4 Ways Thinking Like a Marketer Can Bolster Volunteer Engagement

Guest post by Chiko Noguchi

Time for you to start thinking like a marketer.Many nonprofits are struggling to create awareness among potential volunteers. Many of these organizations, however, are not taking advantage of the numerous opportunities that have emerged in the digital age.

Bottom line: it’s far past time for organizations in the volunteering world to start thinking like marketers. The benefits of adopting such a mindset are attractive and plentiful:

1. Better Organization

Organization is a key element in a successful marketing strategy. Its importance covers aspects spanning from communication and decision-making to evaluating team members and accomplishing goals. More than likely, you also have a need to communicate, make decisions, evaluate volunteers and get goals accomplished, so there is no reason to think organization doesn’t play a huge role in the success of your volunteering efforts, as well.

Perhaps the simplest way to tie the organization into your program is to start at the volunteer level itself. Make sure your volunteers are familiar with the training regimes, policies and custom metrics that speak to your impact. Your volunteers are like the internal consultants of your business, so the better they understand how the operation works, the better they will be at fitting in with the culture and furthering its mission.

2. Deeper Understanding of Volunteer Mentality

In marketing, businesses must make a dedicated effort to understand what makes their audiences tick. With volunteering, however, it’s more about understanding what makes the members of your own team want to dedicate their time and efforts to the cause. Some may be in it to pick up skills they can use later on in life. Others may simply have a passion for lending a hand wherever one is needed. Whatever the case, it is vital to understand why the members of your team are onboard and even more important to make sure their individual needs are being met.

Many of the steps marketers take to get to know their ideal customer are the same steps you can take to better understand your volunteers:

  • Openly communicate. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than sitting down with your volunteers to pick their brains on an individual basis. Not all marketers are afforded this luxury when it comes to engaging prospects, so take full advantage.
  • Encourage feedback. Let your volunteers know how much their feedback is needed and appreciated. Since convenience is everything, consider the occasional survey or implementing a suggestion box to make sure providing that feedback is a hassle-free process.
  • Monitor trends. What trends out there are affecting the tendencies and expectations of your volunteers? Research them so you can plan and act accordingly.

3. Ability to Create the Ideal Volunteer Environment

Getting to know your volunteers up close and personal comes with the huge payoff of having the intelligence needed to shape the experience. Ideally, you want to create an environment your volunteers have the utmost comfort in – somewhere their needs are viewed as being important to the organization’s mission. Like good customers, good volunteers want to know that they matter.

Volunteering is one of those two-way deals. You can’t expect people to dedicate themselves and not get anything of value in return. The organization and the volunteers should be enjoying mutual benefits. This is most likely to happen when you provide the environment and tools everyone needs to thrive.

4. Good Volunteer Retention

Marketers employ a range of different methods to keep their customers around, including rewarding them with gifts and incentives. A similar approach can be taken to volunteering. However, there are plenty of ways to reward your volunteers outside of showering them with fancy gifts and lofty incentives. For example, you could have an annual potluck or Christmas dinner, host a weekly raffle, or regularly schedule trips to sports games, concerts and other events.

Like most people who work hard, many volunteers just want their efforts to be recognized. With such genuinely kind souls, a simple thank you is often enough. However, it never hurts to go above and beyond to show them how much their efforts are really making a difference.


Volunteers are the lifeblood of your organization. Their dedication is everything. Adopting a marketing mentality is a most powerful way to make sure those efforts stay sharp and effective. It can be an in-depth process that calls for its fair share of time and resources, but the rewards are more than worth it in the end.

Chiko Noguchi is a best practices activist and advocate for a leading provider of email marketing software services.