Guest Post by Benjamin Geller
Overhead expenses are necessary for nonprofits, and transportation is often one of these expenses. Transportation is vital for much of nonprofit organization’s outreach and operations. And while these expenses are necessary, there are steps that volunteer program managers can take to help minimize them. Even if your nonprofit is financially healthy at the moment, there’s no telling what the future holds, so consider implementing a plan to help reduce your organization’s transportation costs today.
Here are five tips to save your nonprofit and volunteer program money on travel and transportation:
- Seek a Travel Grant
Depending on your organization’s mission and structure, it may qualify for a grant. Charitable organizations tend to be the most eligible, but local and federal grants are worth looking into as well. Here are some of the most generous and widely known travel grants for nonprofits, according to USA Today:
- Peace Corps
- Commonwealth Foundation
- American Youth leadership Program
- World Habitat Awards
- Fulbright Program
A quick online search should provide you with the information required to apply for these grants. If you don’t already have one, you may want to consider hiring a grant writer so your nonprofit is represented as professionally as possible.
For local travel, carpooling is one of the easiest ways to save a lot of money on transportation-related expenses. Collaboration among your employees and member-base is the first step, but you may also want to reach out to other local businesses nearby. If you’re able to coordinate schedules, you may be able to schedule deliveries, pickups, meetings, and other tasks that require commuting. One of the easiest ways to keep your driving shifts on a schedule is to have a joint Google Calendar that can be updated with ride requests and fulfillments.
You can also encourage colleagues and volunteers to register for services—like RideShare.org or iCarpool— that match you with other carpoolers in your area to make the most out of your commute.
- Rent a Van
Buying and maintaining a large vehicle doesn’t always fit into the budget, but renting one does. Van rentals are surprisingly affordable these days, and you can split the costs if you have multiple passengers. Plenty of rental agencies offer short or long-term rental plans, so you can choose one that works best for your nonprofit and program’s needs.
Additionally, there are some van rental companies—such as Airport Van Rental—that provide discounts specifically for nonprofits. You may be able to take advantage of benefits such as free extra drivers, consistent rates all year, reservation priority, discounted rates, and others. Start by calling a local van rental company and ask what kind of specials they offer for nonprofits.
- Start Planning Early
Poor planning leads to unplanned spending. For example, if you forget to book a busy hotel or flight until the last minute, you’re probably going to end up paying for your mistake. Even minor, local excursions can be costly if you end up in a rush, so try to plan all of your travel needs in advance (not just the major business trips).
According to USA Today, when you’re traveling in an unfamiliar area, you should always secure a rental vehicle, even if you’re not sure if you’ll need it. Reserve a vehicle that doesn’t have substantial cancellation fees, so you can simply cancel your reservation if you don’t end up needing it. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and being prepared is a huge money saver.
- Seek Support from Your Community
If your nonprofit is struggling to make ends meet, it may be time to reach out to the community for assistance—especially if your organization provides valuable service.
If you have a strong social media presence, you may want to try sourcing donations through platforms like GoFundMe. If you outline a specific goal such as buying a van or purchasing plane tickets to help people in need, there’s a strong chance that you’ll find generous people willing to donate to your good cause.
Did you know you can also solicit donations straight from your VolunteerMatch Premium listing? Learn more.
In conclusion, creating positive spending habits now can save you a substantial amount of money in the long run. Forbes recommends starting a strategic reserve to buffer you from unexpected expenses. Unless you find a generous investor, building substantial savings will take some time, but continually saving a little bit of money over a long-term period will get you there eventually. Stay focused on the big picture, and always be on the lookout for the best possible deal.
Author Bio: Benjamin Geller is a freelance writer who has worked as an accountant at a number of nonprofits in Brooklyn, NY. When he’s not helping charitable organizations to succeed, Benjamin enjoys bicycling, basketball, and theater.