How to Maintain Relationships with Volunteers Using the Internet

Guest post by Carol Williams

volunteerNonprofits are well aware that finding dedicated and motivated volunteers is much more difficult than it seems. People are busy and there are many nonprofit organizations competing for their attention and service. Once you manage to find a volunteer who’s willing to dedicate their time and talent to your nonprofit, it’s in your interest to cultivate this relationship and promote future volunteerism.

Repeated volunteerism is challenging to many nonprofits – in fact, one study found that more than 33% of those who volunteer one year won’t do it the next year. How to best retain volunteers? Through the internet. Here are some tips on how to maintain relationships with volunteers by means of modern communication technologies.

Show the impact of volunteering in the community

It’s the belief in making the difference that drives the vast majority of volunteers. To engage them further, you need to show that their hard work brings a change in the world. And nothing works better than showing them how they helped a community. You can showcase their impact in a variety of forms like social media posts, blog posts, email newsletters or dedicated pages on your website. The medium isn’t that important – it should help you to tell the story in an engaging way.

Build a list for your email newsletter

Email newsletter is an old marketing technique that can be just perfect if you’re looking for a way to keep your volunteers informed about upcoming opportunities. But you should always define your audience – that’s why it’s best to create a segmented list aimed at people interested in volunteering with your nonprofit. It’s a smaller list within your email list which is based on a criterion – an interest in volunteerism. How to segment your list? By giving users an opportunity for indicating their interests when they’re singing up for your mailing list.

Send personalized thank you notes

Depending on the number of your volunteers, you might consider sending out personalized thank you notes by email or paper. A volunteer receiving the note will feel a real sense of appreciation if the executive manager of the nonprofit sends them a personalized message thanking them for their support. Take a few minutes to compose each message. Avoid general statements in the vein of ‘You’ve been great’. This is definitely worth your effort.

Extend individual thank you notes on social media

People like their actions to be publicly recognized and social media are easily the best kind of platform for doing that. Show them that you care by directly mentioning them in various posts about their volunteer work. When on Twitter, use @ and their username to mention them in your thank you tweets – without this symbol users might never know that they’ve been mentioned.

Encourage regular volunteers to share their experience on your blog

If you run a blog, there’s no better way of engaging volunteers than to let them share their experience through a guest post. Not only will they be flattered by your request, but also very likely to promote their post, helping you extend your reach. Such a post can encourage other people to become volunteers at your nonprofit. It’s best to share personal stories, so ask them to tell others about their experience while volunteering at your nonprofit or why they support your mission. They can recount how they got involved with your organization and give advice to future volunteers.

Ask volunteers for feedback

Asking for feedback will help you to gain critical data about the effectiveness of volunteer opportunities at your organization, as well as show volunteers that you really value their opinion. When getting the feedback, it’s important to always reply to it, thanking volunteers for taking their time. It’s best to do this individually.

Help people find future volunteering opportunities

If an individual decides that they’d like to volunteer with you, you need to make the process as easy and smooth as possible. Losing a potential volunteer due to lack of well-suited opportunities to get involved is a great mistake.

Make sure that your website is well-organized and provides lots of information to those who’d like to volunteer. List or link to volunteer opportunities and highlight them prominently in your design. Promote volunteer opportunities on social media as well – you can provide links to specific landing pages designed to target potential volunteers.

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The web provides many opportunities for helping you to cultivate the relationship with your volunteers. Using the methods listed above you’re bound to attract even more people to your cause and encourage volunteers to help you out again and again in the future.

 

About the author: Carol Williams is a team member at Navel Oranges Department of Florida Fruit Shippers where she develops her interest in customer service and blogging. She has a strong background in volunteering which she combines with her love for writing.

4 Steps to Grow Your Volunteer Program with LinkedIn

Guest post by Monique Craig

Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Volunteer ProgramWhen it comes to professional networks, there’s none better than LinkedIn.

You can be sure that all profiles are real, information is (usually) up-to-date, and people are ready to take on challenges that can help them gain new skills, build new relationships, and get their name out there.

Here are 4 simple steps to make the most of this social network.

  1. Set up a LinkedIn profile for your organization

Don’t have a LinkedIn page yet? Or have one, but don’t mention your volunteers’ work? It’s time to change that. Create a profile with full information about your activities, and make sure to include relevant keywords people search for when looking for volunteering opportunities.

Now, it’s time to be active. Join relevant groups, listen to what people are taking about and once you spot the right moment, share you expertise by leaving an insightful comment or advice. People will start to notice your organization and seek you out themselves.

  1. Make sure your volunteers add you to their profiles

If your current volunteers have profiles on LinkedIn, ask them add you as an employer to their profiles. This is something that will make your brand more visible on the network. It might inspire the connections of your current volunteers to reach out to you and ask about some volunteering possibilities. LinkedIn users realize the value of volunteering in their profiles, as well as to the overall recruiting system – this is something recruiters like to see.

  1. Make the most of LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace

LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace is a great new feature that allows you to get your volunteer listings in front of LinkedIn’s corporate audience. The best part? This service is free for VolunteerMatch users. All your listings on VolutneerMatch.org automatically post to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace. And when viewing a potential volunteer on VolunteerMatch that connected with your organization, you can clearly see if the volunteer found your opportunity through LinkedIn.

To make the most of your postings, make sure you include required or desired skills for the volunteer position, and show how this role will support your overall mission and its impact on your nonprofit.

  1. Find volunteers through Advanced Search tool

In addition to using VolunteerMatch to make yourself visible to potential volunteers, you can use LinkedIn to seek out volunteers yourself. Using the Advanced Search tool, you can find many professionals who’ve indicated an interest in volunteerism.

