A strong volunteer program is a crucial part of your nonprofit’s ability to realize your mission and goals. The volunteers in your community provide the hands that do the work, whether your organization is focused on feeding the hungry, cleaning up a park, or caring for animals.
Even though the value of volunteerism has been proven, the shape and size of your communities volunteer population isn’t set in stone. People are constantly moving into and away from your community, which means that your volunteer coordinators have to be on the lookout for new volunteers at all times!
One of the most important components of your volunteer management strategy is marketing your volunteer program to those who haven’t yet become involved. Your marketing strategy is responsible for finding individuals who could become valuable members of your community, so it’s imperative that you get it right.
There’s never been a better time to start or revitalize your volunteer program: the percentage of Americans who volunteered in 2018 increased by 23% from 2016, and that number is projected to go up.
In order to help your organization, take advantage of this trend and step up your marketing strategy, we’ve created a list of our favorite outreach and communication ideas to help your organization find more people and push your mission even further. Those ideas are:
- Create a program that people want to be involved in.
- Emphasize the impact that volunteers have.
- Leverage your existing volunteer population.
- Identify and advertise what your nonprofit needs.
- Reach out to people who are already involved in your nonprofit.
- Segment your outreach efforts.
It can be difficult to find the right people to join your community, but the effort will be worth it once they’re fully engaged with your organization’s mission. If you’re ready to learn how any organization can incorporate these strategies while staffing their volunteer program, read on!
1. Create a program that people want to be involved in.
The first step to a successful marketing campaign is to have something worth marketing. In this case, it’s your volunteer program. As someone who has invested a lot of time and effort into your nonprofit’s mission, it’s clear to you why your volunteer program is crucial to your community, region, or even the world!
It’s now time, however, to make sure that the rest of the world knows that your volunteer program is just one branch of a worthy cause. When you’re thinking about how to best represent your volunteer program to new people, what do you want them to take away?
The obvious one, of course, is the impact that your volunteer program has. That’s a topic that we consider important enough to give it its own section, so we’ll cover that in a bit. Before we get to that, let’s go over what else drives people to become volunteers.
What are people looking for when they think about becoming a volunteer?
- They are looking for a community. In order to encourage people searching for new connections to join, emphasize the community-building aspects of your program by ensuring that your program has a healthy culture of collaboration, friendliness, and open communication.
- They are looking for new experiences. Make sure that your volunteer program gives volunteers the opportunity to try new things, instead of requiring that they do the same work day in and day out.
- They are looking for a break from their own life. Volunteering gives people the opportunity to try things that they don’t do in their own careers or at home. When planning your volunteer program, make sure that there are a variety of tasks that volunteers can complete.
A community-centered and mentally engaging volunteer program is a marketing asset in and of itself. When your volunteer program is mentally, emotionally, or spiritually fulfilling, your marketing team will have an easy time converting interested individuals into full-blown volunteers.
2. Emphasize the impact that volunteers have.
One of the strongest motivators for volunteering is the desire to have a real and tangible impact on one’s community. In order to benefit from this motivation, analyze your existing volunteer program and use the impact that it has to encourage more people to become volunteers.
When describing your volunteers’ impact on the community to those who could potentially become volunteers, use a combination of statistics and stories to engage both the heart and the mind.
Some examples of this strategy include:
- “Our volunteers took 400 dogs on 1,200 walks last year. One of our volunteers, Sonia, fostered and rehabilitated 30 dogs and saw over 80% of those dogs get adopted into forever homes.”
- “Our volunteers provided over 3,000 meals to low-income students last year. Here’s what Natalie, a high schooler nearby, has to say about our volunteer program.”
- “Michael sewed 40 blankets for the local hospital last year, which have now comforted over 600 children receiving treatment there. Our volunteer program has provided comfort to over 1,000 families who are enduring hospital stays since last August.”
When your marketing team is able to take analytics from your donor and volunteer management technology and convert them into stories, you’ll be able to use those stories to convince community members that your volunteer program is worth their time and effort.
For help measuring and analyzing your nonprofit’s analytics to create data-driven stories like the ones above, check out this guide from DNL OmniMedia!
3. Leverage your existing volunteer population.
In terms of marketing collateral, who is better proof that your volunteer program is a worthy cause than those who have already dedicated their time to it?
