8 Tips For Establishing Your Nonprofit On Social Media

Editor’s Note: At brand new or small nonprofits, people who run volunteer programs may be responsible for other functions within the organization, including marketing. Whether you’re taking on social media yourself, or working with a colleague to promote your volunteer program, this article can help you get started.

Guest post by Brad Wayland

8 Tips For Establishing Your Nonprofit On Social MediaSocial media is one of the most powerful marketing and engagement tools in your arsenal, but only if you use it effectively. Let’s talk about how your nonprofit can do that.

The birth of the social network did a strange thing to the field of marketing. Suddenly, it became possible to effortlessly spread the word about a brand or event to a positively massive audience — provided you knew how to do so. Nonprofits are in a unique position to benefit from social marketing, but they’re also faced with a unique set of challenges.

That’s what I’m here to talk about today — I’m going to go over a few tips for how you can get your nonprofit established through social and use social media as a way to engage volunteers.

  1. Ask Yourself: What’s Your Purpose?

To start, your first step should be to work out what your nonprofit aims to accomplish. What cause are you raising awareness for? Is it important that you generate donations, or is your aim to get people to attend events or volunteer for your cause? The answers to these questions will inform your entire social campaign, so be sure you have a clear understanding of your goals.

  1. Figure Out Who You’re Marketing To

Once you know the goals your nonprofit is aiming to achieve, the next step is to determine your target audience. Again, this is something that will inform every step you take moving forward. Different messages resonate with different people, after all.

“Try to pin down your average supporters’ socio-economic background,” reads a piece on Technology-Trust.org. “It might seem like a superficial thing to do, but actually it’s really good practice for working out the kinds of things you should post and the type of messaging you should use. Try to be as specific as possible — think about their age, location, economic background, what they likely think of your nonprofit, and what you’d like them to think about it.” You should also consider what types of people would like to volunteer for your cause and tailor your messaging towards them.

  1. Choose Your Social Network Wisely

The next question you need to answer is which social network (or social networks) you’ll be marketing on. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that, according to a 2014 Hubspot survey, Facebook is the #1 social network used by nonprofits at 98%, with Twitter coming in second at 70%. YouTube is an effective network to use for volunteer training videos and videos of past events to recruit more volunteers. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be on all these networks — only that they’re typically a safe bet for social media investments.

  1. Figure Out What To Track

How will you determine your success? What metrics should you track in order to work out whether or not your campaign worked out the way you needed it to? Since you’re running a nonprofit, you’ve got something of an advantage in this regard — according to Buffer, almost half of nonprofits find that a donation is the pinnacle of engagement. That might be a good place to start if you’re strapped for ideas. You can also track the number of new volunteers after a social media campaign.

  1. Create a Killer Hashtag

Especially if you have plans to market on Twitter, the creation of a suitable hashtag is essential. Make it short, memorable, and unique — but most importantly, make sure it’s one that’s easy to associate with your organization. Do note that hashtags carry an element of risk if you don’t carefully monitor your hashtag and curate it, there’s a good chance someone might hijack it (and trust me, that’s not something you want to have happen). Encourage your volunteers to use your hashtags and participate in the conversation on social media. As a result, you will have plenty of user-generated content to repurpose and tell your nonprofit’s story. These personal anecdotes and images will help engage current volunteers and recruit new volunteers.

  1. Account For Your Limitations

How much time and money do you realistically have to devote to social media? How skilled are you at creating content, and what does your writing look like? In order to successfully assess your strengths and abilities, you must first account for your weaknesses and limitations, and mitigate those limitations.

  1. Display Integrity and Transparency

As noted by a post on the Smart Insights blog, nonprofits are faced with a unique landscape where social media is concerned. On the one hand, they’re automatically considered to be a trustworthy source of information, and people experience a genuine need to connect with them and their causes. They’re also well-positioned to provide rich, emotive content.

On the other hand, if they send their messages poorly or ineffectively, the backlash is far worse than for other organizations. You need to be certain that you’re transparent and responsive, or things will very likely blow up in your face.

  1. Look At What Other Nonprofits Have Done Right

Last, but certainly not least, take a look at how other nonprofits have driven their causes to success on social media. Movember, for example, went from a small event run between friends into one of the largest annual men’s health fundraising campaigns in the world. Take a close, careful look at Movember and successful nonprofit organizations like Movember — ask yourself what they’ve done right, and what you can do to emulate their success. Another strategy nonprofits use successfully is asking their audience questions. For example, if you are trying to recruit volunteers for an event, you can ask what the volunteers from last year’s event what they enjoyed the most.

Closing Thoughts

There’s a more to bringing success to your nonprofit on social than we’ve laid out here. These are just a few tips to get you started. Bear them in mind, and you’ll be well-equipped to learn more.


About the author:
Brad Wayland is the VP of Business Development at BlueCotton.

