Managing Donations & Spontaneous Volunteers

Running a nonprofit organization can be just as, if not more unpredictable than running a for-profit business. While businesses have a set number of employees with incentives to keep them around, nonprofits often deal with volunteers beyond the core members of the organization. Additionally, while market trends, consumer spending patterns, and advertising metrics provide somewhat stable indicators for companies to adapt their business strategies, fundraising for a nonprofit event or general expense account depends on a myriad of factors. Those factors include how the economy is doing (do folks have extra money to donate?), how persuasive your PR and marketing messages are (not to mention how many people are seeing your ads), and the publicly perceived difference your organization is making in the community, to name a few.

If you’re dealing with unpredictable donation patterns and spontaneous volunteers, then here are a few tips for staying organized:

Consistently Maintain a Revenue Forecast

All too often, nonprofits take a “set it and forget it” approach to financial planning. It’s assumed that outlining your fixed monthly or annual expenses and hiring an accountant to handle everything is sufficient so regular employees and volunteers can focus on truly making a difference through their work. However, nonprofit financial management requires near-daily attention to incoming donations, unexpected expenses, and long-term revenue forecasting to gauge how effective your fundraising campaigns are for different types of donations.

By maintaining a revenue forecast – much in the same way that for-profit companies project their growth and adjust expectations as market conditions divert from the original forecast – you’ll be better-equipped to deal with the “worst case scenario” by determining which expenses would be the most painless budget cuts (if need be). On the flip side, a “best case scenario” with more-than-expected donations coming in could create its own problem of inefficient donation allocation if you’re not prepared, so avoid these potential dilemmas by crafting a revenue forecast with a trusted financial adviser.

Have a Training Guide Ready to Go

Most nonprofit organizations would be thrilled to have more volunteers streaming through their doors, but what happens if you don’t have tasks readily available for these spontaneous volunteers or you don’t have any experienced folks readily available to train a new volunteer staff? Particularly in instances of disasters in the community that require urgent attention from a ton of people willing to help, spontaneous volunteer management is crucial for avoiding human error or other disastrous mistakes that could occur if untrained volunteers are rushing to help without a full awareness of their tasks.

For instance, the 2018 wildfire season included the Pole Creek Fire which led to the evacuation of more than 2,000 homes and around 6,000 people. Amidst this evacuation, a request for paper plates was made which led to a donation of over 20,000 plates! While spontaneous volunteers from around the community have admirable intentions, it’s so important that volunteers are equipped with the skills and knowledge for tackling the tasks they’re about to face. That’s why we offer volunteer management training: to help organizations prepare for any scenario that may require help from new folks who may not know the ins and outs of your work (yet), but they’re courageously stepping up to the plate to help their neighbors.

Whether you’re trying to manage unpredictable finances or managing an influx of spontaneous volunteers, don’t get caught unprepared. Learn about upcoming training opportunities here!