Episode #059: 6 Must Have Strategies to Recruit Volunteers Using Your Website

Hey, welcome to the Volunteer Nation Podcast, bringing you practical tips and big ideas on how to build, grow, and scale volunteer talent. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson, and if you rely on volunteers to fuel your charity cause membership or movement, I made this podcast just for you.

Welcome everybody to another episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast.

I’m your host, Tobi Johnson. And today I’ve got a treat for you. It’s time to talk about improving the way that you’re recruiting volunteers on your website. I have worked with many coaching clients around their volunteer recruitment strategies, and I have taken a look at many, many websites, and so today I’m going to precipitate all that information down to some of the most common things I see that are missing.

So I’m going to talk about six must-have strategies to recruit volunteers using your website. You know, gang, your website really is the most important tool you have in your toolkit, aside from word of mouth marketing, and your website actually can help you with that because your folks who are sharing the good news about your opportunities can send people to your website.

But your website is your number one asset. I was doing a little bit of some research online trying to figure out what people were asking about when it comes to volunteer recruitment, and one of the number one things people are looking for are volunteer recruitment letters. And I got to say gang, I’m going to say it straight here.

I’m going to talk straight here that volunteer letters are circa 1970s. This is old school. This is not how we bring volunteers of today’s world into our organizations. Just think for a minute. Where do you get your information? When you have a question, you’re sitting around, binging Netflix on the couch, hanging out, having your cup of tea.

And you suddenly, in your mind, you think to yourself, hmm, I wonder about this. I have a question about this. Where do you go? You pick up your phone, you type it into the Google and you get your answer. So think about if your organization was the answer that came up on Google when people asked, you know what, I think I should probably start volunteering.

Where can I find volunteer opportunities near me? And what if your website came up? Not only did your website come up, but when you clicked on it that when they clicked on that link, they found a mass of information. Not too much, not too little, but also interesting stories, inspiration, a really easy to find button that they could click and ask for more info and get started.

What if that happened for that potential volunteer, do you think they’d take action? Well, of course they would. But what if they picked up their phone and they didn’t see anything that came up in Google, or it was things they weren’t interested in, or maybe it came up in Google. They clicked on the link and they said, where are the volunteer opportunities?

I can’t find my way around this website. This doesn’t look fun at all. Looks boring. I’m out. Anybody got any brownies downstairs? I’m heading downstairs to get brownies or whatever, right? Brownies. I don’t know why I brought that up. I think I’m craving brownies. Anyway, so you’ve got to think about how people are going about their days.

Are they reading letters from organizations that are asking volunteers to come support them? No. They’re picking up their phones whenever they have an idea, an inspiration, a question, a wonder. And you know what? You want to be on the other end of that inquiry. So let’s talk about not only making yourself be the option or the solution at the other end of that inquiry, but also what happens when they click through and look at your website on their phones.

Okay, so I want to talk about six must have strategies, six things that I really see over and over and over again that are missing or that are missing the mark a little bit, and just think, how can you make these changes on your website? And it may mean that you need to work with your comms department, your web designer, et cetera.

But if you’re not making improvements to the user experience of your website and you’re not making volunteering upfront and center your opportunities up front and center, you’re just missing this huge opportunity. So also wanted to mention that in episode five I also talked about this topic.

I talked about eight ways your nonprofit website is failing to attract volunteers. So if you’re a new listener and you haven’t listened back in the archives when we first started about a year ago or a little over a year ago, you might want to check out that episode as well. I’ve got a couple of other episodes and resources I’m going to mention everything I will link to in the show notes.

Also, as we get started, I also want to share with you breaking news. In fact, we don’t even have this on our website yet, but I thought you would want to know, and that is that we are offering this summer, a Volunteer Recruitment Boost Camp. We’re calling it Boost Camp. And it will be an eight-week done with you implementation program to build and launch a volunteer recruitment plan that works.

