Volunteer grants are the best way for your nonprofit to make the most of its volunteer programs.

Although volunteer programs are certainly valuable on their own (your nonprofit can calculate the monetary value of volunteer hours to measure this value), you are missing out on the full potential of your volunteer program if you aren’t applying for volunteer grants.

Imagine if you could double the monetary value of your volunteer hours. Volunteer Match Grants allow volunteers to further the value they contribute to your organization when volunteering without putting in more time. The organizational impact is significant when you consider receiving both the work your volunteers did in addition to the monetary value of that work in donations from their employers. 

That’s the power of volunteer grants.

What are volunteer grants?

Volunteer grants are a great way for your volunteers’ work to make an even bigger impact. With a volunteer grant, the time they spend helping out at your nonprofit can be matched by a financial donation from their employer. These grants transform your volunteers’ hours into real dollars—dollars that help you do even more good.

Here's how it works. Some companies offer a set dollar amount for each hour their employees volunteer, while others might make a lump-sum donation based on the total volunteer hours dedicated to a nonprofit. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Verizon lights up the way with its Volunteer Incentive Program, offering up to two $750 grants for nonprofits where employees have volunteered at least 50 hours each.
  • Aetna offers $300 for every 20 hours an employee volunteers, boosting support for the causes their team cares about.
  • Allstate lends a hand with its Helping Hands Grant program, providing $500 to $1,000 for organizations benefiting from 4 to 16 hours of volunteer work by their employees.

With nearly 40% of Fortune 500 companies offering volunteer grant programs, and most contributions ranging from $8 to $15 per volunteer hour, this is an opportunity too valuable for your nonprofit to pass up. By not tapping into these programs you could be leaving essential funding on the table.

Why volunteer grants matter

In addition to providing you with free money for the work your volunteers are already putting in, volunteer grants matter for a few key reasons:

Building stronger ties with businesses

When businesses notice their employees volunteering with you, it sparks a deeper interest in your cause. This interest can grow into additional grants, donations, and volunteer commitments. 

Companies may even spotlight your nonprofit to their employees to encourage them to volunteer, or they might partner with your organization as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts. This in turn could provide a major lift to your fundraising efforts.

Corporations typically like to engage with nonprofits because doing so provides good public relations, helps them connect with and support their employees, and allows them to give back to their communities.

By connecting with these corporations through their volunteer grant programs, you can show them that your organization is valuable and worth supporting in the future.

A lot of companies are looking for opportunities to fulfill their philanthropic initiatives. Create events where they can bring a group of employees together to offer a helping hand to your organization. Remember to tie these events to their mission and core values.

Furthering your impact

There's a limit to how much time your volunteers can dedicate. Even the most dedicated volunteers still have jobs, families, and commitments that limit the amount of time they can offer.

With volunteer grants, you can gain more monetary value from your volunteer program without needing your volunteers to spend any more time or energy working with your organization.

For instance, with a grant program like Aetna’s, which donates $300 for every 20 hours volunteered, your nonprofit benefits financially without requiring extra effort from your volunteers. This strategic approach means you can do more good without expanding your volunteer base or asking more of your current supporters.

Qualifying for additional grants and funding

The more donations you receive, the easier it will be for you to receive even more funding through donation-matching programs and additional nonprofit grants.

If you qualify for a program that will match the donations you receive in a year, earning more donations through volunteer grant programs will give you more money to be matched.

Other grants want to see that nonprofits have a strong donor pool before approval. Getting volunteer grants from corporations will help improve your chances of receiving  these grants.

Why volunteer grants matter for businesses, too

On top of the PR benefits and improved employee retention that comes with supporting nonprofits, there’s a more practical reason corporations like volunteer grant programs. When they donate to eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofits, they can deduct their donations from their taxable income, potentially lowering the taxes they owe. Since volunteer grant programs fall under ‘matching gifts’, there's no cap on the deduction even if it exceeds 10% of the company's annual income. 

While this benefit doesn’t directly help your nonprofit, it’s very useful information if you find yourself needing to convince a corporate partner to set up a volunteer grant program. For more information check out Double the Donation’s guide to the tax implications of volunteer grant programs for businesses.

