Shyanne Wallace is the Program Coordinator for Eastern Montana CASA. When not being a fierce advocate for children in foster care, Shyanne spends her time with her daughters and Catahoula leopard dogs.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of many nonprofits—the one I work for is no exception! Volunteering is at the core of how my organization operates. With no volunteers, there is no program. As a small, rural nonprofit, we must rely on social medial to get the word out to potential volunteers. Social media allows us to instantly connect to people in areas where the newspaper only runs once a week and there is no local television station. Potential volunteers are everywhere-and often where we aren’t looking. Use your social media influence to reach them and grow your program’s volunteer power!
Using Social Media to Recruit Volunteers
Using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram seems like an essential function of life for many of us….so why aren’t we using those platforms to recruit volunteers?! Having a huge audience at our fingertips is something that many people use to share pictures of their dog but fail to use this power to bring passionate people to their organizations. Time to use that scrolling for the better!
Check out this link from Volunteermatch.org!
In their 5 steps (spoiler alert!), the very FIRST suggestion is to share compelling content. This is crucial! No one will be passionate about your organization unless you are! The rest of the article goes through really simple steps to get your feet wet in social media recruitment efforts.
Content is EVERYTHING!
Here are some ideas for content that our organization has found successful:
- Be inspirational: our organization advocates for children in foster care, but anyone can find something inspirational about their organization’s work. Nothing gives potential volunteers a call to action more than being inspired.
- Share statistics: potential volunteers like to see that their work counts. Share direct examples of ways their volunteering impacts their communities. Our program also highlights volunteer impacts on the state and national levels.
- Provide links to volunteer materials: if people can easily access an application, they are much more likely to fill it out! We even share our volunteer job description, so volunteers know our program’s expectations before they even submit their application.
- Share events: when our organization has an event, we don’t just want our current volunteers to the in attendance. If the only people who know about your organization are already in it, you can’t grow.
- Education: there are a lot of misconceptions about many organizations. In my field, many people confuse my team with state social workers…providing potential volunteers with facts and background of your organization is a great start.
- Take news stories and give them local perspective: when Family First was passed, our organization shared what that looks like for Montana and our communities.
- Follow up: always follow up with potential volunteers through a direct message. Even if their answer is “no”, that doesn’t mean “never.”
“Make an Impact” is an AWESOME engagement piece! Check out the link below!
This video has been very powerful when it has been shown to volunteers in our organization. It is not super specific, which means that it can be used in lots of different industries.
On the Back End
This article from Nonprofit Information shares ways to begin your recruitment campaign. Even though the article is a few years old, the information is a great spring board into your using social media for recruitment.
Take the time to create a plan. Social media engagement is a lot more involved than just posting random items to your pages and hoping for the best!
When you get to the “Trial and Error” portion of this article, I will share some of the shortcomings that our organization had when we first started using social media. I have to admit, I was totally clueless about actually planning when it came to social media. This made our Facebook really unorganized and not very appealing. Even today, we have a long way to go, but we are much better than a year ago!
As part of a national organization, I had thought that branding was pretty straight forward. Until I realized that many other local programs had created their own campaigns that looked very different from our program. Our national organization provided branding materials, but up until last year, they (quite frankly) were not very engaging.
As our new branding items have rolled out, our program has had more success with potential volunteers recognizing our logo, images, and even color scheme. Consistency has helped separate our brand and created a unified voice in our publications.
In my field, it is very hard to put a positive spin on children in foster care. Our national and state branding have helped turn situations that are normally filled with despair into a call to action for potential volunteers. Here is one of our newest branding pieces, which we put out this year:
We have received huge (for rural Montana) responses to this branding campaign. It’s really brought to light the difference that our volunteers bring to a child’s life by being their advocate. Normally, this image is followed up with statistics about how children with a CASA volunteer have better outcomes in the foster care system.
Using Current Volunteers
This article from Volunteer Pro takes the premise of “word of mouth” and shares how it can be used to recruit volunteers using the volunteers you already have. Most of this can be applied to digital recruitment…engage your current volunteers to share their stories. Maybe use social media to recognize service and milestones for volunteers.
Within my program, using face-to-face “word of mouth” tactics are very difficult. My organization covers 15 very rural counties in Montana, so we rarely have the opportunity for our current volunteers to share their stories in person. Using social media to allow our volunteers to share their stories and experiences has been a great way to share our message and inspire potential volunteers to join our organization.
Now, I know that an e-newsletter is not necessarily social media, but it can be a powerful recruitment tool. Anytime you have the chance to get a potential volunteer’s email address-DO IT! We have been able to share our newsletter with so many more people than just our current volunteers. Our newsletter has become something that people in our program actually look forward to reading. In each newsletter, we feature the following:
- Upcoming events: this is where I include available trainings, volunteer events, etc.
- News: each newsletter includes news that is focused on our program. I will often include pictures of our volunteers and staff in this portion. Additionally, there is a segment in each newsletter that is for news that is important to our industry. These news items are mostly from a state level but sometimes a national level.
- Service recognition: this part includes a picture and small interview with a particular volunteer each month. This has become the favorite piece for volunteers as well as staff. Everyone looks forward to seeing who is featured each month.
- Links to education: getting people together in rural areas can be difficult, so I like to include some sort of educational or training module in each e-newsletter. This gives our volunteers (and potential volunteers) ways to grow without them having to travel and incurring costs to our program.
- Inspirational quote: our newsletter always concludes with something inspirational. I want anyone reading it to be left with a feeling that their work (and potential work) matters.
Some organizations feature a message from their Executive Director, but we chose not to go that route. We wanted the newsletter to be more focused on the volunteers and program versus the leadership.
Trial and Error
There is nothing harder than trying something new and failing. Our organization used to spend so much time and resources on doing face-to-face meet and greets, and these never resulted in recruiting many volunteers. As we have moved forward with social media, we have realized two things: (1) it doesn’t cost much, if anything; (2) people don’t have to leave their couch to be engaged with our organization!
One of the things that organization did not do well in the beginning was to “do a little homework.” We were sharing content that did not appeal to a multitude of demographics, so we were missing key audiences.
Another learning lesson for our team was that we initially did not engage with our virtual community. If someone posts a question on your page–answer it! Engage in dialogue to help humanize the page in front of your potential volunteer.
Having multiple admins can also create a bit of an issue. Not planning your posts and “impulse posting” can leave your page feeling disorganized. Having uniform language and looks to your posts give your page a “wow factor”, so make sure all of the page admins have an understanding of the social media plan.
Get after it!
Don’t let other similar organizations get to the volunteers in your community before you do! Be bold, and be willing to make mistakes. People want to make an impact on their communities now more than ever, but often times, they don’t know where to start. Catch their attention and share your message.
Best of luck!