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How to Build a Responsive Volunteer-to-Donor Journey

How does your organization follow up with first-time volunteers? For that matter, what do you do after someone has volunteered for 50 hours, 100 hours, or more?

According to the Global Trends in Giving report, 85% of volunteers also give financially to those same organizations where they volunteer their time. If you don’t have a responsive volunteer-to-donor journey set up, you may be missing out on that generosity. 

To help nonprofits implement a volunteer-to-donor journey, Virtuous experts Jenn Holcomb and Matt Bailey recently sat down to dive into this process. Check out the recording to see their conversation or keep reading for the highlights! 

Why Volunteer-to-Donor Journeys Matter

Creating a meaningful and personalized connection with supporters must be a top priority for your supporters – gone are the days of generic mass communications. The fundraising landscape has experienced a shift towards personalized interactions based on individual behaviors and preferences.

While nonprofits have made strides in utilizing technology to deliver more personalized experiences, there is still ample room for improvement. Fortunately, this is where a robust volunteer-to-donor journey can help! 

One factor in building strong relationships and effective donor journeys is understanding why your supporters continue to give. By grasping the motivations and desires of supporters, organizations can cultivate deeper connections and foster long-term loyalty. However, scaling these relationships and maintaining meaningful connections can be challenging. To achieve sustainable organizational growth, nonprofits must adopt a responsive fundraising approach.

Responsive Fundraising Framework

In today’s digitally interconnected world, supporters expect more than just a transactional relationship with the causes they support. They desire meaningful connections and personalized experiences that align with their values. Implementing this responsive approach at scale can be a challenge for many organizations. Developing any donor journey is a great first step towards becoming more responsive.

If you are an organization with active volunteers, consider starting with a volunteer-to-donor journey to lean in with your highly engaged supporters and encourage greater generosity from them. 

Mapping the Volunteer-to-Donor Journey

When it comes to mapping the volunteer-to-donor journey, you must take into account the diverse donor personas and their individual paths. Recognizing that each supporter has a unique journey allows nonprofits to deliver customized experiences that are truly meaningful and impactful.

When mapping your volunteer-to-donor journey, gather members of your organization who are familiar with areas such as marketing, your volunteer programs, fundraising, etc. Getting different areas of expertise in the room will ensure that you are creating a cohesive journey for your volunteers and will help start to encourage greater collaboration across teams internally for your organization. 

You can map your volunteer-to-donor journey however makes the most sense for you. Options you can consider include: 

  • Using a whiteboard to jot down all of your notes and ideas
  • Writing it out on a piece of paper or Post-it notes 
  • Use an online tool (such as Miro) that allows you to collaborate remotely or in person

Whatever you use to map this journey, the important thing is that it is a team effort! 

Step 1: Start With Your Segment 

One way to achieve this level of personalization is by segmenting your supporters and defining their specific journeys. By categorizing supporters based on their preferences, motivations, and engagement patterns, organizations can develop a scalable approach that caters to the individual needs of each segment.

Segmentation enables nonprofits to tailor their communications and engagement strategies to resonate with different groups of supporters. By understanding the distinct characteristics and preferences of each segment, organizations can craft targeted messages and offer opportunities that align with supporters’ interests. This is what allows you to personalize at scale without needing to triple your staff! 

You also want to decide what “triggers” someone to enter this journey based on how your organization’s volunteer program works. Do you want to start this journey right after the first volunteer event? After the third? After they’ve volunteered a certain amount of hours? Select your segment and that initial trigger before diving into the next steps! 

A Note About Using Automation

Creating a donor journey and using any form of automation can be a big project to take on. In order to make it more manageable, we highly recommend taking a crawl, walk, run approach. To start, create a simple volunteer-to-donor journey. Later, when you are more comfortable with this process, you can segment this even further into volunteer-to-donor journeys based on volunteer activity and interests to get to the “walk” and “run” phases of donor journeys. 

Step 2: Identify Your Supporter’s Action Items & Map to Messages

Once you know who you are going to be working with for your volunteer-to-donor journey, next you want to select the action items you want your volunteers to take as they move towards becoming donors. You also want to map the high-level messaging you want to use when encouraging your supporters to take those actions.

At this stage, don’t worry about the order of the action items and messages. Just brainstorm with your team what you would love to encourage your volunteers to do and what you want to say to make those suggestions. You’ll map out the timeline in the next step! 