When marketing your volunteer program to new faces, don’t forget that your existing volunteers can provide hands-on experience and social proof that would otherwise be difficult to attain. At interest meetings or in online marketing campaigns, ask your volunteers to contribute their words or voices to your advertisements.
Ways that your existing volunteers can help your nonprofit with marketing include:
- Attending informational sessions and answering questions that the audience has.
- Filming a short testimonial about their time in your program for delivery through email, social media, or an e-newsletter.
- Forwarding or sharing your online marketing campaigns to their families and friends.
In addition to supplementing your staff-led outreach, you could also empower your volunteers to handle some of the marketing on their own. As volunteers, they might even know more about the nitty-gritty of the activities than the volunteer director does! Invite them to lead info sessions and volunteer orientations, as well as to recruit their friends into the program.
4. Identify and advertise what your nonprofit needs.
Once you’ve caught your potential volunteers’ attention, it’s up to you to keep it and convert them. Using your program’s strong community, interesting opportunities, and social impact can only take you so far. Once you’ve snagged someone’s eye, your team has to convince them that your program is right for them.
Not every individual is going to be the right fit for your volunteer program. In order to ensure that you’re attracting people who can bring value to your program, consider your program’s needs carefully and then advertise accordingly.
Someone might be seriously skilled, but if your program doesn’t need those skills, then they might not feel comfortable or engaged in your work.
Some areas that your nonprofit might need specific volunteers for are:
- Data entry and organization
- Event planning and management
- Computer science and programming
- Subject matter experts to teach courses
If you know that these opportunities require individuals with previous experience, don’t be afraid to make that clear. Those who are unqualified but interested in volunteering can find other ways to get involved, and those who are qualified will be even more encouraged to get involved.
5. Reach out to people who are already involved in your nonprofit.
Your nonprofit’s support system is made up of a variety of people across all interests—event attendees, donors, constituents, board members, and more. These people and their roles are all important in different ways, and their support is crucial to the ongoing success of your organization.
This doesn’t mean, though, that these individuals can’t play multiple roles. They’ve already proven through their previous actions that they are invested in the success of your nonprofit. They want your nonprofit to continue striving towards your mission, whatever that may be.
Don’t be afraid to leverage this interest when marketing your nonprofit’s volunteer program! Use your database to identify donors, event attendees, and others who are clearly engaged but haven’t volunteered yet.
Some ways to market directly to your community members are:
- Promote your volunteer program at events to those who are in attendance.
- Include a list of other ways to get involved, including volunteering, in your thank-you notes to donors.
- Send volunteer information to donors who have lapsed as an alternative to monetary or in-kind donations.
If your community is invested in your cause, they’ll be interested to learn more about all the ways that they can contribute.
6. Segment your outreach efforts.
Speaking of your CRM, there are more ways than one to leverage your existing supporter data. When planning how to engage your non-volunteers in volunteer activities, segment your outreach by the data that you already have.
If you use a comprehensive CRM like Blackbaud or Salesforce, you should be able to segment your population by any field that you include in a profile. This could be interest, seasons of activity, level of giving, or even preferred method of communication. Don’t forget to consider any marketing software that your CRM works with when planning how to reach your donors!
In order to leverage a segmentation strategy effectively, consider all the different things that you know about your supporters, and what that means for their motivations.
- If someone donates to campaigns that primarily benefit children, market volunteer opportunities where they get to work with those same kids.
- If someone has a history of engaging heavily with events, ask if they’d like to be involved in planning those events. They know what works, after all!
- If a supporter drops off the map during the summer but is consistently active with your organization in the winter, make sure that they know about all the opportunities for engagement during the winter!
In addition to their interests, don’t forget to segment by what would help your organization the most.
If you keep track of your donors’ employers in your CRM, consider segmenting by individuals who work for companies with volunteer grant programs. Your nonprofit will get their time and a donation from the company, and they’ll get to know that they’re helping in more ways than one.
Segmenting your marketing strategy means that the right messages will be sent to the right people. A generic marketing message will rarely catch someone’s eye, after all.
(If you do use Blackbaud and want more information on leveraging its marketing software, don’t be afraid to research their support resources.)
Marketing your volunteer program can seem like a daunting task, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. With a good understanding of what your program needs, you’ll be able to find great volunteers in no time.
Carl Diesing, Managing Director – Carl co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with on-going web development projects. Together DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals.
As Managing Director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.