And we will link to information in the show notes when we have it. But gang, get it on your calendars. We’re going to start the second week in July, right after 4th of July. So join us if you are really needing to recruit volunteers. If you’ve been hunting and pecking for answers. If you have been worried about how you are going to find volunteers to meet your nonprofit’s needs.

This Volunteer Recruitment Boost Camp is exactly for you. It’s exactly for you, and in addition to some of the on demand and recorded lessons, I will also be coaching you through the entire process. And I’m going to make it really tailored. So I’m going to be asking folks to share some of their biggest challenges and I will be doing coaching calls where I answer those questions.

So it’s going to be a really great interactive experience. I know you are all really struggling out there. Many of you and I have answers for you. I have answers for you. I’ve worked with many organizations around their recruitment, and this will be an opportunity for you to implement a new strategy side by side with other go-getters just like you.

So I hope you’ll think about joining us. I’ll give you more information later, but I just wanted to let that that’s coming up and it will start the second week in July. All right, so let’s get into it. Number one of our strategies to recruit volunteers using your website, promote your opportunities to all of your website visitors.

This is the lowest hanging fruit, and it takes about 30 seconds, literally. Now I make changes to our website, so I know I’ve been in the back end of our website. We use a platform called WordPress to power our website. There’s other platforms as well, but I can tell you that this is not very hard to do. If anybody who’s working on your website tells you that this is super hard to do, it is not.

It takes about 30 seconds. So, you want to make sure that everyone who visits your website and what in whatever page they go to, that they understand that you have opportunities for people in the community to support you beyond giving of financial contributions. We need to make sure that volunteering stands out, especially if your organization really is in dire need of volunteers. You need to really make this a priority.

So there’s a few ways to do this, and if you ask your communications folks, how many people every month come to our website? Again, this is really easy information to get. There are places to get it online, and your comms people should know where one place is Google Analytics, soon to be G4 in July.

Also, your website has statistics. There are places to get this information and is not difficult to get. So if you think about, let’s say your website gets 2000 visitors. What if every single one of those 2000 visitors had the opportunity to see that you had volunteer opportunities?

Now, what if your website gets 10,000 visitors? And I know I’ve worked with clients where they get 10,000 visitors a month. And volunteering is buried on the 25th page and I’m like, how come you, you guys got 10,000 people coming here? These are people that are already interested in your organization. They should hear about your opportunities.

So there’s a few different ways to do this. One is to put a volunteer now link at the in the top menu. And I also encourage you to put it in the footer as well. In the footer there’s usually a few links. I would put volunteering in there as well. Now, here’s what I don’t like about putting this in the menu.

I don’t really, I’m not a fan of a get involved link or a get involved menu. Now, real estate at the top of your website is under debate and there’s probably lots of people vying for those spots, but at least for a short term, can you have a link that just says, volunteer now? Not get involved in links to 50 million different other menu items, just volunteer now and not buried beneath your financial contributions or your individual donor button. Nothing like that. Just volunteer now.

You can also put a volunteer now tab on the side of your website so it kind of looks like a tab that people can see and what, no matter what page they are on your website, that little tab appears. So that’s a way to do it as well if you don’t want to put it in your top link.

You can also set up popups to pop up on your website when people have come to your website for a little while, you can code it and it’s not hard. There’s free tools that work on websites to make this happen where a popup, and you can set that popup to come up when people leave your website, when they’ve come to certain pages on your website or when they have scrolled a certain amount of time.

And you can also set it to not show up on certain pages. So you don’t want the popup to show up on your volunteer recruitment page or you’re recruiting specific roles, those roles based pages. You don’t want it to pop up there, but the rest of your website I could pop up. Now it doesn’t have to pop up forever.

Maybe you’re just having a popup when you’re doing an intensive recruitment campaign. So that’s another way. So you can put it on the tab on the side. You can try popups, you can put it at the top menu. You can put it in a sidebar as a little widget in your sidebar up your website. There are plenty of places that your volunteer opportunities can be featured and that they’re available.

You can’t assume that everybody who comes to your website knows or maybe that they need to be reminded. So that’s our number one strategy. Number two of our strategies to recruit volunteers using your website. Use your website as your primary volunteer info hub. So I want you to really think about this as the place to go.

