media, you might also consider electing a few social media-savvy volunteers to tweet and post during the event itself. We say this with caution since social media can be hard to control, so if you are encouraging activity you will also want to ensure someone is able to react to any unexpected incidents.

Another option to solidify volunteers’ importance is by recognizing them in a printed program or online.

3. Thank your brand ambassadors

Share the results of their “ambassadorship.” From positive tweets about the event, to posting their volunteer photos to Facebook, remind them how valuable their support was to your guest experience.

Post-event, evaluate which brand ambassadors were most dedicated and helpful to your cause. You may want to reach out and thank them individually, or encourage them to take on volunteer leadership roles in the future.

Planning a charitable event? In addition to Give More Together, Eventbrite also offers ongoing discounts for nonprofits at https://www.eventbrite.com/npo/.

Tracy Kosolcharoen is a marketing manager at Eventbrite, where she works to help deliver more value to nonprofit event organizers through initiatives such as Give More Together for #GivingTuesday. She has also spent years managing marketing programs at American Express and OpenTable.