After seven health questionnaires, nine blood tests, a physical exam, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, five injections of medication and 11 hours of plasmapheresis, Brandi Tanaka, senior consultant at Social Impact Architects, donated what we hope will be life-saving peripheral blood stem cells to a woman with acute myelogenous leukemia last week. As social entrepreneurs deeply engaged in the nonprofit sector, her experience with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) reminded us of the importance of acknowledging volunteers at your organization through proper stewardship.

When Brandi talked about her experience with NMDP, there were some clear successes with volunteer stewardship: NMDP updated Brandi on her college professor’s child who inspired her to sign up for the Be the Match Registry (the child is alive and well nearly 15 years later); the donation process was clearly laid out to protect both the donor and patient; and the clinicians with whom she interacted were committed to the cause and enthusiastic about her participation. On the flip side, her experience shed light on opportunities for all nonprofit organizations to more deeply engage volunteers. Here are just a few equations to keep in mind on why stewardship pays:

Volunteers = Donations x 10
By far, the most important thing you can do to recruit and retain your volunteers is to hire the right stewardship ambassador for your organization. This person should unambiguously personify the qualities you want to convey – positivity, graciousness, empathy, flexibility. Having the right person in the job will help nurture long-term relationships that benefit both the volunteer and organization. Volunteer stewardship pays – a study by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund found that volunteers donate 10 times more money to charitable organizations, with most directed to the organization for which they volunteered.

Clients + Volunteers = Customers
While the clients who benefit from a nonprofit organization’s services take precedent, the social sector can do a better job of creating win-win situations for both client and volunteer. Nonprofit organizations have more than one type of customer, so brainstorm ways you can improve communication with volunteers, provide clear and meaningful responsibilities and maintain flexibility with scheduling while still meeting clients’ needs. While volunteers are there to serve your clients, you should still treat them with equal importance.

Volunteers = Free Marketing
Volunteers engage with your organization because they support the cause and believe giving their time to it is the right thing to do. Nonprofit organizations are always looking for free ways to market – why not use your volunteers’ passion to spread the word? NMDP makes social media badges and images available on its website, but does not tell volunteers about them. Make it easy for volunteers to talk about the organization – proactively send them a kit to share what they have been doing with their friends and family.

Volunteers make sacrifices to serve our clients and organization, and we want to thank them for making a difference. Leukemia affects more than 44,000 Americans each year, and only half will survive. The 70 percent of patients who do not find donor matches in their families must rely on the 2 percent of Americans on the Be the Match Registry. We hope you will consider joining the registry today and that you will share your good and bad volunteer experiences with us. Join us next week for our blog on How Nonprofits Can Engage in Impact Investing.

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