"We are on the verge of something unprecedented: a catastrophic event and a recession. Traditional donation channels will suffer." - Adam-Michael Royston, Chief Development Officer of Mission Graduates
Mission Graduates is a nonprofit based in San Francisco that makes college the expectation not the exception for first-generation and newcomer families through a range of afterschool, in-school, and summer programs. They’re bracing for a drop in big dollar donors, and are concerned about coming up short without the rhythm of in-person interaction. Scaling small dollar donations from a broader set of supporters will be critical for nonprofits to close this gap.
In order to do that, they have to recruit more people, find innovative ways of engaging them virtually, and ask them to donate along the way. The quickest win is to target volunteers, a group of proven supporters not often asked for donations; they offer a strategic opportunity to re-engage in new ways during this critical time.
To outline a more comprehensive approach to volunteer management, Mission Graduates worked with our team at Mobilize, the events management and volunteer recruitment platform that connects mission-driven organizations and supporters. Together, we drew on data from the 1.7M+ supporters and volunteers that have used Mobilize, to identify three strategies for driving donations during COVID-19:
1. Recruit more supporters.
Volunteers don’t exist in isolation; they have networks of friends, family, employers, and other organizations they belong to. An efficient way to increase your supporter pool is to empower volunteers to tap into these networks and share on social media. On Mobilize, we ask supporters to invite their friends at every stage in the journey - and give them the tools to do so easily. As a result, 40% of supporters share opportunities with friends, leading to a 15-20% increase in overall supporters.
2. Find innovative ways to engage them virtually.
People want to help from home, and virtual opportunities are an engaging format, particularly when they involve specific calls to action. In mid-March 2020, 88% of the opportunities created on Mobilize were virtual and 90% of signups were for virtual events. Nonprofits should create varied virtual opportunities to maintain connection with their volunteer base. We’ve seen countless innovative virtual opportunities on Mobilize as of late.
3. Integrate smart donation asks into the online volunteer experience.
We’ve seen donation asks go wrong so many times. Sometimes a donation ask acts as a gate to signing up; other times, a volunteer receives the ask months after taking action. It’s important to identify key moments when the donation ask is most effective. These tend to be directly after volunteers sign up, as a ‘make good’ for not completing an action, and in the thank you message or feedback survey. On Mobilize, we have enabled donation asks right after signup, and saw that 17% of those supporters initiated an average donation of $21.
Mission Graduates began integrating donation asks into the volunteer journey immediately after sign up. In a time when donors are stretched and large fundraising events are canceled, it is vital to call on those who have demonstrated a commitment to your organization by giving their valuable time. They want to take that next action. They want to donate. And, if asked in the right way at the right time, they will—while spreading the word that gets others to do the same.