Raising money as a charity or nonprofit organization is a never-ending responsibility. Between private donations, fundraising drives, applying for government grants, organizing fundraising events and dollar-matching drives, there are many ways to raise funds. But one of the lesser known and simplest ways to raise money is through volunteer grants for nonprofits.
The relationship between nonprofits and corporations is mutually beneficial. Volunteer grant programs represent a huge opportunity for the savvy nonprofit to forge strong relationships with its volunteers and socially-conscious companies of all sizes.
In this article, we’ll help dive into volunteer grants for nonprofits, and share our top five tips for finding and securing grants for your nonprofit including:
- The benefits of volunteer grants
- Searching for eligible volunteer grants your nonprofit organization
- Educating your volunteers about grant opportunities
- Using volunteer management software to track your data
- How to maximize corporate volunteer opportunities
So if you’re keen to increase your donations and grow your volunteer army, read on for our helpful tips on this relatively underutilized funding source for nonprofits.
What is a volunteer grant program?
A volunteer grant is a monetary donation that companies will make to nonprofits their employees volunteer with. Normally, they have a set hourly rate they’ll donate for every hour an employee spends volunteering, with the average rate between $8 - $15 per hour.
Volunteer grants are also known as dollars for doers grants, matching time programs and grants for volunteer programs. But they all mean the same thing: an easy source of revenue for your nonprofit. A report from Double the Donation found that 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer volunteer grant programs, while 66% of companies surveyed by CECP provided paid-release time volunteer programs in 2019.
Companies who offer these volunteer funding programs recognize the benefits volunteering can provide for their staff, public image and society. For instance, the Harvard Business Review wrote that 93% of employees who volunteer through their company report being happy with their employer, and 54% of respondents feel proud of their company’s contributions to society.
Process for receiving volunteers grants for nonprofits
The normal process for applying for and receiving volunteer grants is as follows:
- An individual who is employed at a company volunteers with a nonprofit of their choosing, either inside or outside work hours.
- After volunteering and meeting the minimum hour requirements, the individual can submit a volunteer grant request that fulfills the company’s guidelines.
- The company will review the request and verify the volunteer’s tracked hours.
- Once everything has been verified, the company will send the donation to the nonprofit.
Here are a couple of extra things to keep in mind to ensure your volunteer is able to access their company’s volunteer grants program:
- Companies with volunteer grant programs may have a specific type of nonprofit they give to: i.e., schools, causes related to their industry, or one that shares their values.
- Some companies may only offer volunteer grants depending on an individual’s employment status (full-time, part-time, retired).
- Applications may have deadlines for applying, i.e. within x months of volunteering, or before the end of the year.
- There may be a minimum, or maximum, time threshold (i.e. 20) for a grant to be paid out to encourage volunteers to return more than one day.
1. The benefits of volunteer grants
Of course, the most obvious benefit of volunteer grants for nonprofits is the financial boost it can provide. And if you already have volunteers in your team who work for companies with volunteer grant programs in place, that’s essentially free money for nonprofits! So educating volunteers and setting up the processes to ensure they know how to submit an effective application for grant funding is certainly worth it! It’s quick and easy, and will only help strengthen your volunteer engagement.
Volunteer grants can help strengthen relationships with your volunteers, as they will feel like they are giving not only their time and skills, but also vital funds. At the same time, it’s a great way to partner with companies who can help you reach your goals sooner through donations, networks and support.
Once you have built a relationship, it may extend over time to include dollar-matching, corporate volunteer days or sponsorship opportunities. Corporates are always keen to partner with nonprofits that align with their goals and help their public image. And as we mentioned above, corporate volunteering is a great way to make staff feel valued and proud of the company they work for.
Keep reading to learn how to access volunteer grants for nonprofits.
2. Search for eligible volunteer grants your organization
Start by making a list of the companies your volunteers work for, then investigate whether these companies offer corporate grant programs for volunteers.
You could ask your volunteers to help with this step by asking them to reach out to the HR or Corporate Wellness departments and find out if they have any volunteer incentives.
Then start looking for other volunteer grants your organization may be eligible for by researching grants that were given to nonprofits of similar size to yours, or looking online to find out which companies in your area offer volunteer grants.