How the VolunteerMatch Support Team Keeps You Moving

Have a VolunteerMatch Question? Meet the Team that Has the Answers

The VolunteerMatch Support Team

Adam, Abby, and Irina: The VolunteerMatch Support Team

They have navigated their way through thousands of customer service inquiries. Now, they’re working on making VolunteerMatch support better, easier, and more intuitive than ever.

In this Q&A, meet the all-star VolunteerMatch support team, and see what they’re up to next.

  1. What does your team do at VolunteerMatch?

When our customers find themselves lost on VolunteerMatch.org or their own branded site, we provide them with high-quality support so they can get back to posting or finding engaging volunteer opportunities in no time.

We also act as intermediaries between customers and the rest of the organization — when a customer addresses a pain point, for example, we relay that feedback to the product team who evaluate, then make updates and improvements to our site.

  1. Describe a typical day at work.

A typical day at work involves answering dozens of customer inquiries and support tickets. We also report issues, or “bugs” to our product/engineering teams, and investigate possible solutions and features to include in our site updates.

During company-wide meetings, we keep all departments at VolunteerMatch informed by representing our customer’s voice. When it comes to delivering a unique customer support experience, we think it’s important to be helpful and supportive, while having a bit of fun — it’s not uncommon for the team to hash out an idea for a site enhancement over a game of foosball.

  1. Speaking of fun, here’s a fun question: If you were a VolunteerMatch Premium feature, which feature would you be?

Our reposting privileges tool.

Volunteers are hungry for new opportunities, and without support from nonprofits, those opportunities just wouldn’t exist. Our reposting privileges tool gives nonprofits higher visibility postings with just one click!

Learn more about VolunteerMatch Premium to get started today.

  1. What are some of the biggest projects your team is working on right now?

We know you want your question(s) addressed ASAP, so we set out and did some research on how we could deliver on that expectation. We found that great customer service incorporates helpful articles into a system where customers can readily find answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

That’s why we’re structuring our Community Help Center to act as our first line of support, ensuring you find answers faster and easier than ever before. By finding a quick and effective solution to your question, you’ll have a much better experience on our site and move on to posting or finding opportunities in no time.

We’re also working on cleaning up inactive listings on VolunteerMatch.org. These two projects are a direct result of listening to our customer’s concerns and incorporating timely feedback.

  1. What should our customer’s expect when they contact support?

Here at VolunteerMatch, customer service is essential to our operating philosophy. We’re eager to hear from our customers, and help them resolve their issue(s).

That’s why we implemented a new and improved ticket form, so we can gather the right information the first time around. When follow-up is needed, we like to think of ourselves as thoughtful, yet inquisitive — asking enough questions to ensure we’re providing you with the best solution.

While we strive for same-day service — you can rest assured knowing that all inquiries are addressed within 24 to 48 business hours of us receiving them.

  1. What is one piece of advice that you would give to customers before they call you?

While we do our best to respond quickly, our Community Help Center is an invaluable resource where you can find nearly instant answers to FAQ and helpful tips. We encourage customers to check our knowledgebase help center first, as you may find an answer to your question without having to go through the support or ticketing process.

  1. How/when can I reach support?

As always, our support team is just a few clicks away.

Reach us by filing a ticket through the Community Help Center 24/7, and please remember to allow for 24-48 business hours to receive a response.

  1. What are some questions you get asked the most?

What’s my password?
How long will it take for my organization to be approved?

Want to learn more about how our support team and VolunteerMatch help nonprofits recruit the right volunteers? Check out our Community Help Center!

3 Ways Volunteers Can Maximize Their Impact During Disasters

Guest post by James Chiq

Disaster VolunteerIn light of recent earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador, people around the world are seeking ways to aid those affected by natural disasters, either from afar or in person. But good intentions can — and sometimes do — get in the way of actual relief efforts.

“Voluntourism” is a popular method of volunteering on a short-term basis while experiencing parts of the world: Providing opportunities for the well-intentioned to simultaneously assist in disaster-stricken areas and explore outside the boundaries of their own country.

In order to ensure your contributions are impactful and reach those who truly need your aid, volunteers can approach their efforts in the following ways:

1. Be Realistic About Your Goals and Capabilities

In the wake of disasters, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge the extent to which you can help. Whether you’re planning to donate money, sponsor a volunteer, or offer your time and labor to help bring relief to affected areas, you should consider your contribution carefully.

Is your contribution in dire need at the site of the disaster or are you giving blindly? If conditions do not improve after a given period of time, will you continue to support those affected by the disaster? These are difficult questions to ask yourself, but giving them considerable thought before making a commitment to a charitable cause can help ensure resources are distributed effectively and in a responsible manner.

2. Do Your Research Before Giving

While some organizations tend to focus on the big picture of disaster relief efforts, smaller, less-marketed organizations provide specialized aid to those impacted by disasters and tragedy. The United Way and Red Cross are the biggest players in disaster relief efforts, yet there are plenty of organizations that provide much-needed aid in various and specific ways.

