Jenni Giblin, Director, Funding HQ teamed with Kelly Vogel, Stakeholder Development Manager, Be Collective to host a funding focused webinar. They discussed how the role of volunteers in a fundraising context is often under-represented and how to articulate their value to build compelling funding stories. If you have the time, watch the recording above. Otherwise, we've summarised some key points below.
First up who's who? Funding HQ provides an online fundraising capability program. Jenni's team helps organisations big and small across NZ (and beyond) be more successful with fundraising. Be Collective offers cloud-based volunteer management software, helping volunteer involving organisations not only recruit and engage volunteers but also connect with corporates, councils, education institutions and sport groups.
Jenni's three hot tips to lift your fundraising game (particularly with a shrinking pool of traditional funding sources and an increasing amount of worthy competition):
One: how do you tell your story? Ensure it resonates with your audience and demonstrates impact within the community. Make it compelling!
Two: ensure you have diversified funding plan. Think beyond lotteries, Gaming Trust and Government (funds shrinking in the past 6 months). Also look into corporates (regular workplace giving) and philanthropic organisations.
Three: look after your partners once they are onboard.
From a fundraising perspective, when community groups talk to funding organisations, it's often predominantly a fund-based discussion (funds needed and funds available). Funding organisations are also interested in volunteering capacity, impact and how it's measured.
Many organisations find it challenging to talk about their volunteer hours, culture, aspirations, motivations and skill set. This can be attributed to feeling stretched, burnt out, or lacking the time to capture this. This is where setting up intentional frameworks (such as Be Collective) to capture and measure these data points can help. Being intentional means measuring from the start of a project, not a year later, scrambling to recall effort and hours, especially when people have moved on from their role.
Volunteer contributions are part of your organisation's story. Make sure volunteers are measured and identified in any funding application. Strengthen these discussions with "we have $50K in the bank and 150 hours per month contributed by our volunteers, which means we can save costs on social media marketing, to focus on other areas of need within our organisation". It's an opportunity to demonstrate buy-in from the community and that you know the value of your volunteers.
Diversify your search
The trends we're seeing in volunteering (especially post-COVID) is a shift away from long term commitments to roles (even organisations). We're seeing more sporadic, episodic, project-focused volunteering. Volunteer demographics are also changing. New Zealand's (as with most countries) current volunteer population is ageing and contracting. How are we preparing for the next generation and their preferences? The time to start thinking about what tomorrow's volunteer workforce looks like is now. Are you considering how you appeal to this future workforce?
Kelly indicated a recent New Zealand Government report indicated 50 percent of New Zealanders volunteer, but 14 percent of them perform half of all the recorded volunteer hours (which, understandably is perpetuating burn out). If you're continually reaching for the same people - maybe it's time to think laterally. Diversify how you attract and retain new volunteers. Tap into new pools of volunteers. If you want a young cohort of volunteers, consider recruiting online (well, they search for jobs, order food, find dates and share videos that way!). If you need specific skills - maybe tap into corporates (see below). Reconsider the roles you're offering - can bigger roles be diced and sliced? Extract social media activity from the admin role. What tasks can be completed remotely? Expand your reach (we can't help it … Be Collective can help with that too).
If your organisation has a funding relationship with a corporate, don't forget to explore how they can help your programs beyond funding. Does their Corporate & Social Responsibility (CSR) program extend to employee supported volunteering? If not, why not? What in-house skills do they have? How can those skills help your programs?
Jenni mentioned how a Foundation she works with secured the help of a logistics company. To them, they were simply helping ship packages to France. To the Foundation, it meant completing the project on time and on budget. Measuring and recognising their contribution is crucial - make them feel essential to project. Most corporates have a management team and a board to report back to. Ensure you're making those reports easy for them. Another example was a corporate which contributed funding but also access to its employees to fill much needed mentoring roles.
Giving skills, building skills and reciprocity
Many people within the community feel the pressure of a competitive jobs market. Whether your volunteers are (hello new pools) young adults, new migrants, return-to-work mums or a corporate worker wanting a career change - volunteering is great way to build experience.
In any volunteering role, there is a need for (and giving of) skills. Capturing this exchange helps volunteers articulate their value. Kelly talked about how skills are central to volunteering through Be Collective. Volunteers can track their journey in a social record, see the skills they're building and collect testimonials from volunteer managers. The social record can be exported as a formatted Social CV - ideal for job applications and/or performance reviews.
The concept of skills matching is important. Kelly indicated she's seeing communities now preparing for how they respond to future natural disasters. Communities have shown how they come together after an event - often before Governments do or can. Disaster affected communities are now using strategic frameworks to capture, track and build skills required for better preparation.
That's a wrap!
Don't forget the key takeaways to successful funding (and volunteering): build a compelling story, diversify your approach and look after your people. If something isn't working, try something new to keep your organisation sustainable. And, it's a no brainer - look after your volunteers.