Click ‘Advanced’ next to the search bar – you’ll find a section of ‘Nonprofit interest’ where you can choose from two sub-categories: Board Service and Skilled Volunteering. Check the ones you’re interested in. You can narrow down the results of your search by title, location, industry, school, spoken languages and many more.

Now you should have a clear idea about LinkedIn as a potential talent pool for your nonprofit, and a way to increase visibility for your program. Try these methods, and you’ll be on your way to building a strong brand that attracts volunteers.

Monique Craig is an Australian blogger and marketing specialist who works for Oneflare, an online marketplace which connects customers with local service providers.

Photo credit: Sheila Scarborough – flickr

Why Online Petitions are Crucial to Your Volunteer Recruitment (and Retention)

By Aaron Viles, Care2

How online petitions help engage volunteers.These days, every nonprofit organization has a website, usually chock full of articles, reports and blog posts about the issues and programs they support. The role of the Internet as a platform for sharing information with volunteers is pretty obvious. But increasingly, real engagement, organization and action are happening online. This is giving nonprofits new ways to communicate with supporters, find new audiences and leverage their volunteer base to get involved, do good work and make change.

Every nonprofit faces the challenge of finding and keeping volunteers. One tool in particular can help groups do both: online petitions.

Finding New Volunteers

The Internet is vast and gives each individual user the ability to connect with people a world away and build a community uninhibited by geography. People today are increasingly mobile and have connections to many places and many causes.

While an issue may seem local or idiosyncratic, you never know which and how many people may be inspired to get involved. An expat may care deeply about the fate of a local park in her hometown. Someone in California may have friends and family in Kansas with whom they can share the good work of a local organization. Put simply: reaching people online gets your issues in front of their whole network and can exponentially raise your exposure and spread your message.

Online petitions are a fast and easy way to get this process started. First, they present a clear message and opportunity to make an impact. Good petitions have a clear ask directed to a real person with the power to act. This short and sweet format, with active, persuasive language, helps distill nonprofits’ missions into something concrete; educating people about what drives their group while actually moving the ball forward on their issues.

Keeping Volunteers Engaged

Many researchers have found that the key to keeping volunteers is to understand what motivates them to get involved in the first place. Once they’re onboard, the challenge is to keep them active with your organization and issue. Research suggests that the more committed a volunteer is to an organization, the more likely they are to remain involved.

Getting people to feel committed requires engagement and making their volunteer work seem meaningful. Asking supporters to sign a petition—either in an email or over social media—is a fast and easy way for you to get volunteers to take substantive action. Signing a petition has a real, significant effect that can make supporters feel better and more connected to your organization and mission.

Plus, engaging people online can actually be a gateway to encouraging offline involvement. In 2013, Pew found that nearly one in five users of social networking sites said information they learned there inspired them to get involved offline. Even more exciting, researchers in Norway found that local voluntary organizations that communicated with their supporters online were more likely to grow, and (this is the best part) they found that the online engagement didn’t just replace the traditional face-to-face activities. This meant that finding ways to connect to volunteers online actually increased total engagement, strengthening their relationships with volunteers.

People volunteer for lots of reasons, from having a personal connection to an issue, to the desire to meet like-minded people and make friends. But common among these motivations is the desire to be part of a community doing good. Giving people a chance to make a difference and a place to take collective action fosters this sense of both community and efficacy that makes your organization and your relationship with your supporters stronger.

Has your organization used online petitions to engage volunteers and supporters? Tell us about it in the comments!

Aaron Viles is a Senior Grassroots Organizer for Care2. He works with citizen authors on The Petition Site to create petitions that will win concrete victories for animals, the environment, and other progressive causes. When not in front of a screen or on a conference call, Aaron can be found doting on his daughters, pedaling furiously to keep up with the peloton, and serving as a volunteer leader for the Sierra Club, Dogwood Alliance and his church.

Tell Us: How Has Technology Changed Volunteering?

We want to hear from you: How has technology changed volunteering?For many of us, technology has become such an integrated part of our daily lives, we barely even notice it. Can you remember life before cell phones? Before DVDs? And both of those things are already on their way out!

It’s hard to deny the impact technology has had on us, but what about on volunteering? How has it changed the way we volunteer, and the way we engage volunteers? Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? How can we, as modern-day, with-it nonprofit professionals make sure we’re leveraging technology in the right way to see the maximum benefit for our cause and community?

What, we have to give you ALL the answers?

We want to hear from YOU! Let us know what you think – you can add your thoughts here in the blog comments, or on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Then we’ll aggregate everything so we can all share the knowledge.

Below are some initial ideas to get the juices flowing:

  • The Internet – and especially social media – have made us all easily able to see what each of us are doing and share with others. What people like and share online becomes a part of their identities, and how they want others to view them. How does volunteering fit into this?
  • Are we busier now because of technology? How does this impact volunteering and volunteer engagement?
  • Technology has enabled the growth of virtual volunteering as a way to engage, and the rise of microvolunteering. Has this been a good thing overall, or a bad thing?
  • In today’s super-connected, globalized world, geographic boundaries don’t mean so much anymore. How does this apply to volunteering?
  • With new technology comes to new skills to use that technology, and new skills that can then be volunteered. What are the most valuable new technology-based skills that have arisen for your organization?
  • More of our technology is becoming small and…mobile. What does this mean for volunteer engagement?
  • How has technology impacted – for better or for worse – your ability to measure and track the impact of volunteering on your organization?
  • Finally, what does the future hold for volunteering, given all of this crazy technology that keeps popping up? What can we do now to make sure we’re prepared?

Answer one question or them all, but we want your two cents! Post them now in the comments below, or on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Can’t wait to see what you have to say!