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5 ways to engage volunteers through social media

· Marketing,Charities

Without a doubt the digital revolution has transformed the way charities connect with volunteers and supporters over the last 5 years. It offers a direct, low cost route to communicating, almost instantly to a vast audience.

My recent work with Childhood Cancer Parents Alliance has developed their volunteer and supporter engagement through social media into a vibrant and busy communication platform. After a Facebook page re-launch and the setting up of a dedicated TeamGold Supporters page, the charity now not only has an active group of volunteers, recruited and grown a dedicated team of runners but has also recruited its first permanent admin volunteer to the organisation.

Employing social media can support managers tasked with recruiting, training and managing volunteers, supporting their traditional marketing and outreach. It is also an ideal vehicle for much more informal and conversational engagement with volunteers, supporters and their wider networks.

When time and resources are limited how can you ensure that your social media engages new and valued volunteers; building on a unique contribution and helping them play a fundamental role in your charity’s work?

1. Define your objectives

Whether you are looking for volunteers to help run a one off event or have a long term recruitment campaign in mind, it is essential to know what your overall objectives are when building social media into your recruitment strategy. If the roles are more formal, what kind of volunteers are needed, where do you need them and what skills are you looking for?

Think about who you want to reach and which platforms you need to use to reach them. Facebook stills ranks as the most popular social media but take time to think about how and when prospective volunteers will be using social media and their preferred platforms. ‘Baby Boomers’ (those between 52-71), for instance, are more likely to be using Facebook or Twitter than Snapchat or Instagram.

Building a social media plan – even the most basic plan with a single objective – is essential to make your posts focussed, purposeful and effective.

2. Create sharable content

Once you know what you want to achieve think about all the different ways can you create value for your supporters.

People will be more encouraged to act and join your cause if they know how they can make a difference, so make your content useful, interesting and shareable including:

  • Using a package such as Canva to create eye-catching visuals to share information, data, facts and figures
  • Letting volunteers know to help publicise events and help with fundraising
  • Producing content with practical value such as ‘How to’ tips about volunteering. 
  • Featuring current supporters’ stories about the skills they have gained since volunteering.  

Create reactive content that triggers a response from your supporters - include stories that will evoke an emotional response and encourage supporters to share your content.

Alternatively, are you looking to recruit volunteers in roles supported with on-going training? If you are planning a recruitment campaign, can you share the role descriptions? Offer lots of different information about the different ways in which people can become part of your team and how they can get in touch with you. Let them know what the selection process is and the training you can offer.

3. Listen

Social media is all about building relationships. Engage with your online community to discover what really matters to them. Work to build your volunteer community by keeping contact conversational and personalised. Make sure that you are genuinely interacting with supporters by responding promptly to their questions or comments.

For many, volunteering is a way to make new friends and when you create a fun and enjoyable atmosphere your volunteers will become valuable ambassadors for your charity.

Ask supporters about what they want to do to help or what they enjoy about their volunteering roles and you will soon gain a deeper understanding of how supporters percieve your charity.

Your social media platforms are a great way of thanking your volunteers and showing them how much your charity values their dedication. Share their successes; not only will they feel valued but they will be helping to inspire and motivate others.

4. Include Visuals

Make sure your posts stand out! Social media feeds are flooded with content so if you want to make an impact then you’ll have to be creative.

Facebook posts that include images receive nearly three times more engagements. Create clear and simple visuals including educational or inspirational content that supporters will want to share therefore encouraging their friends to act and join your cause.

Infographics are an effective tool to help you convey data about the work your charity does or illustrate the impact your volunteers.

A recent study showed that posts with videos receive nearly 300% more links. However as professional videos come at a cost if your resources are limited even a short, well thought out ‘Facebook Live’ video can have an impact and engage. A short interview with a supporter or staff doing a piece to camera whilst setting up for an event are just a couple of ides you could try.

5. Post content regularly

Choose quality over quantity when it comes to posting content. You don’t have to post daily but do be concise. Interesting stories posted regularly will be more effective than swamping people’s social media feeds.

Use your social media posts to promote current volunteer work as well as appealing for last minute help at events or fundraising collections. This makes ‘micro’ or one-off volunteering opportunities much easier to fill and can help break down the traditional barriers to volunteering.

Building Community

When it comes to recruiting new volunteers there are plenty of on-line portals and sites, such as , Timebank or Volunteering Matters.

What social media offers is a way to communicate with your volunteers to make them feel a part of your organisation, to make them feel valued and recognise their contribution. It offers your organisation a way of starting conversations, raising awareness and bringing people together, who are inspired and motivated to get behind your cause and help.

Amanda Danells-Bewley

August 2017