Nonprofit teams have a lot on their plates. First and foremost, there is the mighty task of carrying out the organization’s mission. Plan events, gather feedback, keep the community engaged! Volunteer coordinators hustle to organize their volunteers, and fundraising directors dance circles around monthly and yearly fundraising goals.
As with any busy, passionate team, it can be difficult to work as one cohesive unit. Or, perhaps, it might be challenging to maintain the overarching perspective of the organization’s goals. The work nonprofit teams do is important and impressive, so we organized a list of 4 sustainable models that could serve to simplify the complicated and facilitate organic growth.
Volunteer Leadership Roles
A common assumption in small nonprofit teams is that the volunteer coordinator must assume all the weight and responsibility of volunteer program. Volunteer coordinators truly make magic happen each day on the job, but there are ways to responsibly and sustainably distribute the weight of the work. Doing so will lead to a more impactful volunteer coordinator, a more empowered volunteer team, and better outcomes for the organization as a whole.
Let’s examine the details of volunteer leadership roles. You might wonder what it means, how it works, and how to establish such a structure. While everything can (and should) be adjusted to meet the unique needs and available resources of your nonprofit, here are some ideas to get started.
Volunteer leadership roles might include:
- Recruiting new volunteers
- Leading volunteer orientations
- Conducting volunteer evaluations
- Supervising daily volunteer programs/groups
Volunteer leadership roles are best reserved for volunteers who:
- have shown excellent performance and dedication over time
- have professional experience/expertise in a skill that is relevant to the volunteer program at large
- have shadowed or worked closely with the volunteer coordinator in the past
Implementing a volunteer leadership model:
- Identify a few volunteers who might fit the bill. Introduce them to the idea and gauge their reaction. If the reaction is positive, time for step two!
- Outline the scope of their role in writing, and share that document with them. The document should include what is expected of them, what is not expected (aka, what they are not allowed to do), the duration of their role, and who they should report to.
- Express the benefits of taking on this responsibility, and be accountable to them. For example, college student often need examples of leadership in their resumes and CVs. Express that as a benefit and ensure them that you’ll advocate for them when they look for jobs if all goes well.
- Introduce this leadership structure to the volunteer program at large. This will keep everyone on the same page, ensure that everyone knows what to expect and from whom, and maintain an appreciated level of transparency. This program might even inspire other volunteers to work diligently towards the opportunity for themselves, over time.
Free Public Events
With fundraising at the mental forefront of most nonprofit teams, there certainly must be a cautious balance between free services/events offered and paid services/events offered. However, there are vast benefits of free public events, and they shouldn’t be overlooked. Rather, examine them more closely to understand how to get the greatest return on investment. You might just find that it becomes a sustainable model for fundraising, community engagement, and growing your volunteer program.
Benefits of free events/services:
- Increased and sustained positive perception of your nonprofit by the community as a whole. You put goodwill out, you’ll get goodwill back. This is a longterm investment in a positive relationship with the community.
- Increased and sustained brand/nonprofit awareness. It might be hard to track, but free public events draw larger numbers and more diverse crowds. Over time, this translates to a larger volunteer program, more donations, a larger audience to serve, and more interest in involvement of all kinds (you might receive more job applications or even valuable networking opportunities/introductions).
Safeguards for sustainability:
- Free events should not put a dent in the organization’s budget. Think “lean but lovely”.
- Free events should not take much time to prepare for. Think “rinse and repeat”.
Strategies for even bigger impact:
- Let the local press and media know about these events! Keep them in the know, and be ready to loop them in every time.
- Get yourself a hashtag. If your event happens in any repeated fashion — weekly, seasonally, or annually — create a catchy hashtag! This will make it easier for the community to share their experiences at your event and, in a way, advertise for you at no cost (a savvy term known as “user generated content”).
- Offer ways to donate and/or submit an interest in volunteering.
Fortunately for fundraising coordinators, philanthropists orbit the nonprofit space closely. To strengthen the financial model of your nonprofit, pull those philanthropic entities close and develop genuine relationships with them.
This relationship can flourish beyond simple, one-time donations. With each of your donors – especially the larger ones – consider how you might ignite more excitement (and therefore, more funds) from the partnership. A great example of this is by establishing a donation-matching partnership with one or more of your larger donors.
Donation-matching is as straight-forward as it sounds. For each donation received from the public, this chosen partner/donor would match the amount. For example, if your neighbor donates $50 to your organization, this donation-matching partner would match that donation and also commit to a $50 donation.
Depending on the comfort level of this partner, you can decide together on an appropriate donation-matching ceiling (the maximum dollar amount they’ll match) and/or floor (the minimum dollar amount they’ll match). You can also decide the duration of this initiative — whether that is over the course of one fundraising weekend, or even a whole year.
Before inviting a donor to be a partner in this initiative, consider the following:
When will the donation-matching initiative start and end, ideally?
Reflect on the psychology of your audience – the people who you’d like to encourage to donate in various quantities (not the donation-matching partner). What conditions will make this most exciting for them?
- Start this initiative during a fundraising event. It could end at the close of the event, or continue on in perpetuity.
- Close this initiative at the year end. People love reaching year-end goals together. Consider leveraging the holiday season from November-December to reach your year-end fundraising goals.
Will your donation-matching partner need (or perhaps appreciate) anything in return?
Even if it is a symbolic gesture, acknowledgement of the partner’s gift could go a long way. In addition to recognizing them in the public announcement of this initiative, you could also send them a special thank-you note or symbolic gift.
Recurring Donation Options
When collecting donations, encourage recurring donations! Although one-time donations are appreciated, recurring donations make a much larger impact.
Why donors like it:
- With various websites available to facilitate recurring donations, donors won’t run into any hassles getting set up. (Check out ActBlue, GivingFuel, DonorBox, PayPal)
- It works behind the scenes, collecting funds monthly/yearly without effort from the donor.
- Even if the donation is only $5/month, recurring donors have skin in the game and will feel like a more integral supporting member of the organization.
Why organizations like it:
- Organizations can generate more accurate financial forecasts when recurring donations can be accounted for in advance. Better forecasting = better management of funds.
- Reach funding goals more easily and predictably. By knowing how many donations can be expected each month, organizations can prepare fundraising initiatives accordingly to fill in any gaps.
Let us know if there are other sustainable strategies and program models that you’ve discovered along the way. We would love to add them to the list!