In response to the  2018 Snapshot of the Philanthropic Landscape, featuring the most recent philanthropic data from major sources in the industry, Dee Falvo, a Senior Vice President with CCS Fundraising in the New York office, discusses statistics pertaining to volunteering and charitable giving.

Americans value the importance of giving to charity, whether it be their time or their finances. According to the most recent data, nearly a quarter of all Americans devote time to volunteer for nonprofit organizations. And of those who volunteered, nearly half give their time to three or more organizations. A lesson we see over and over is that those who give are motivated to give more once they see and experience the real effects of their charity.

When organizations weigh strategies on how to gain volunteers, the best answer is the simplest one: ask them. When surveyed about why they volunteered, over 41 percent of Americans replied that it was because they were asked by the organization. This is nearly the same amount as those who said they became involved on their own.

People who volunteer their time are also more likely to financially support an organization, with 79 percent of those who volunteer with a nonprofit also donating to that organization. This is good news for nonprofits looking to attract support from major donors. The numbers tell us that major donors are very active in volunteerism. When high net worth individuals (those with liquid assets of one million dollars or more) were asked how they seek to create impact, after giving financially, 69 percent said they volunteer. So the question becomes, how do you get those high net worth individuals involved or engaged with your organization’s mission?

The Executive Director’s Advisory Council

Whether they are long-time donors, or new to the organization, providing meaningful opportunities to engage donors as volunteers is essential to deepen their connection to your nonprofit, as well as their long-term involvement. Understanding their interests, why they give, and what their special connection or affiliation may be to your organization is a key first step to finding the right volunteer role.

In particular with high net worth individuals, especially C-Level executives, the time commitment and bandwidth required to take on a volunteer opportunity may be extremely limited. Not to mention, there will most likely be significant competition from other nonprofits seeking their attention.

A mentor and strategist role can be a unique way to leverage their skills sets, experience, and passion in a capacity that would not require the time commitment and fiduciary responsibility of a board member. It’s also a great way to assess whether the board role would be a good fit for the donor and the organization.

A formal group of mentors can be convened as an Executive Director’s Advisory Council. The purpose of the council is to bring together a collection of high-level individuals who complement the knowledge and skills of existing leadership. This team of leaders will assist in effectively addressing the organization’s current needs, as well as long-term strategic imperatives.

While recruiting members, consider setting criteria for participation. In order to establish a council that is knowledgeable and experienced, one requirement should be a demonstrated ability to provide effective, accountable leadership. Prospective members should express their ability to be active supporters of the goals and values of your organization, both privately and in a public forum. They should also practice the highest standard of ethical and personal conduct in the fulfillment of their role as a council member.

It will also be necessary to convey the role and expectations of the council. Give them a specific challenge, with a clear beginning and end, to work through and advise on in order to demonstrate the immediate impact of the council. Additionally, provide members with specific requests, like attending biannual breakfast meetings, or joining an annual board meeting retreat. Help them understand what is expected of them, for instance regarding their availability for a limited and structured amount of telephone calls each year from senior staff seeking advice.

Clearly defining expectations will ensure a productive and fruitful experience for both the volunteer and organization. Suggested criteria may include:

  • Contributing expertise to the current and future work of the organization
  • Convening as a council to provide direction on strategic initiatives
  • Partnering with the organization on potential top prospects within a personal or professional network

Equally important, is making a commitment to the volunteer regarding their time and the value of their advice. If asked to undertake tangible, near-term priorities, the council’s guidance can and should be implemented as a testament to the effectiveness of their insight.

Moving Forward

The relationship between volunteering and giving is a strong one, and every organization should be aware of this relationship and incorporate it into their strategy, whether they are courting major donors or general households. This becomes even more apparent when considering that, on average, donors who volunteered also gave 56 percent more than those who did not volunteer.

One tactic for getting prospective volunteers in the door is to invite them for a “ride along,” so they can see firsthand the work of your organization and its impact. Experiencing the mission has a demonstrable impact on volunteers. In a recent survey, respondents said that after volunteering, only five percent would give less than they had previously. 45 percent said they would give the same amount, and half of all respondents said they would give more than they had before volunteering. The data shows that cultivating volunteer relationships should be a high priority for any organization.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page.

About the Author

Dee Falvo brings over 15 years of experience to her client work at CCS Fundraising, specializing in campaign design and management, donor and external messaging, major gift fundraising, prospecting, moves management, leadership recruitment and training, revenue planning and benchmarking, and staff development. Dee has helped clients raise seven- and eight-figure gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations for capital projects, endowments, and program expansion in a variety of nonprofit sectors including healthcare, faith-based, human services, and higher education. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the United Way of Northern NJ and is an active member of the New York Junior League.