Using volunteers in the proposal writing process is a popular practice in the NGO world. Although we can’t recommend having exclusively volunteers be responsible for this task, they can be very useful in several areas, namely research, determining costs, organization, baseline studies, and proofreading. Whatever their role in the proposal writing process is, however, volunteers are hard to get by. This is especially in the case of actual proposal writing. Indeed, their talents are often employed as alternatives to otherwise expensive consultants. There are numerous platforms available to increase the chances of finding capable and experienced volunteers. However, in order to get those to lend their skills, it is first and foremost important to look desirable to them. There are, therefore, a few guidelines to keep in mind when using these platforms.
Presentation is key in any aspect of fundraising, whether appealing to a donor agency or appealing to the masses through crowdfunding, so why should the steps coming before that be any different. It is important to immediately showcase your worth as an impactful noteworthy NGO. Much like donors, volunteers want to make sure that their skills are put to good use and will result in meaningful change. The description section of the volunteer websites is, therefore, a crucial section to fill in adequately. Transparency, moreover, can never be stressed enough, so don’t forget to attach a link to your website and social media platforms so they can gleam more information for themselves.
Make sure to target volunteers in accordance with their skills. They will tend to want to use their strengths to their fullest rather than dedicating themselves to seemingly general tasks. Be specific about what their role in the process would be, what element of proposal writing you need their guidance with, and what forms of knowledge you are looking for in them.
Much like any job, they will also expect to know the expected time they will have to put in it, the urgency of the matter, the deadline and what results their work will reap for your organization. Remember, volunteers are not in it for themselves, but to help your NGO out, make sure they know their work will not go wasted.
Try meeting in person, and if that fails, through phone or Skype. This will help you determine whether the volunteer suits your needs, and can also be a form of courtesy to return to them. Despite the difficulty to find volunteers, that does not mean that you need to accept the first one coming your way. You are entitled to ask for their references before agreeing to anything.
Lastly, establish a formal agreement to ensure both your organization and the volunteer know what to expect from the work.
Finding an appropriate volunteer is a time-consuming process. Don’t get frustrated if the time scale is not the one you were hoping for. It can take weeks for the right volunteer to surface, if not longer. Do not rely solely on the platforms listed later on, use social media to gain more attention and advertise your search.
Volunteers might be competent in more than the area you initially needed them for. Their experience in the process means they often pick up other skills as time goes on. Don’t hesitate to ask them for input when making choices, such as what donors or grants to apply for. Moreover, remember that they are doing you a big favor, so don’t forget to include them in decision-making processes so that they can learn from your organization too. This can help other NGOs down the line, but more importantly, links to the last point, which is recognition.
Showing appreciation for the volunteer’s work should not hinge on your getting the desired grant or acquiring the necessary funds. Getting there is hard and failure to do so does not have to equate with a bad proposal. Regardless, the volunteer most likely put hard work into and that should not go unnoticed. Any form of recognition, be it in the form of some reward, certificate of personal recommendation can go a long way in showing this, and will be appreciated. This is furthermore important for the future of your organization. Finding good volunteers is hard, and establishing good and long lasting relationships with them is therefore crucial. You might, indeed, want to be able to come back to them for future proposal writing efforts.
List of Volunteer Platforms:
United Nations Volunteers (UNV): https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en
As the forefather of volunteering websites, UNV offers an incredible array of available volunteers with a lot of diversity. You’ll likely find someone who suits your needs, but popularity goes both ways. You have to compete with many other NGOs. However, the majority of volunteers present on UNV are very interested in development.
Catchafire puts an emphasis on associating people’s personal and professional skills with relevant projects. Its focus lies on capacity building, meaning there is an exchange of competencies and skills while offering help for specific projects.
We Make Change: https://www.wemakechange.org/
We Make Change is a platform that focuses on communal intervention. Rather than being about searching a single volunteer for a specific task, We Make Change advocates for the building of teams of volunteers. This can be for the purpose of a specific project or supporting organizations in their entirety through capacity building workshops.
Create the Good: http://createthegood.org/
This platform centers on organizations and projects within the United States.
As one of the largest platforms linking professionals to NGOs and specific projects, Idealist has the benefit of incredible diversity. This encompasses both available skills as well as opportunities to dedicate these skills to.
Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org/
Volunteer March aims at associating motivated volunteers with various initiatives worldwide. The matching process makes an initial selection of compatibility, taking it somewhat out of the hands of either the volunteer or the organization. Moreover, this platform is not geographically bound, so NGOs from both developed and developing countries can use its services. As an additional benefit, volunteers present on this platform have a habit of donating to projects they are interested in. It can thus also help in the quest for funds.
This online software aimed at being the Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter of volunteering, is a more social-focused platform connecting NGOs with skilled volunteers willing to contribute to an organization’s efforts. Since their inception, GiveGab also expanded to include a strong focus on fundraising.
Translators Without Borders: https://translatorswithoutborders.org/
Translators Without Borders, as the name indicates, centers around translation services. It connects NGOs with a wide array of professional translators in order to facilitate making a lasting impact. In the case of proposal writing, they can help to appeal to a wider audience, becoming less bound by language barriers.
Creatives Without Borders: https://www.creativeswithoutborders.org/
Creatives Without Borders (CWB) is one of the few free websites out there. Albeit not centered on proposal writing, the majority of services offered, namely solving media and creative problems, can bolster organizations’ impact. They achieve this by helping increase social media presence, for instance, and can also offer donor application materials.
Helpful Peeps: https://helpfulpeeps.com/
This platform is not focused on the NGO world but is instead a community of people enthusiastic about dedicating their time and energy, as well as their skills and knowledge, for the benefit of others. Individuals can, therefore, post requests for specific tasks needing help with.
Deedmob offers NGOs help with finding and managing volunteers. Although it might be more focused on in-the-field volunteering, it is always possible to find volunteers more orientated towards the organization’s own capacity building, as well as specific project proposal writing.
Taproot Foundation: https://taprootfoundation.org/
The Taproot Foundation aims at giving NGOs access to the skills they need in order to make their organizations thrive through professional volunteers’ help. This means intervening both through specific projects and through capacity building within the organization itself. It currently mostly with NGOs in the US, EU, and India mostly.
GlobalGiving Time: https://www.globalgiving.org/globalgivingtime/
GlobalGiving advertises itself as the largest global crowdfunding community, encompassing almost every country in its connecting NGOs with donors and companies. Its volunteering initiative, GlobalGivingTime, extends the platform to connecting NGOs with professionals’ skills, with the availability of dividing the necessary tasks into smaller ones through micro-volunteering, so as to increase the speed of result achievement.