Experts say to be wary of urgent requests for aid from unknown organizations or individuals. A report in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina cites several identified scams such as phone and email campaigns requesting cash donations for emergency medical shelters.These were created to try and siphon money to private citizens or organizations. Tools like the Federal Trade Commission’s list of charity scams can help direct and guide gifts to honest, reputable organizations.

3. Keep Helping

Too often volunteer disaster relief efforts are left unfinished due to organizational issues and strict volunteer timelines for departure — especially in the immediate wake of a disaster. A year after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, the Corporation for National and Community Service reported that more than half a million American citizens volunteered their time and energy to rebuilding devastated areas in the American South. Unfortunately, some of the damage caused by Katrina remains and countless homes were left abandoned long after the storm had passed.

Tens of thousands of individuals are referred to disaster-stricken areas in times of need, but the organization and coordination challenges of utilizing that amount of manpower often complicate the entire process (as does the inexperience of volunteers in question).

Nonprofits can go beyond their central mission and provide guidance and opportunities for volunteers to help in their own way. By encouraging those not directly affiliated with their organizations to pitch in and lend a hand, relief efforts can be more organized and directed no matter the size and scale of the disaster in question. Providing detailed information about other charity organizations assisting in the area may help provide higher-quality, more engaged volunteers to those organizations and groups that are truly in need.

With any luck, they’ll reciprocate in the future and a more collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship between aid groups working in disaster-ridden areas will develop. Those collective efforts could make an even greater impact on affected communities in the future.

About the author:
James is an avid volunteer. He wants to keep volunteers and volunteer managers engaged and knowledgeable through action and informed research.

Aligning Volunteer Engagement to the Vision, Mission, and Strategic Plan of Your Organization

Guest post by Michael Fliess

Measuring the Impact of VolunteersMany leaders of volunteers agree that when volunteers are fully engaged, both the organization and the clients or cause they represent benefit.

Being “fully engaged” can mean different things to volunteers. However, in a 2013 recognition study conducted by Volunteer Canada, volunteers rated “wanting to know how their work has made an impact” as the most important way they could be recognized for their contribution.

How do leaders of volunteers ensure volunteers know their work has made a difference? As explained in the book, Measuring the Impact of Volunteers, co-authored by me, Christine Burych, Alison Caird, Joanne Fine Schwebel, and Heather Hardie, an important strategy to begin with is aligning volunteer roles with the vision, mission and strategic plan of the organization. When volunteers know their work is integral to the mission, they are more apt to feel truly part of the team, which builds a stronger commitment to your organization.

Six important steps to creating alignment include:

  1. Review the vision, mission, and strategic plan of your organization

Familiarize yourself with your organization’s strategic plan, mission, and vision to have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives. This will ensure that volunteers are integrated with that effort and not working at cross-purposes.

  1. Identify ways in which volunteer involvement supports your strategic plan

Start assessing whether volunteer contributions support your strategic plan by articulating all the volunteer work currently performed. You can apply a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) of volunteer engagement to the directives of the organization. What work helps support immediate goals or long-term vision? Are there tasks that don’t fit into your organization’s plan?

  1. Identify where you may have gaps in programming/ service

Often, the best ideas for improvement come from the end-users of a product or service. This can include staff, clients, families of clients, and volunteers. They will often see needs that are not being met. From this input, identify ways the right volunteer or volunteer initiatives might help.

  1. Create volunteer positions that fully align with the needs of programs, clients and the core services of the organization

The identification of gaps, weaknesses, and even strengths that could be expanded is where you will find ideas for new and high impact volunteer roles. Be sure to review any changes or new volunteer roles with the end-users of that role. For example, you may see a perfect opportunity for volunteers, but ensure that the team/ program with whom you would place new volunteers agree.

  1. Ask staff, clients and stakeholders to evaluate volunteer engagement

Don’t be afraid to receive and even facilitate feedback about volunteer efforts. This can be done through several different tools such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Ensure that you model an atmosphere of openness, where feedback and suggestions are welcomed as an opportunity for improvements.

  1. Measure and report on the impact of what volunteers do

Finally, demonstrate the impact of volunteer engagement. Show volunteers, staff, and organization leaders which accomplishments directly support the goals of the organization.

These six steps will ensure that volunteers are recruited and placed in truly strategic ways. Beginning with a focus on alignment with your organization’s vision sets the stage for leaders of volunteers to support the successful engagement of volunteers.

Michael Fliess, author of Measuring the Impact of Volunteers: A Balanced and Strategic ApproachAbout the author:
Michael Fliess has worked in the field of volunteer management for over 18 years with a focus in the non-profit/healthcare sector. He has served in leadership roles with the Professional Association of Volunteer Leaders – Ontario (PAVRO), as a director at large, co-chair of the PAVR-O Mentor Program and Survey Lead for the Standardized Volunteer Opinion Survey. Michael is a co-author and project lead for Measuring the Impact of Volunteers: A Balanced and Strategic Approach, by Christine Burych, Alison Caird, Joanne Fine Schwebel, Michael Fliess, and Heather Hardie (© 2016, Energize, Inc.)