Find this information on:
- This website lists the companies with volunteer grant programs who provide generous corporate grants.
- Google search to find foundation websites and lists of grants on nonprofit websites. Look for the nonprofit's page that lists the grants and gifts they received that year.
- If you have a board of directors, ask if they know companies who offer volunteer grants programs (or if the companies they work for are interested in offering one).
- The Foundation Center is a great resource for nonprofit organizations seeking grants.
The best way to gauge the size of your organization is to use the reports in volunteer management software such as Rosterfy which will tell you volunteer time, size and engagement levels.
3. Educate your volunteers about grant opportunities
Unfortunately, many organizations don’t know about volunteer grants available to them. In fact, Double the Donation estimates between $4-$7 billion in matching gift donations are going unclaimed every year. This means nonprofits may be missing out on vital funds they are already eligible for!
So the first step is to educate your volunteers and staff about grant opportunities. And the best place to do this is early-on during the volunteer onboarding process. You can add information to your volunteer registration form, communications such as welcome email, and in your volunteer portal.
Make sure you include information that helps volunteers find out if their company already has a volunteer grant program in place - and what they need to do to apply for it. And if their company doesn't have a volunteer grant program already, get the ball rolling and make a templated email volunteers can use to send to their company to encourage them to create one.
Informing new volunteers during the sign up process ensures volunteers know to track their hours from the very beginning - and maximizing volunteer grants. For existing volunteers, simply send them an email to inform them about the volunteer grants and what they need to do in their volunteer portal to ensure they are tracking their volunteer hours.
4. Using volunteer management software to track your data
Volunteer time tracking is the normal way to access grants for volunteer hours - and this can easily be done through volunteer management software. Rosterfy automates this process, automatically tracking volunteer shifts and hours so you can access reports that show you cumulative hours for each volunteer. These reports can cut down on errors and ensure nothing gets missed!
For example, volunteers who are employed by ExxonMobil need to accumulate twenty volunteer hours before they can submit a grant request, which will donate $500 to the nonprofit. So by tracking your volunteer hours in your volunteer management software, you can send your volunteers a personalized email with the info they need to submit the request.
Remember, the sooner they submit, the sooner you will receive your donation.
5. How to maximize corporate volunteer opportunities
Volunteer grants are great, but they are dependent on having a group of dedicated volunteers who are also employed. And with the majority of volunteers in most countries in the seniors or retired category, your organization might not be eligible for any grants. So instead of giving up, consider how you could promote more corporate volunteer opportunities and attract working-age volunteers.
Corporate volunteering is on the rise, with 47% of U.S. companies offering paid time off for volunteering in 2019, up from 40% in 2014, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. These programs are great for companies as they encourage team building away from the desk, problem solving, positive mental health, enhance employee engagement, and build community connections.
Reach out to companies in your area or your donor list and speak to them about creating a corporate volunteer program with their employees. By creating opportunities for corporate volunteering, it may help you attract both volunteers and funds, with some corporates offering higher rates for group volunteering days.
Corporate volunteering opportunities may include:
- Team volunteering days when all employees help out for a day.
- Mass participation events such as walks and runs, beach clean-ups or charity days.
- Ongoing involvement in projects where skills are needed such as designing a new website, or launching a new program.
- Physical labor such as helping to build, paint, clean or set up at a venue.
- Weeklong volunteer programs overseas.
Conclusion: Volunteer grants for non profits
Volunteer grants for nonprofits are a win-win - helping to raise vital funds while also increasing volunteer engagement and commitment. Plus, by using volunteer management software to educate volunteers and automatically track volunteer hours, it’s a low-effort way to dramatically increase fundraising dollars.
And companies that introduce volunteer grant programs benefit by fostering employee productivity, improving employee retention and happiness, and forming relationships with the local communities that helps bolster their public image.
Read more about fundraising advice for your nonprofit here:
- 10 Important Steps to Planning a Fundraiser
- Non profit event management: The ultimate guide for success
- How GivenGain partnership lets charities combine volunteering & fundraising
- The Ultimate Non Profit Volunteer Management Guide