So it shouldn’t come as a surprise technology is morphing the relationship between volunteers and nonprofits as well.
The volunteer management of today looks drastically different than that of 30 years ago, and with a volunteer’s time estimated to be worth $23.07 per hour, you can’t afford to waste their efforts.
Here’s a look at the ways innovation has effected volunteering, with tips for making the most out of contemporary tools for your organization.
How You Connect With Them
Your volunteers, be they current or potential, spend a lot of time on the internet. If they’re like the 64% of Americans who own a smartphone or 52% of online adults who use more than one social media site, online connection is a way of life.
You can still reach your volunteers at organization events or out in the community, but just think about how many more chances you’ll have to engage them when they check Facebook – which 70% of Facebook users say they do once a day and in many cases several times daily.
By engaging your social media followers, you can inform them about your mission, demonstrate the difference you make, and show off the personality that makes your nonprofit unique. You’ll stay top-of-mind with continuous posts, unlike the one-shot meeting in person. It’s also a great place to highlight the volunteers who power your group, and inspire others to do the same.
The viral nature of social media can work to your advantage when you’re trying to recruit volunteers. A well-crafted, specific appeal (with a powerful image and text, and link for more information) could spread like wildfire beyond your existing followers to an entirely new audience, bringing you visibility and support.
Email communication is also a piece of the engagement puzzle, as a means of updating and asking for help. Use it, but don’t abuse it (i.e. send too many emails, not have your messages optimized for viewing on mobile devices) to reach your supporters.
In addition to these methods, programs like VolunteerMatch connect people who want to volunteer with causes and projects that fit for them. Users can sort the more than 94,000 opportunities by region, cause area, and age group, as well as give their time to virtual projects that can be completed from anywhere.
How You Can Use Their Help
Technology makes it so that your supporters don’t need to drop by your office or field project to make a difference. Virtual volunteering is more than alliterative fun – it can accomplish a lot for your nonprofit.
Look for tasks that can be done no matter the location, like proofreading or making follow-up phone calls, and assign those to your team to do from their couch or the coffee shop.
That might mean you need to shift your thinking about volunteers, suggests Lynne Filderman, America’s Charities’ vice president and chief marketing officer, in this Catchafire post. She points out volunteers bring skills to your table – such as marketing, budget analysis, or strategic planning – and it’s worth putting them to work. You might need someone to look over your strategic plan more than you need someone to paint a fence.
Millennials, for a broad example – 94% of whom said they enjoyed skills-based volunteering in the 2014 Millennial Impact Report – are likely to be adept at social media. You could use them to schedule tweets or Facebook posts, while keeping in mind that volunteers aren’t employees immersed in your mission and organizational voice, and it’s wise to check messages before they go live.
How You Manage Them
Volunteer management software allows you build your community of volunteers, virtual or fleshly, communicate with them, and schedule their projects. In addition to its standard features, management software’s ability to create volunteer profiles can give you valuable insight into the types of people (age, skills, background) who are drawn to volunteer with your organization.
There are also tons of other tools out there, many of them free, to help you find, manage, and retain your volunteers. Here’s a comprehensive list of the best volunteer management tools to help you out, from recruiting platforms to resource libraries.
For when you want to manage your faraway helpers, tools like Google calendar, Facebook groups, and Dropbox allow you to plan, discuss, schedule, and share files. Video chat is also a great way to “meet” your volunteers and conference on projects.
How We Talk About Volunteering and Volunteer Management
Nonprofit professionals regularly come together in a virtual community on Twitter to share information and insights. Check out this Storify recap of the conversation in a recent Twitter chat, hosted by Social Media for Nonprofits, on activating volunteers through social media – it’s full of helpful ideas.
How has technology changed your relationship with volunteers? What things do you do to make volunteer management easier for your nonprofit? Start a conversation in the comments below.