5 Important Considerations When Creating a Volunteer Program Budget

5 important considerations when creating a volunteer program budget.It’s the end of another year, and for many nonprofits that means it’s BUDGET SEASON. There’s often a misconception that since volunteers are not paid, volunteer programs are also “free.” Nothing could be further from the truth, as we all know.

Here are five important considerations, based on advice from VolunteerMatch’s Preferred Partner nonprofits, to help you provide for your volunteer program’s needs in your nonprofit budget for 2014:

Making the Case for a Volunteer Program Budget

The first hurdle will be overcoming the fallacy that you don’t actually need a program budget. To do this, you need to do two things: Show the impact your volunteers have on your organization, and explain why the money is critical to its success.

Carla Lehn of California State Library suggests documenting how volunteers contribute to the mission of your organization – not just counting the number of hours, but demonstrating how their work helps the entire community.

Make Your Volunteer Budget Cross-Functional

Once you’ve built staff buy-in for your program’s budget, you can take things to the next level by integrating volunteer engagement into the budgets of other departments, as well. For example, if your organization puts on a large even each year, try to get “volunteer services” into that budget as a line item. This frees up your budget for more basic needs.

Communicating cross-functionally about your strategy for the year is critical, says Kristen Walker of Girl Scouts. As with many organizations, Kristen says their programs are so dependent on each other, creating completely separate budgets causes them all to fall short. Instead, the team determines the volunteer roles needed together, and what it would take to recruit and support them.

Recognition is a Key Line Item

One thing all of our Preferred Partners insisted: Budgeting for volunteer recognition activities is extremely important. “I like to have the flexibility to recognize volunteers and associates in creative ways for their support of our organization and the volunteer program,” says Stacey Kyser of National Church Residences.

Small items like t-shirts and other swag should not be seen as extras. “Volunteers don’t need a lot,” Mary Sweeney of Arbor Day Foundation comments, “But they certainly appreciate a fun t-shirt.” Mary also points out that small gifts like this are a great way to increase branding at an event and give love to a corporate partner who is helping to sponsor the event.

Don’t let your organization’s leadership scoff at this line item. Funding for food and small parties can mean the difference between happy, committed volunteers who keep coming back, bringing their friends and their skills with them, and people whom you never see again.

Fight for Your Right to the Right Tools

What physical supplies will you need to run your program in 2014? Make sure office supplies show up either in your budget or in your office manager’s. Additionally, do you need to renew a license for your volunteer tracking software? Perhaps you want to get some more training with Microsoft Excel? Think creatively about how better/more efficient tools can help you be more successful.

Speaking of tools, VolunteerMatch’s free one is great – but if you want to take your volunteer recruitment to the next level, consider budgeting for our Community Leader Premium Services. This package provides additional features that make it even easier for you to successfully find the right volunteers.

And if you’re a big, (BIG) nonprofit, take a look at our Preferred Partner Program – we can set you up with enterprise technology to help your entire organization streamline its recruitment and management of volunteers. As Mary Sweeney says, “Make sure to budget for the awesome work that you can do by partnering with VolunteerMatch!”

Telling Your Story Takes Time and Money

Adding space in your budget for storytelling can make it easier to increase visibility of your organization. Paying for traditional media can be time-consuming and a bit more expensive, but getting your story into the local paper is worth it.

Also, consider budgeting for social media tools and training, as well. Compared to other marketing activities, this one has a really low overhead, with the potential to cause a big splash. Plus, you can recruit a volunteer to help you run your social media accounts!

What other factors do you think are important when creating a volunteer program budget?

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