How Nonprofits Can Use Texting to Communicate Effectively with Volunteers

Guest post by Shaunak Wanikar.

Regardless of the size of your volunteer engagement program, you need to be in touch regularly with your volunteers to ensure your organization’s goals are being met. While most volunteer managers use emails, phone calls and social media to stay in touch with their volunteers, texting may actually be the most effective communication tool. In fact, text message open rates are as high as 98% while email open rates, for comparison, are typically 20%.

You can use text messages to connect with your volunteers in three different ways:

  1. Peer to peer texting (p2p): The most personal form of texting, peer to peer texting facilitates one-on-one conversations between your staff and your volunteers.
  2. Broadcast texting: This form of SMS lets you send a common message to all your volunteers at once.
  3. Opt-in text messaging: Where interested volunteers can opt into one of your campaigns by texting a pre-determined keyword to your number.

In this article, we’ll look at the different instances where you can leverage texting to get your message out to your volunteers.

Recruit Volunteers

Although a key component to an organization’s success, volunteer recruitment remains one of the biggest pain points for nonprofits. Texting can help simplify the process. Here’s how:   

Add a simple message to your website, social media profiles and email newsletters instructing people to text a pre-determined keyword to your number if they’re interested in taking action. For example, “Want to make a difference? Here’s your chance. Text ‘IN’ to 45678 to sign up as a volunteer!”  Once they’ve sent the text, they’ll get added to a contact list which automatically gets updated in your CRM.

Once individuals have expressed interest in volunteering, you can schedule automated follow-up texts to collect basic details, such as their name, area of interest or availability. Staff can then reach out to potential volunteers to arrange meetings or interviews or invite them to an upcoming volunteer event. For example, “Hey Rachel, all the new recruits are meeting up at Central Park this Saturday at 5 p.m. It’s going to be a fun session for everyone to get to know each other. You in? 😀

If you recruit volunteers on VolunteerMatch, you can use Question Manager to request that volunteers provide their phone numbers when they express interest and then take advantage of p2p texting to follow up with them in real time.

Thanks to texting, volunteers can quickly and easily respond to your message, so you’ll also have a better idea of how many volunteers might be attending. Plus, if they have any questions about their roles or the event, these can be addressed via text as well.

Engage Volunteers during Events

Whether you’re hosting a rally, charity run or gala dinner, your volunteers have plenty of responsibilities to ensure your event runs smoothly. Texting before and during the event can help prevent issues before they arise!

Prior to the event, create different segmented lists based on volunteer roles and send out peer to peer texts to remind them of their responsibilities. In case volunteers have any questions, they will be able to text you back directly, and you can resolve issues as they come up quickly and easily using the p2p texting platform. Here, all the responses are present on one screen so replying to queries becomes extremely convenient.

As the event draws near, send out broadcast text messages to remind volunteers of the venue, time of the event and any other relevant information. Most SMS broadcasting tools let you schedule these messages beforehand so your staff won’t be overwhelmed at the last minute.

Text messages are also the most effective way to inform your volunteers of any sudden and unforeseen changes to your event. Perhaps the location of your fundraising event changed— simply send out a text to your volunteers informing them of the change and any new instructions they should know. Where other tools are likely to fail, text messages are your best bet for getting your most important messages read.

Gather Feedback

As the heart of your organization, volunteers are very familiar with your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, collecting constructive volunteer feedback is crucial to improve and maintain a successful volunteer engagement program. Did you know you can text volunteers short surveys to solicit their feedback?

Texts are a convenient medium to send surveys to volunteers who have opted into your feedback campaign. Send multiple-choice surveys to your contacts and tailor your questions according to your objectives, whether that’s gauging the effectiveness of a particular strategy or understanding what your organization does best. An example would be: “Hey Jon, how well do you think we train volunteers for their roles, on a scale 1 to 5? (1 = poorly, I don’t feel prepared at all, 5 = very well, I’m prepared for everything I encounter).”

Based on the replies you receive, you can follow up with individual volunteers via p2p texting to delve deeper into their answers and glean more information. This way you can gauge what volunteers think you’re doing well and where you can improve. Text message surveys and follow-up conversations also show volunteers that you care about their opinion and want their input moving forward.

Thank & Motivate

After all the hard work volunteers put into your organization, whether it’s for fundraising, organizing rallies or making phone calls, it’s important to thank them for their efforts. One way of doing so is to send a text detailing the impact that their work has had. Share something like, “Hi Linda, thank you so much for participating in our fund drive this morning! Because of you, we were able to raise $12,000, exceeding our goal by $2,000, which you raised all by yourself! Congrats and thank you again. We know it wasn’t easy. Keep up the great work! 😀🎉

A simple text like this is bound to improve volunteer morale and ensure they stay motivated.

You can also schedule broadcast messages to go out to a group of your volunteers during various stages of a big project. Share motivational quotes, recent progress updates or reminders of the impact they’re having on a cause they deeply care about. These texts will keep spirits high even if a project takes longer than expected or doesn’t go exactly as planned. Regular celebrations of small wins will motivate volunteers to continue their hard work!

 

Now that a majority of people carry cell phones in their back pockets, texting has become one of the most accessible and convenient ways to keep in touch. Now, it’s time to leverage the power of texting to engage volunteers. Whether you’re looking to rally your troops or commend them for their efforts, you’ll find texting to be a very effective way to communicate.


Author Bio: Shaunak Wanikar is part of the marketing team at CallHub, a cloud telephone company that connects campaigns with their supporters through voice and SMS software. He helps deliver compelling content that bridges the knowledge gaps for nonprofits, political campaigns, advocacy groups and businesses. An engineering graduate, Shaunak is passionate about using technology to improve the world. He also loves movies, football and books. 
12 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *