Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Money Follows Involvement

All too often, I hear people saying that they're afraid to ask their volunteers for donations, because "they've already given so much" with their time. On the contrary, I have always been a firm believer in the idea that money follows involvement, and the rule of thumb that 90% of volunteers will also become donors. Today comes another study to confirm this vital link between your organization's volunteer and fundraising activities.

The new study, by Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and VolunteerMatch, found that volunteers give 10 times as much to charity as non-volunteers, and that two thirds of those volunteers contributed to the the same nonprofits where they donated their time. Could that figure have been higher if we were not so shy about asking our volunteers for donations? I believe so.

The pool of volunteers (and potential volunteers) out there is huge:
The study showed that 72% of adult Americans (18 years old and older) have volunteered at some point in their lives, and 43% are currently volunteering or have within the past 12 months. More than a fourth (28%) have never volunteered.
Don't think that the 28% indicates any lack of interest. For many of them, it's simply a matter of not knowing how to connect, or being offered the right opportunity. Only one third of the non-volunteers indicated a "lack of interest" as their primary reason for not volunteering.

So, what's your excuse for not using more volunteers in your organization, or for not including them in your fundraising campaigns?


  1. Very true--I find that the same is also true for not asking our volunteers (or, vice versa) our donors, to get involved in advocacy campaigns or other social change work within our NPOs, when the reality is that they are the very people most likely to care--they're already demonstrating their commitment with their dollars and/or their time! I think the core of this problem is that we see people as "doing us a favor" when they contribute, in any way, to our work, rather than seeing that we're offering them a tremendous opportunity to act on their values. So, no apologies for the asking!

  2. I have been volunteering with one specific organization for over a year and they have yet to ask me to donate funds to their campaigns. While I continue to volunteer for them, I am shocked that they have not reached out to me for a donation. If this organization has not asked me, I bet that they haven't asked other volunteers either - effectively missing a large pool of constituents who already feel a strong connection to the organization and their mission.

    Hank Rosso suggests that the most likely potential donors have three characteristics – linkage, ability, and interest. Since the volunteer is involved it is clear that linkage to the organization and interest in mission are already in place. The remaining characteristic is ability. Often an organization will know if their volunteer has the ability to give, if the organization doesn’t know, the only way to find out is to ask. What is the worst that can happen? A volunteer doesn’t give money and just continues to give time? Doesn’t sound so bad to me…

    Don’t forget that the best prospects for planned giving come from loyal donors. Organizations need to remember that their volunteers are loyal donors of time and talent. It should be natural to reach out to volunteers and get them involved in annual giving.

    The original post states that “volunteers give 10 times as much to charity as non-volunteers, and that two thirds of those volunteers contributed to the same nonprofits where they donated their time.” If that is the case, just think of the additional planned giving prospects that an organization would be cultivating just by reaching out to their already loyal volunteers and getting them involved in annual giving.