Dollars for Doers: The Money Nonprofits Don't Want?

Realized Worth

Nonprofits say they want to move from corporate handouts to corporate partnerships, but ignorance–not opportunity–may be what’s holding them back. One example is the Dollars for Doers program (aka Volunteer Grants) that many companies offer.

Dollars for Doers is a matching gift program for volunteerism that rewards volunteer hours with a company donation to the nonprofit. The typical formula is $10 for each hour spent volunteering, although it’s not uncommon to see corporate matches of $20 per hour or more.

Chris Jarvis

“In 2011, the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy [CECP] reported that Dollars for Doers had been the most frequently offered employee-volunteer program,” explained Chris Jarvis, a partner at Realized Worth, a Canadian company that works with businesses to engage employees in giving program. “But employee participation in the program stinks. Only 7 out of 100 employees apply for this cash incentive.”

As nonprofits plan to celebrate National Volunteer Week later this month, now is a good time to take stock of how they can increase participation rates in a program that Jarvis and other employee giving experts have dubbed the “incentive that nobody wants.”

Chris offers nonprofits six suggestions:

1. Take the Lead in Educating Volunteers

Ask your volunteers if they know about the Dollars for Doers program where they work. If they don’t know, ask them to find out. Most employees don’t realize their company has a program in place.

2. Build Your Database

Contact organizations that build memberships based on corporate volunteering and workplace giving. In the United States contact the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals (ACCP) or the Business for Social Responsibility. In Canada, contact the Canadian Business for Social Responsibility. Ask which of their members have a Dollars for Doers program, and then poll your volunteers to see who works at those companies.

3. Partner with Companies that Offer the Program

If your organization recruits volunteers, double your efforts to recruit them from organizations with Dollars for Doers programs. When you need volunteers, contact them first.

4. Don’t Give Volunteers an Excuse to Forget

Do everything you can to remind volunteers to submit their hours to employers so you can receive a grant. Use email, phone calls, thank you letters, tweets, Facebook updates, banner ads, promotional and training materials, and anything else available to get your FREE money!

5. Make it a Friendly Competition

If you have volunteers from different companies, challenge them to a contest to see who can volunteer the most, and raise the most money with Dollars for Doers. Your volunteers will have fun, you’ll raise money, and companies that don’t have Dollars for Doers programs will soon hear from employees that want their own so they can compete!

6. Ask the Company to Help

Encourage companies to simplify the application process so employees don’t get frustrated with submitting their hours to Dollars for Doers. A smartphone app would make the process a lot faster and easier, and the nonprofit could walk volunteers through the steps before they leave.

Finally, ask companies to designate an employee champion to ensure the program runs smoothly. This will be a source of company pride, and raise the most money for your organization.

Thank, Chris. Let’s turn Dollars for Doers into the incentive that nonprofits want and get!

More: How One Nonprofit is Raising Money from Company Volunteers