Volunteer grants provide an often untapped resource for nonprofit funding that can also build meaningful relationships.
While it can be challenging to manage yet another possible funding stream, diving into volunteer grants not only provides financial support for your organization but also helps you build an engaged volunteer and corporate sponsor network.
In this post, we will share the basics of grants for volunteer programs and provide resources to find these useful corporate sponsorships. Keep reading for practical tips for starting and cultivating a volunteer grant program at your nonprofit.
What are Volunteer Grants?
Grants for volunteer organizations reward nonprofits that foster relationships with a corporation’s local employees. When an employee routinely volunteers with your organization, you become eligible for a gift from that corporation.
Several large corporations have adopted volunteer grants programs, from Apple and Pfizer to Bank of America and Disney. Each of these businesses holds specific requirements for their grants. Some volunteer grants pay per volunteer hour, while others pay out after 20, 40, or 50 hours of service to your organization.
Volunteer grants offer a wonderful opportunity for nonprofits and corporations to work together. While corporate sponsorships remain a popular and lucrative funding stream, volunteer grants provide a new way to partner. And the odds are in your favour. Corporate giving reached nearly $17 billion in 2020, demonstrating a large and growing segment of philanthropy.
As corporations strive to connect more deeply with communities and causes, volunteer grants help demonstrate the value of your mission to influential businesses. An employee devotedly serving your organization signals to a corporation that your nonprofit is essential to your community.
Alternatively, this grant opportunity also gives you the chance to jumpstart your volunteer program.
You can use available volunteer grants as a narrow audience to focus on a new volunteer effort. Communicate to your supporters that employees of eligible local corporations can volunteer with you and earn grant money while they serve. Target volunteer grants to help invigorate a lagging volunteer program at your organization.
Where Can You Find Volunteer Grants?
Many Fortune 500 corporations offer grants for volunteer work. Consider pharmaceutical, technology, communication, energy, entertainment, and other massive companies in your community. Industries like these are increasingly looking for ways to partner with nonprofits to reward philanthropic employees.
Several lists of volunteer grants exist via a convenient Internet search. However, it is important to perform the proper follow-up research to determine if your organization is eligible for the volunteer grant and if it is still an active grant opportunity.
One of the best ways to secure a corporate grant like this is by having an insider within the corporation speak on your behalf. The beauty of volunteer grants is that these insiders are key to the program. Read on to learn more about how to cultivate volunteers to help you secure volunteer grants.
How to Apply for a Volunteer Grant? [Your 5-Step Process]
Like all nonprofit grants, applying for a volunteer grant requires organization, tenacity, and a close reading of the grant’s requirements. Here is a simple five-step process to applying for a volunteer grant:
Step One: Take an Inventory of Current Volunteers
The first step in applying for a volunteer grant is to take an inventory of your current volunteers. Make lists of any current volunteers to see if their employers may offer a volunteer grant program to reward their dedicated service.
Don’t forget to survey board members and other volunteer consultants who may be eligible. Large corporations like Verizon, Merck, and Google are three examples of businesses that offer volunteer grants.
Step Two: Research Available Volunteer Grants
Next, conduct a simple Internet search to explore active volunteer grant opportunities. Corporations frequently tweak their corporate giving programs, so check in regularly.
For more tips on how to effectively research grant opportunities, check out this post.
Step Three: Read Grant Requirements Carefully
Every Internet search requires a follow-up directly from the source. Try to locate the corporation’s official volunteer grant webpage. Or if you know a supporter of your nonprofit who works at a corporation with a volunteer match program, ask them to inquire about the requirements on your behalf.
Once you locate the official requirements, be sure to read them carefully. This advice applies to any grant you may write! Some of these volunteer grants enforce a maximum hour limit or are only available to employees living in certain locations.
Step Four: Understand Your Role in the Volunteer Grant
It is important to fully understand the parameters of the program so you can accurately assist your volunteers. Grants for volunteer work do require some work on behalf of the nonprofit to coordinate and make it a seamless, rewarding experience for volunteers.
Develop volunteer hour tracking log sheets to make it effortless for volunteers to track and report their hours to their employer. Customize the log sheet to reflect the requirements and verbiage of the grant to make the process even easier.
Step Five: Follow-up with Volunteers and the Corporation
The best way to maintain funding from a volunteer grant is by investing in the volunteer and corporate relationships involved.
