How nonprofits are shifting from volunteers to donations

There is gradual, industry-wide shift toward monetary donations

We've seen it across the board -- non-monetary contributions including volunteer hours are taking a back seat to donations. Yes, fostering volunteerism is a way to create a stronger emotional connection between your supporters and your cause. However, food banks are preferring dollars over cans of soup because they have buying power that can make bulk food purchases at a fraction of what an average citizen can get at a grocery store. And a surge of "fairweather volunteers" in the holiday season doesn't have the same impact as cash which can be saved and invested more efficiently by business-minded nonprofits.


It's not uncommon for nonprofits to look at solicitation of donations as materialistic and impersonal. One must temper that emotion and know that money is simply a tool that a nonprofit uses at some finite level of efficiency no different than it uses human bodies to clean up litter. And also remember that donations can be used to accomplish many things that volunteers simply cannot. 

Donors are more likely to turn to volunteers than the other way around

We're not advocating a binary switch from volunteers to givers. We're simply indicating that the market is shifting toward givers and that volunteers are taking a smaller position. Don't forget though, more donors turn to volunteers than volunteers turn to donors. So start off on the right foot!

Keep America Beautiful and their shift

Keep America Beautiful is a national nonprofit that focuses on maintaining the beauty of nature and our surrounding ecosystems. Keep America Beautiful believes the upkeep of our environment is vital to life on earth. By inspiring and educating Americans, they encourage the public to improve their community. With a clean and green place to live as the goal, Keep America Beautiful dedicates immense amounts of effort through their events, initiatives, and affiliates. As of 2016, Keep America Beautiful had over 600 affiliates in 42 states and five internationally. Local affiliates organize national events on a state level. Some of their most popular events are the Great American Cleanup, National Planting Day, and America Recycles Day.

The value of volunteers


Historically, Keep America Beautiful has depended on their volunteers in each affiliated area to maintain their local communities. Volunteers can take part by helping in a litter cleanup at a local beach, planting a community garden, improving recycling, or educating the next generation. Every year, the efforts of volunteers produce an average of $175 million in measurable benefits to the communities they help. Volunteers are a key reason why Keep America Beautiful has had so much success in becoming a leading national nonprofit. More recently, though, Keep America Beautiful has been focusing on fundraising as a way of further improving their organization. 

How Keep America Beautiful is shifting

When transitioning from a volunteer based nonprofit to a nonprofit that focuses on fundraising and volunteering, Keep America Beautiful has used a fun and inventive way to take donations. Keep America Beautiful demonstrates an exciting way to draw donors in with their “#DoBeautifulThings – Sports Auctions”. By auctioning off tickets to winters biggest sports events of 2017, Keep America Beautiful raised money to support their national programs and research to advance their initiatives End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify America’s Communities. Auctioning off prime seats to the Super Bowl, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and the NBA All-Star Game was an effective way to spark interest from a broader audience than their usual key supporters. 


Keep America Beautiful sets a great example for all nonprofits with a new way to fundraise. Due to their long-term success and influence, they are a great role model for smaller non-profits to transition from a volunteer based organization to focusing on fundraising as well. Make sure to look out for Keep America Beautiful events in your area.

Kate Dragonetti is a freelance writer for DipJar. She spent four years raising funds and going on builds for Habitat for Humanity and plans on continuing to be a dedicated volunteer.