Volunteer grants are the best way for your nonprofit organization 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 tangibly 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 form of corporate giving program that can turn volunteer hours into tangible funds.
Through these programs, organizations and employers give money to nonprofits where their employees volunteer or nonprofits in the communities that serve their employees.
There are many types of volunteer grants. Some employers donate a specific amount of money for every volunteer hour served by one of their employees. Others match the monetary value of all of the volunteer hours served by volunteers of a particular nonprofit in the community.
Consider giant corporations like Verizon, Aetna, and Allstate, for example:
Verizon’s Volunteer Incentive Program allows employees to request up to two $750 grants for two separate nonprofit organizations as long as they have volunteered at least 50 hours with each organization. Aetna’s volunteer grant program provides nonprofits with $300 for every 20 hours that an employee volunteers with the organization. Allstate’s Helping Hands Grant program gives between $500-1000 to organizations where their employees have volunteered for at least four to sixteen hours.
According to Double the Donation, an organization that connects nonprofits with resources and grants, nearly 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer volunteer grant programs, and 80% of companies that offer some form of volunteer grants give between $8-$15 per volunteer hour.
If you’re not applying for these grants or encouraging your volunteers to receive these grants, you are essentially leaving free money on the table.
Why volunteer grants matter
In addition to providing you with free money, volunteer grants matter for a few key reasons:
Building relationships with local companies
When companies see that their employees spend a lot of their time volunteering with your organization, they will become more invested in your nonprofit. This could lead to more grant programs, donations, and volunteers.
Companies may provide information about your organization to their employees to encourage them to volunteer with your nonprofit, or they might partner with your organization for corporate social responsibility which in turn could contribute 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
Volunteers can only spend so much time and effort volunteering. Even the most dedicated volunteers still have jobs, families, and commitments that limit the amount of time they can .
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.
Consider a volunteer grant program like Aetna’s that gives $300 for every 20 hours that an employee volunteers with a nonprofit. With this grant, you are receiving a financial benefit for the same 20 volunteer hours that you were only receiving service value for previously.
This allows you to further your impact as an organization without the need to expand your volunteer pool or to push your volunteers to spend more time volunteering.
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 increase the likelihood that you will receive these grants.
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.
Here are some tips for finding volunteer grants for your organization:
- Encourage your volunteers to see if their employer offers grants and check their eligibility
- Search a corporate matching gift database, like the one available on Double the Donation, for grants
- Include information about the importance of volunteer grants in your volunteer onboarding process and on your volunteer website
- Look at a list of the top companies who have volunteer grant programs and check out their grant criteria
- Use Google to search for volunteer incentive programs and volunteer matching programs in your area
- Highlight team volunteer opportunities on your social media pages and in your organization’s newsletters
- Send volunteers to reach out to local companies and corporations with local headquarters and inquire about volunteer grants
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 tangible funds, 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:
- Encouraging your volunteers to track their hours
- Using volunteer management software that provides seamless, automatic volunteer tracking
- Sending messages and reminders before an event ends to remind volunteers to report their hours
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.
Emphasize just how valuable each volunteer hour is to your organization and explain how volunteer grants work 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.
Here a few ideas for getting started with volunteer grants:
- Identify national employers that have a local presence (most likely to have a volunteer matching grant program)
- Search on Instrumentl (or other platforms) for volunteer matching grants
- Examine your existing volunteer database and identify any volunteers using a corporate email account
- Reach out to existing corporate engagement leads (they may not always remember the company has a grant program!)
- Leverage your board (ask existing board members and potential new board members)
Here are some companies who offer volunteer matching that you might be able to find in your community:
$5 per hour
Minimum of 5 hours and maximum $1,000 match per fiscal year
Individual and event match available
Approximately $10 per hour and a minimum of 1 hour with a maximum of 100 hours
Requires an individual or team volunteers at least 20 hours
Requires a minimum of 50 hours of volunteering
$500 or $1,000 grant
Requires 4 to 16 hours of volunteering and is invite only
$200 to $500
Requires a minimum of 20 individual volunteer hours
$250 to $500
Requires a minimum of 25 event volunteer hours
Almost all of these programs require your organization to validate these hours. And so, this is another reason why it's helpful to have a tracking platform like Civic Champs.
Civic Champs has the tech tools your nonprofit needs to sustain accurate hour tracking and seamlessly manage your volunteers. Learn more about volunteer hour tracking and applying for corporate volunteer grants when you visit our website.
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.