How Small Nonprofits Can Recruit Entrepreneur Volunteers to Their Cause

Mark Titi is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub, and the founder of Wobbly Nonprofit. He has over a decade of experience directing the financial and planning activities of  small nonprofit organizations.

It can be exhausting, and costly, trying to get the attention of giant corporations and their foundations. But are you willing to take the lonely path?

Being a small nonprofit, your next jaw-dropping relationship may be with someone your own size—the budding entrepreneur.

Budding Entrepreneurs and Small Nonprofits

Small, Meet Small

You are passionate about your cause. Budding entrepreneurs are driven too.

You know what it’s like to shift gears often. So does the flexible entrepreneur who wears many hats.

It’s urgent that you always have the money to help fuel your mission. The budding entrepreneur knows that he is always just one step removed from going back to the 9-5 rat race.

Your small nonprofit creates new volunteer opportunities. The budding entrepreneur seeks opportunities to get wired into the community while giving back.

Sounds like you have some important things in common.

Six Steps to Make the Connection

1. Figure Out What’s Missing (and Don’t Assume!)
Sharpen your vision. Analyze your budget. Talk to stakeholders. Use this information to identify the big rocks. Tackle those first. Forget about the pebbles for now. Remember to package your volunteer ask with in-kind donation requests too.

2. Find a Match
Get involved with the local Chamber of Commerce. Try the Rotary Club. Follow the legal notices of a business publication to learn about new ventures. Check with your own board members for possible contacts. Don’t be discouraged if you get told “no” sometimes. Some people will be aligned with social causes other than your own.

3. Create a Buzz
Highlight work in progress. Do this in such a way that is mutually beneficial. Newspaper articles, blog posts, newsletter mentions, signs that raise curiosity and just plain word-of-mouth are all examples of ways you can increase visibility for your projects.

4. Celebrate
A mandatory step! Just don’t wait until the project is completed. You can never have too much fun as you create a bond.

5. Advance Relationships
Maintain your connection after the project has ended. Use the relationship to build new ones. Help your budding entrepreneur generate referrals and provide a reference when everything is a success. Always attempt to convert volunteers into donor evangelists. This takes time, but you can never have too many of those!

6. Repeat the Process
Build your network and continue to strengthen relationships. Continually improve your process of cultivating budding entrepreneurs. Share your success stories with other charities too. Who knows, maybe you and your new friends will start a trend.

It’s Time to Go Old School

Entrepreneurs find their own tribe. Take a hint from them and stop trying to fit in.
Budding entrepreneurs don’t go straight to big either. Instead, they typically start small and sometimes work their way into big.

Remember that good things come in small packages. Seek out the intersection of budding entrepreneurs and social good to increase your levels of volunteer participation.

Develop a Game Plan

The budding entrepreneur already has one. Giving back is a key part of measuring entrepreneurial success.

Now here’s yours:

Form a small “three yards and a cloud of dust” group. Ask the vision, budget and stakeholder questions, gather the information and wait for the dust to settle. Clearly identify your nonprofit’s five greatest volunteer needs in the first week.

In week #2, suit up a staff member to improve field position by identifying budding entrepreneur matches. Make sure they keep the sticks moving and leave it all on the field. Here’s a cool tool courtesy of that potential volunteers can use.

In week #3, move into the red zone by making personal (phone or face-to-face contact) invitations to visit your charity. Intensity is not a perfume! You’re in the two minute drill now so get out of bounds to stop the clock if necessary.

In week #4, go for the end zone at your visit by making your pitch. Just don’t get any ketchup or mustard on you if you decide to try the Lambeau leap!

Ready to take your next step? Be sure to contact me for any help making that leap.