National Volunteers’ Week: Engaging Volunteers in Fundraising

1 June 2021 | By Naomi Chapman

This week (1st – 7th June) is National Volunteers’ Week, an annual celebration of the vital work conducted by volunteers nationwide in the charity sector.

Across civil society, volunteers play a key role in programme delivery, governance, and fundraising, contributing an estimated £23.9 billion to the UK economy in 2016 alone. 

Though it may not be what immediately springs to mind when we think of a volunteer, volunteer fundraising is of huge importance in the sector, as volunteer fundraisers can expand networks, increase connections to the local community, and bring in vital funds.

So how can we best engage volunteers in fundraising? In this blog, the Cause4 team share their top tips. 

 

Trustees leading fundraising

Development Fellow Naomi Chapman is a Trustee at Devon charity Villages in Action alongside her work at Cause4: 

“It is worth remembering that Trustees make up one of the biggest voluntary workforces in the UK and should be playing a significant role in supporting fundraising at any charity. Whoever leads fundraising within your organisation, make sure your Trustees are on board and have a clear understanding of their role. Many Trustees will not know how to directly support fundraising, so they should be engaged with clear, tangible requests such as:

  • Reviewing a large funding application
  • Representing the charity at an event
  • Introducing the staff team to a key contact

These specific requests will ensure your fundraising team are supported by Trustees, and that your board have a better understanding of reality of fundraising for your cause. Where possible, bring on board a specific Trustee with fundraising expertise to help drive forward your efforts and lead the other Trustees in this area.”

 

Volunteers are central to the team

Cause4 Development Associate Erin Hughes previously worked in community fundraising at Midlands Air Ambulance Charity (MAAC) and was supported by several volunteers in the role. Her top tips for engaging volunteers include:

“1. Learn what your volunteers’ strengths are, and allow volunteers to decide what they want to be involved in. This will ensure they are more confident and motivated to deliver results.

2. Never underestimate somebody’s professional background - some of the most qualified and impressive people I know were volunteers! Charities can lose out on enormous value by assuming volunteers have to support with entry level tasks.

3. Get to know your fundraising volunteers - I used to go for tea and a biscuit with my volunteers and I invited them once a month to the MAAC airbase for a catch up. By making volunteers feel part of the team, and by knowing more about them as people, the experience was more enjoyable for everyone.

4., Keep them in the loop! Make sure they know what’s happening at the charity and how it will affect their role.” 

 

Volunteering is experiential

Cause4 Development Associate Edward Drew previously managed the London Marathon team at SignHealth, and volunteered on Child.org’s Team Mum Campaign as a Partnerships Assistant:

I think the last year has shown that volunteers really want to have a meaningful experience, which can be really tricky to do virtually. There is a general consensus in the fundraising community that some virtual fundraising challenges have had a low return on investment, and we are all becoming increasingly aware of zoom fatigue. 

My advice is to really focus on what the hook of the volunteer experience is and to adjust your messaging accordingly. Below are just some approaches that I’ve come across in the past:

  1. Placement / Internship approach; a big hook to volunteering, especially for young people, is to develop transferable skills in a professional context. I got my start in the charity sector by working as a Partnerships Assistant on Child.org’s Team Mum Campaign, developing relationships with corporates and donors. It’s important that there’s a clear agreement between the volunteer and the charity on what their responsibilities are, and make sure you check with your HR lead to ensure compliance. 
  2. Fun First approach; another draw to volunteering is to get an enjoyable experience and meet new people. Take Charity Concierge, who give volunteers a free ticket to a festival like Latitude or Download to volunteer for a few hours a day, offering services like pitching up tents or carrying drinks. When you’re out having fun, the fact that you’re also volunteering to raise money for charity suddenly seems like an added bonus to a great time.”

Alongside our advice for engaging volunteers with fundraising, ensure you review the Fundraising Regulator’s guidance for working with volunteers in advance of launching any new programmes.

Does your fundraising team already receive support from volunteers? Are you just starting out in this area? Let us know your top tips on Twitter at @OfficialCause4.

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