The place of full truth about your volunteer opportunities. It is the place, and so all of your social media postings, all of your partner websites that are linking, if you’re, if you’re online postings, wherever information about your volunteering opportunities appear online or in writing, in emails, in flyers, wherever, in postcards, in banners, wherever these are.

You want to make sure that everything goes right back to that primary volunteer info hub on your website. Some people think, you know what, we’re going to put all of our energy into social media. Well, your social media is still should be linking back to your volunteer hub. And I don’t, by the way, recommend social media as your primary recruitment strategy unless it’s really working well for you already.

So, wherever you’re talking about volunteering, you’re always sending people to learn more, using a learn more link and going straight to your website. Here’s the deal, you want to have everybody going to a single hub page first for the most part. I’ll talk about the options later, but for the most part, because the more visitors you have to that one page, the higher you’re going to rank on Google.

And you want to rank high at the top of the page. Google now doesn’t have pages that you page back. Now it just has a continuous list of options. But people aren’t going to really, they’re not going to scroll past maybe 10 options that show up on their search. So if people are sitting around watching tv, drinking their tea, you want your opportunity to come up or your hub page to come up at the top of Google.

So, you want to make sure you, you spend, if you’re spending your time and energy fixing things, that’s what I would fix first, your primary volunteer hub page. Okay. And that hub page can link to other pages about volunteerism, and I’ll talk about that in a minute. But I just want to talk about the, the primary page. The primary page is in general about your volunteer program.

Number three of our strategies to recruit volunteers using your website, use SEO or search engine optimization keywords so you can get found on Google. Now we use a tool called Uber Suggest, and I will link to that in the episode. In fact, I used Uber Suggest to choose the keyword for this episode.

And the keyword for this episode, and a keyword doesn’t have to be a word, it can be a phrase. It’s what people type into the Google when they want to find something, right? So the SEO keyword for this episode is strategies to recruit volunteers. And you will see me, you’ll hear me say that phrase over and over again because I want to make sure Google knows that that’s what I’m talking about when this excerpt and this these show notes get posted on our website, right?

So Uber Suggest is a tool you can use to find the kinds of keywords that get the most views per month. And you want to choose the top ones that get the most per month that are used by your audience. And you’re probably thinking like, well, Tobi, what, what kind of words am I looking for?

Well, like the best ones, if you think about what people typing in their phones when they’re sitting around watching Netflix and drinking their tea, they’re probably, if they’re interested in volunteering, they’ll probably get volunteering and your city’s name. So that might be a key word you use in your main hub page or volunteering and your cause impact area.

So volunteering now, not animal welfare, because regular people don’t say animal welfare. If you’re, if you’re working in animal welfare, you might do volunteering with animals. And use that as a keyword on that page. So keywords need to be in you on your page, in the text on your page, but also in the URL on your page so you optimize for those keywords.

So you want to make sure your pages are optimized so that Google can index your page and understand, yes, this page is talking about what it’s supposed to be talking about. All right. Those are three strategies. After the break, I’m going to cover three more, but let’s pause for a quick break from my breakdown of strategies to recruit volunteers using your website. So don’t go anywhere. I will be right back.

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All right, my friends, we are back with my breakdown of strategies to recruit volunteers using your nonprofit’s website. And not having to spend a dime except on staff to make this happen, or even maybe some very talented volunteers. So let’s get on to number four of our strategies to recruit volunteers using your website.

This is also very important to your search engine optimization and your rankings on Google. Are you getting the sense that ranking on Google matters? Yes, it does. Otherwise, people don’t see you. They don’t find you. And when you rank high on Google, people have the perception that you are an authority.

Whether you are not, you are is another thing. You have probably done this before. Looked up something on Google, seen one of those top-ranking sites, clicked on it and went, this isn’t helping me at all. Yeah, well, Google’s not perfect. All right. But we still want to get at the top of Google. So we want to organize our volunteer recruitment hub page, and I call these hub pages for a reason because you’re going to have a central page that has the general information and then you’re going to link in an organized way to other pages.