Make sure all volunteer experiences are well organized with a clear, rewarding mission. Thank your volunteers informally and formally to communicate how much you appreciate them.
Report back to your corporate partner on what the corporation’s employees and monetary gifts have achieved for your organization. Staying in communication enhances your relationship with the business for future partnerships or sponsorships.
7 Proven Strategies to 7x Your Chance of Winning a Volunteer Grant
So what’s the secret to securing a volunteer grant? Here are simple tips to remember:
1. Leverage Your Board
Be sure to introduce the volunteer grants concept at a board meeting. One of the best ways to take advantage of these funds is by having an advocate in leadership at a corporation offering volunteer grants. Allow your board members to become your volunteer grants cheerleaders at their workplaces!
Consider the corporations within your town, city, or region. You may be surprised how far some employees commute!
2. Follow All Requirements
Many grants for volunteer programs enforce specific rules, just like other grants you will apply for. Most of these corporations require grants for volunteer organizations to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or a non-religious organization. Make sure you understand the grant requirements completely so you can accurately share them with your volunteers.
3. Publicize Opportunities
Be sure to publicize volunteer grant opportunities within your organization consistently. Include this information in a weekly newsletter or within your monthly social media calendar.
April is National Volunteer Month. Consider adopting a promotional campaign during this month to feature volunteer opportunities and how employees of these corporations can make a difference with their gift of time.
4. Celebrate Volunteers
As you organize volunteer opportunities and generate income from volunteer grants, don’t forget to celebrate the people who are making it happen! Build both formal and informal ways to recognize and celebrate your volunteers.
Develop a culture of philanthropy within your organization that sends thank-you cards or phone calls to volunteers after a big project. Take photos of volunteers working hard to share on social media to recognize their hard work.
Anytime you invest in your volunteers, it inspires them to come back and help your organization. Positive word of mouth about your volunteer grant opportunity may also attract new participants.
5. Develop Appropriate Volunteer Opportunities
Share exactly what the volunteer opportunity will be to help generate interest.
Targeting volunteer grants with a specific action, like raking leaves for the elderly or hosting a haunted house, will generate more interest than a generic call for volunteers to assist your organization.
One common hurdle when using volunteers is a lack of training for the people who show up to help. Be sure you have a clear idea of how volunteers can realistically help your organization within the time allotted.
Design simple tasks that can be quickly explained without extensive training or specialized tools involved. Make sure you have enough tasks to keep volunteers busy for the entire time they offer to help.
6. Develop a Dedicated Volunteer Committee
Consider developing a committee to help keep volunteer grants and cultivating volunteers a high-priority issue. Nonprofit professionals know that so many ideas and obligations are constantly competing for attention!
Having a dedicated group to keep an eye on these opportunities helps your nonprofit access easy money and develop meaningful relationships. Committee members may generate marketing campaigns for volunteer grants or maintain a spreadsheet of active local volunteer grants.
7. Cultivate Corporate Relationships
Sometimes corporate giving is a more detached experience for grant writers and fundraisers, simply by the nature of the grant process. However, nonprofits can still cultivate a corporate relationship to report back, thank, and further steward this meaningful bond. Taking this step will make your nonprofit stand out!
Even if the corporate headquarters for these businesses are not located where you live, consider reaching out to a local representative. This effort not only celebrates the business’s generous employees but also publicizes this opportunity to even more local people.
If you're looking to start building your own nonprofit volunteer application, get started quickly by using our Nonprofit Volunteer Application Template. The template is made in Canva, an an easy-to-use creative design tool. You can jump right in, change colors, add your logo, and adjust the copy so it fits your brand.Why start from scratch when you can use one of our templates?
Wrapping Up: Next Steps from Here
Grants for volunteering represent a new and exciting funding opportunity for so many nonprofits. These grants provide a way for your nonprofit to deepen its relationship with new and current volunteers, but also to establish a beneficial link to influential local corporations too.
In this article, we described the best way to secure grants for volunteer work by taking an inventory of both corporations near you and volunteers you already have. Be sure to conduct extensive research on applicable volunteer grants and read the requirements carefully to responsibly guide your volunteers through logging and reporting their hours.
Like all fundraising, don’t overlook the importance of cultivating meaningful relationships with key stakeholders involved as you pursue your volunteer grants. Not only does this make a successful grant application more likely, but it also keeps team morale high.
Now you have a key set of tactics to put into action and start taking advantage of a relatively simple way to generate funds through a strong volunteer program.