5 Things to Include in a New Volunteer Program's Budget - Charity Savant

5 Things to Include in a New Volunteer Program’s Budget

Myth: Volunteers are free!

Fact: Volunteers might donate their time, but that doesn’t mean they’re a cost-free resource.

Running a successful volunteer program means investing in the program, with both time and money. You can’t pay volunteers salaries, but you can – and should – pay for systems to ensure your volunteer program is efficient and well-managed, and that volunteers feel engaged and retained.

If you’ve been tasked with putting the time in to build a volunteer program for your organization, you’ll need to figure out what resources you need to support the program. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are 5 things you should definitely budget for if you’re building your first volunteer program:

1. Database

By all means, you can keep your records in an Excel spreadsheet if your volunteer program is still tiny. But if you plan on growing the program substantially, this is going to become unsustainable down the line. Save your future self a huge data entry headache and start by investing in a volunteer database. There are lots of databases out there at different price points. If your org already uses a donor or client database, you can also check if that software will support tracking volunteer hours.

2. Police Record Checks

If your volunteers will be working with vulnerable populations, handling cash, or have access to sensitive data, you will likely need to perform some type of police background check as a component of screening them. And, so that prospective volunteers aren’t paying out of their pockets, it’s nice if you can budget to cover this cost for them. Services like Sterling Talent Solutions can help centralize the cost.

3. Workstations

If you’re planning to have volunteers placed in your office, you’ll want to ensure you have a space for your new volunteers to feel welcome. If a volunteer office is feasible, that’s the ideal! But even if you can create one or two designated volunteer workstations, this will go a long way towards making volunteers feel like they’re integrated into the organization. Nothing’s worse than feeling like you’re shoved in a corner, working off the side of someone else’s space!

You can also budget for low-cost storage solutions like cubbies, so volunteers have somewhere to store small personal items and work in progress.

4. Branded Gear and Swag

If your volunteers are public-facing, it might be a good idea to invest in volunteer t-shirts or some other branded clothing to make them identifiable as a representative of your org. When they’re on-site at your facility, name tags are also an inexpensive and easy way to make volunteers feel welcome. In general, any other branded swag you can provide to volunteers will be well-received and help them feel like ambassadors for your organization.

5. Recognition Activities

If this is your first go at a formal volunteer program, odds are you likely don’t have budget for a big, fancy volunteer awards ceremony. But, the good news is, volunteers prefer smaller, more thoughtful methods of recognition! Budget for small tokens of gratitude like thank-you cards, postage, and small, personal gifts. (And if any of these items can be made or signed by your organization’s constituents, then that’s a bonus!)

There are many other small resources you may need in place to support your volunteer program’s success. Use these basic items as a starting point for your own volunteer program budget.


Cheat Sheets

Cheat Sheets are Charity Savant’s free guides to help you do more with less. They are quick-fix one pagers with easy to digest top-five tips to help you solve almost any problem. Check out our growing list of free Cheat Sheets.