5 Ways to Use Your Mobile Device for Your Volunteer Program

Your mobile device can be a valuable tool for engaging volunteers.Phones and tablets haven’t replaced computers – yet. However, there are still ways to make mobile work for you that will make engaging and coordinating your volunteers easier and more effective, and create a better experience for all of you.

1. Text alerts and reminders to volunteers

Even those without smart phones can get texts these days, and SMS can be a quick, easy and cheap way to contact your volunteers about new opportunities and upcoming events.

2. Check people in at events

Services like Eventbrite will have a mobile app that syncs with your sign-up list and enables you to check in attendees and volunteers without worrying about printing out a long list. Instead, you can manage it all from a phone or tablet. This is also a great job for a volunteer at your event!

3. Live tweet an event

Want more people to know about what your organization is up to? Tweeting in real time as an event is happening will increase visibility for your nonprofit and connect you with new potential supporters. And this is another great job for volunteers – especially young, social media-savvy ones.

4. Take photos and videos

These days, phone cameras are just about as good as your standard digital, so recognize the opportunity to document the hard work of your volunteers by snapping photos of them in action. You can also capture video testimonials with a few pushes on your touch screen – and nothing engages volunteers like a heartfelt video testimonial from another volunteer.

5. Make thank you calls

Recognition is a key element of volunteer engagement. And while there are many different ways to show your volunteers you appreciate them, a sincere “thank you” is a must. Thank them in person with a big smile, and then use your mobile phone to give them a call after their work with you is done to reiterate the impact they made. They’ll be surprised, gratified, and that much more likely to come back and bring their friends and family with them.

How do you use your mobile devices to engage volunteers? Let us know in the comments below!

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16 thoughts on “5 Ways to Use Your Mobile Device for Your Volunteer Program

  1. I still have a number of volunteers who use a library computer once a week or so to check their email. The idea of texting something to them feels like I’m invading their personal space. And using a program like Sign Up Genius professionally (which I participate in for sport parent organizations) can be beyond their comprehension. With over 500 routine volunteers who fall between the ages of 12 to mid 90s, it’s a real challenge to figure out what’s best for my non-profit and for connecting with the volunteers.

    • Every volunteer is different – and there was a time when people felt the same way about email that you feel now about texts. In fact, a lot of volunteers *don’t* want messages related to their volunteering via Facebook. The key now is to make sure you have a variety of ways you communicate with volunteers, to accommodate different wants and needs. Be just as careful about “requiring” a volunteer to use a certain communication tool like email as you would be about “requiring” a volunteer to come to an onsite meeting during school or work hours, that requires them to pay for parking, etc.

  2. Pingback: 5 Ways To Incorporate Mobile Tech Into Your Volunteer Program | Tech Impact Blog - Leaders in Non-Profit Technology

  3. This was a good post.

    I just want to mention that there are a number of free mobile apps that:

    1. Help organizations recruit volunteers,

    2. Allow organizations to funnel training materials to volunteers.

    The beauty of the technology is that it is pretty only limited by the folks doing the programming.

    Volunteering remains all about people. However, technology can certainly help enrich the experience for volunteers and the organizations that work with them.

      • I don’t want to be seen as endorsing a particular app. My suggestion for anyone interested in finding apps related to volunteerism is to go to Google Play or the Apple i-Store and do a search for “volunteer” or “volunteerism.”

    • “there are a number of free mobile apps that:”

      Such as?

      And are they smart-phone specific? Because I don’t know of any organizations that involve volunteers all using exactly the same smart phones (or where all volunteers have a smart phone at all, for that matter).

  4. Good list! This is something I’ve tried to start discussions about on the TechSoup forum a few times:

    “mobile time tracking – for volunteers to track service hours?”
    http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/community/f/13/t/36746.aspx

    “What mobile apps do you promote to clients, volunteers, supporters, staff?”
    http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/community/f/13/t/36558.aspx

    “Mobile apps: what do managers of volunteers *want*”
    http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/community/f/13/t/36747.aspx

    “anyone using these mobile apps as part of their work?”
    http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/community/f/13/t/36734.aspx

    We’ve also had some recommendations on sending out texts to multiple people, which you might find helpful:

    “Sending text messages to 50 non-smart phones”
    http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/community/f/13/p/31844/113220.aspx

    “FrontlineSMS – FOSS management for text messages”
    http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/community/f/26/p/34163/117495.aspx

    “Texting from a computer”
    http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/community/f/20/p/37649/127461.aspx

  5. Good tips! Wondering about #1 regarding texting volunteers, though. Are you recommending that people text volunteers using their personal phones? Texting volunteers should really only be done when you have a work phone that you can use or are using a SMS service that can send out messages to one or more volunteers at a time. Just my two cents to ensure safe texting. =)

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