How to Make the Case for Volunteer Engagement Funding

Posted Thursday, April 19th, 2018 by Sterling Volunteers Staff

How to Make the Case for Volunteer Engagement Funding

While many leaders, funders, and partners accept and support the need for volunteers to help nonprofit organizations deliver programs, not all of them recognize the benefits of truly embracing volunteer engagement as a strategy throughout the entire organization.

Beth Steinhorn, President of VQ Volunteer Strategies, understands the importance of volunteer engagement. She realizes that volunteer engagement is not possible without the appropriate funding, yet securing that funding is not always an easy task. In the webinar, “How to Make the Case to Funders for Volunteer Engagement,” she shares the biggest challenges for funding volunteer engagement, including some common myths about volunteers, and tips and best practices on making the case for investment to leadership and potential funders.

Funding Challenges

Many organizations – and their missions – could benefit tremendously from a volunteer engagement strategy. Yet, funding for volunteer engagement remains the exception rather than the rule. According to our attendee poll during the webinar, organizations experience many barriers when it comes to receiving funding for volunteer engagement.

  • Agencies and organizations do not request funding specifically for volunteer engagement —6% say this is their top barrier
  • Funders consider volunteers “free” so, according to them, volunteer engagement doesn’t need funding — 6% say this is their top barrier
  • Funders do not understand which investments could enhance engagement — 3% say this is their top barrier

Unfortunately, volunteer managers are often told that funding for volunteer engagement is not a priority. Funders often do not understand that cultivating volunteer engagement will also lead to increased donations from those same volunteers, allowing the organization to move closer towards its mission. Several volunteer engagement myths also stand in the way of getting appropriate funding. These include:

  • Volunteers are free
  • You can’t invest in voluntary efforts
  • Volunteers want only what you want
  • Meeting volunteers halfway is a recipe for trouble
  • Volunteer “work” is what staff doesn’t want to do

3 Step Process to Make Your Case for Support and Investment in Volunteer Engagement

While it may seem daunting, these myths can be overcome. Beth shared a three-step process to help organizations build a case for funding volunteer engagement:

  1. Prepare

    Why should funders invest in volunteer engagement? Do your research and support your case with data. Some compelling reasons to invest in volunteer engagement infrastructure and support include:

    • Leverages and increases the impact of grantmaking
    • Linked to stronger, more effective, and more efficient organizations as a whole
    • People give their money where they give their time
  2. Construct

    When crafting your case statement, be specific about your vision, your strengths and what you need to help you accomplish your vision. Request funding that will empower volunteers to expand the reach of the program. Use supporting messaging to show that the funds will strengthen the organization’s ability to deliver services and meet its mission.

  3. Present

    After you have prepared and constructed your case statement, it is now time to present it to internal leadership and then funders and potential funders. Remember to leverage the research that you found and share how return on volunteer investment grows when they are strategically deployed and well-managed. Be ready to measure the impact of the funding and communicate it to stakeholders. There will be objections, so be ready to respond to them.

  4. The Bottom Line

    When funders invest in volunteer engagement infrastructure, communities experience increased capacity for impact –addressing critical needs and solving more problems.

    Did you miss the most recent Sterling Volunteers webinar? You can download, “How to Make the Case to Funders for Volunteer Engagement” on-demand at any time and learn how to prepare, build and present a case to leaders to support and invest in volunteer engagement. We are thrilled to have Beth join us in presenting another webinar with Sterling Volunteers: “How to Deliver Effective Feedback to Volunteers” on May 10th.

    Connect with us on FacebookTwitterLinkedin and share your comments below.