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Cause Marketing for Volunteers

Money is portable, and useful…the preferred method for payment worldwide. The precise word for the advantages of money that I’m describing is ‘fungible;’ that is, freely exchangeable and replaceable. Not surprisingly, therefore, money is what most cause marketers strive to raise.

But savvy causes and their sponsors should also be thinking about using cause marketing to ‘raise’ volunteers, too.

But why? Volunteers aren’t fungible at all. You have to manage and train and inspire them. Volunteers require that systems be put in place to channel their efforts. They have to have places to park their car, places to work, and places to put their things when they’re working. They create insurance and legal liabilities. They may not volunteer for long, so continuity is a challenge. And, of course, they may be less competent and accountable than people you could hire to do the same job.

To make my case for cause marketing to generate volunteers, I’m going to use a contra-example which happens to be completely true.

I have a friend from a small town in Kansas who, once or twice a year, goes to the first place he ever worked… a small café… and washes dishes for free. He volunteers at a for-profit, in other words. Because he washes dishes voluntarily it’s a fair bet that he does so with more brio and joy than does the regular guy.

Volunteers are literally so impassioned about your cause that they’re willing to do for free what you have to pay others to do.

And that leads to the next point; volunteers are typically more engaged than plain donors.

My friend still lives in the small town where the café is, and he’s a frequent patron. And so, he’s far more likely to be giving the café his money rather than his time.

But does he ever talk about the food he gets there or even the friendly service?

No. Those are all assumed. The people who own the cafe are friends after all. Instead he talks about the service he provides… for free… washing dishes for and with his friends.

There’s a third point. The small town where my friend lives has other restaurants, including regional and national chains. I’m not saying he never eats at those other places, but I feel confident saying he’s much more likely to eat at ‘his’ café than somewhere else.

In short, because he volunteers at his local café, that business gets his time, his patronage and his long-term loyalty.

It’s much the same when people volunteer for causes. Not only do you get their time, but an Independent Sector study about 10 years ago found that volunteers gave at least two times as much as non-volunteers.

Time, more money and long-term loyalty. What more could a nonprofit cause marketer possibly hope for?


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