Finding volunteer grants

In addition to ones that your volunteers can solicit from their employers, there are volunteer grants that your organization can find and apply for, too. These awards can be competitive, so you’ll want to be ready with key information like accurate records of historical volunteer hours to maximize your chances of receiving one of these grants.

Here are some ways you can find these volunteer grants for your organization:

Leverage your current volunteers’ employers

  • Encourage your volunteers to see if their employer offers grants and check their eligibility.
  • Include information about the importance of volunteer grants in your volunteer onboarding process and on your volunteer website.

Reach out to your local community and your supporters

  • Send volunteers to reach out to local companies and corporations with local headquarters and inquire about volunteer grants.
  • Highlight team volunteer opportunities on your social media pages and in your organization’s newsletters. Make sure these posts highlight the value that volunteer grants afford to your nonprofit and don’t forget to mention the potential tax benefits for employers.

Use online resources

Best practices for receiving volunteer grants

Once you’ve found some volunteer grants for your organization, you can improve your chances of receiving these grants by keeping the following best practices in mind:

Create team volunteer opportunities

When possible, try to create team volunteer opportunities so that employers can create and send teams of volunteers to work with your organization. Not only will this give you more volunteer power, but it will also help you rack up more volunteer hours for a larger monetary gain.

Track volunteer hours accurately

When every volunteer hour is attached to real money flowing to your nonprofit, tracking your hours accurately is essential.

If a company is going to give your organization $1000 for every 50 hours of volunteering, reporting fewer hours on accident will be a costly mistake.

You can help ensure the accuracy of your volunteer tracking by:

If your employees do not recognize the importance of tracking their hours, they may forget to report their hours or simply think their hours are not important enough for them to take the time to track.

Explain how volunteer grants work and emphasize just how valuable each volunteer hour is to your organization so that your employees see the value in tracking their hours accurately.

When you have volunteers who are motivated to report their hours and an effective system for reporting, it will be easier for you to get accurate reports.

You also want to remove as much friction as possible to make it easy for your volunteers to submit grant applications on your behalf. Create a simple set of instructions they can follow and remind them of opportunities to contribute more hours to reach the program minimum requirements.

Getting Started

Here are a few ideas for getting started with volunteer grants:

  1. Identify national employers that have a local presence. Larger employers are more likely to have a volunteer matching grant program.
  2. Examine your existing volunteer database and identify any volunteers using a corporate email account. Try to match those against the list you came up with above.
  3. Reach out to existing corporate engagement leads (they may not always remember the company has a grant program!).
  4. Leverage your board members. Many of these individuals hold senior roles at corporations that already have volunteer grant programs, or are in a position to make connections to those companies.
  5. Searching on Instrumentl (or other platforms) for volunteer matching grants can often turn up opportunities you may not have come across elsewhere.

Here are some companies that offer volunteer matching and that you might be able to find in your community:

Starbucks Giving Match

Grant: $5 per hour

Notes: Minimum of 5 hours and maximum $1,000 match per fiscal year

Website: Starbucks Giving Match

Walmart Volunteerism Always Pays (VAP)

Grant: Approximately $10 per hour and a minimum of 1 hour with a maximum of 100 hours

Notes: Individual and event match available

Website: Volunteerism Always Pays (VAP)

Exxon Volunteer Involvement Program (VIP)

Grant: $500 grant

Notes: Requires an individual or team volunteers at least 20 hours

Website: Volunteer Involvement Program (VIP)

Verizon Volunteer Incentive Program

Grant: $750 grant

Notes: Requires a minimum of 50 hours of volunteering

Website: Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP)

Allstate Helping Hands

Grant: $500 or $1,000 grant

Notes: Requires 4 to 16 hours of volunteering and is invite only

Website: Helping Hands Grant

Elevance Health Dollars for Doers

Grant: $10 per hour

Notes: Limited to Elevance staff

Website: Dollars for Doers

Almost all of these programs require your organization to validate these hours. This is a reason why it's helpful to have a tracking platform like Civic Champs.

Civic Champs has the tech tools your nonprofit needs to accurately track volunteer hours and seamlessly manage your volunteers. Learn more about volunteer hour tracking and applying for corporate volunteer grants when you visit our website.

About the Author:
Geng Wang

As CEO of Civic Champs, I lead our team of passionate change leaders to create technology solutions to create a seamless and rewarding volunteering experience for both volunteers and service organizations.

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