The Donor Journey ebook dives more into all of the options you could consider, but here are the top actions and messages you may want to include in your volunteer-to-donor journey:

Visit Your Website 

Including some actions that are fairly low effort for your supporters is a great way to encourage engagement without asking too much. In order to encourage a supporter to visit your website, you will need to send them the correct hyperlinks. That means this action item is typically best suited to an email format. Something you will want to discuss with your team as you map out your volunteer-to-donor journey is what kind of content you want to encourage supporters to view. Some ideas include: 

  • Upcoming events
  • Impact stories of those who your organization serves 
  • A summary of all of your organization’s programs 

Respond to a Survey 

Surveys are a great way to engage volunteers after a volunteering experience. Ideally, keep surveys short and simple. Here are some questions you could consider asking: 

  • What do you think will be the impact of your volunteering efforts on our community (or be more specific based on your organization’s mission)? 
  • Would you recommend volunteering with us to your friends? 
  • How could we have made the volunteer experience easier or better for you? 

You can always send out surveys via email as well, but if you have the resources, consider doing phone calls. You can call your volunteers, thank them, and ask them your survey questions. An effective volunteer-to-donor journey should include multiple types of communication, so having a valid reason to call and chat with your volunteers can be a good way to add variety to the journey. 

Follow Your Organization on Social Media 

Similar to the website action item, suggesting to your volunteers that they follow you on social media is a low-effort ask. This would also be ideal to send via email so you can link to your social media accounts. Not only do you want to mix up the ways you are communicating with your volunteers, but you also want to keep the content varied. This type of email is ideal for being short and sweet! 

Make a Donation

The ultimate goal of a volunteer-to-donor journey is to encourage your volunteers to donate, so of course making a donation is an action item! You can simply send an email linking to your donation page, but you could also get creative and use something like Virtuous’ Letters on Demand tools to send your volunteers a designed postcard with a QR code they can use to donate. In the example volunteer-to-donor journey below, we used both! 

Step 3: Place the Action Items and Messages Into Your Volunteer-to-Donor Journey 

Once you have identified the actions and messages you want to use, the next step is to place those in the timeline for your donor journey. When using automation tools like you can find in Virtuous’ nonprofit CRM, you’ll also want to include the time delays in between each step that you will use for the automation workflow. 

When deciding the order of the action items for your volunteer-to-donor-journey, think about it from the perspective of your volunteer. They just gave their time to your organization, so you probably don’t want to start with an immediate request for donations, but rather you want to engage with your volunteer, connect with them further, and build up that relationship so that when you do ask for a donation, it is based on those points of personal connection. 

Every volunteer-to-donor journey will look different based on how your organization works, but below is an example of one you could use as the base for your own: 

Step 4: Implement the Journey in Your CRM 

Once you have mapped out your donor journey, you are ready to implement it in your fundraising tools. Depending on what nonprofit CRM you use, this will look a bit different for every organization. If you are a Virtuous user, check out the video below to see one of our training specialists walk you through how to create a volunteer-to-donor journey automation workflow in Virtuous CRM

Step 5: Learn and Continue to Iterate on Your Volunteer-to-Donor Journey

One of the most important parts of being a responsive nonprofit is taking the time to learn from all of your responsive fundraising efforts. Whenever you set up your new volunteer-to-donor journey, make sure to also set aside some time to review the impact of your new journey. Establish the baseline rate of how many of your volunteers donate before you start a volunteer-to-donor journey, and then check in once a month or once a quarter to see if those rates are improving. Use that data to continue to try new things and improve. 

Key Takeaways

Creating a responsive volunteer-to-donor journey is vital for nonprofit organizations. By following up with volunteers, tailoring messaging, and scaling relationships with automation, organizations can foster personal connections, inspire confidence, and increase engagement. By mapping unique donor journeys and maximizing the potential of various donor personas, nonprofits can create meaningful experiences and achieve sustainable growth.

Remember, building a volunteer-to-donor journey is an ongoing process that requires continuous adaptation and improvement. By embracing responsive fundraising and personalized approaches, nonprofits can cultivate long-lasting relationships with their supporters and make a significant impact on the causes they care about.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

See the Virtuous platform in action.  Schedule a call with our team for personalized answers and expert advice on transforming your nonprofit with donor management software.

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

The Responsive Maturity Model
5 Steps to More Personalized Donor Experiences
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