Now what’s going to be on those other pages? Because you don’t want to jam pack one website page with all of your information. People do not want that. And they’ll feel overwhelmed and they’ll go, you know what, this volunteering looks hard. I think I’m going to go have some brownies downstairs. Anyway, I digress.

Anyway, let’s get back to this. So what kind of pages are you going to create as this architect? So you have a central hub page. This about your volunteering in general, and then you can link to other pages that are linked by volunteer roles, specific volunteer roles. So you might have your an excerpted information about the position, the role. You can take some from your position descriptions. You can have quotes from volunteers in that role. You can have a video of information about that role. You can talk about all the exciting things about that particular role, and you can have a separate page for each role.

Now, why does that help? Well, certainly Google can see that you have a lot of information linked together. And it will index you higher, give you more juice, SEO juice we like to call it. Or it also is a place when you’re doing social media and you have a particular focus on a role you’re trying to recruit for, you can send people directly to that page rather to than to your main hub page and people can find it right away.

You can also set up different pages by types of audiences that you are trying to attract. So for example, teenagers or corporate employee volunteers. So , oftentimes these special groups have special guidelines, rules, processes, and you can create pages that they can go to directly and it speaks to them and their audience, them and their needs and preferences and understanding in their situation, right?

So sometimes the main hub page isn’t the right page for them to go to because it’s more in general. If you’re sending teenagers to a special page, it might have an application that has a parental consent form attached to it where your regular adult volunteering page doesn’t. So you can link to the hub page by either pages, by volunteer roles or types of audiences.

And again, you can send people to those pages directly if you’re doing promotion on social media in an email, your newsletter, whatever, and link directly if you are focused on the recruiting for that particular audience or role. Now the other thing you can link to deeper, you can link to your annual report.

You can link to your volunteer screening. You can link information and requirements. There’s all kinds of things that you can link deeper to, so you want to make sure that it’s not just jam packed. Your pages are not jam packed with information.

So, okay, let’s talk about strategy number five. Number five of our strategies to recruit volunteers. Now, do you see how I did that? I put that keyword in there, strategies to recruit volunteers. I’m letting Google know that that’s what I’m talking about. So I mention it multiple times. Just showing you. This is, I’m pulling back the curtain on our SEO strategy. All right? And we do this in every one of our podcasts.

Every single one of our podcasts has a keyword. Now, again, keywords can be one word or they can be multiple words, so it’s whatever people are typing in the Google.

All right, so number five of our strategies to recruit volunteers using your website, start a conversation. I think with all of the tools we have at our fingertips nowadays when it comes to technology, they are so much easier than they used to be.

I guarantee you. Back in the day, this was a lot harder to do and you had to know how to do coding and you had to know how to. Nowadays there’s just, there’s just more apps. It’s easier to do. So instead of thinking about your website as a brochure, your hub page is a brochure or a flyer, think of them as a two-way conversation tool.

So start a conversation. So in episode two of the Volunteer Nation Podcast, I talk about how to recruit volunteers by building a following first. This is all about, so check that out if you want to know about how to build a list, how to nurture that list of contacts until they are ready to say yes.

That’s what that’s all about. So that’s about starting that conversation. So you want to have something that’s gathering people’s names and emails so you can begin to have conversations. So it might be you’re offering a freebie, a fact sheet, something people have to opt in for so that you can start to have a conversation with them.

Get them on your mailing list, send them your newsletter. Send them a nurture sequence, a nurture sequence of emails that says, hey, do you know anything about our volunteer opportunities? Let me tell you about them. Now you’re like, Tobi, that’s not two way. And I go, oh, yes it is. Because you say in the email, hey, hit reply and let me know what brings you to this cause, why you’re passionate about this cause and then you start to have a conversation.

The other thing I like about two-way conversation on a website, there’s many volunteer management software out there that the only way to complete an application is by setting up an account in that software. So people have to put their name, their email, and people’s initial reaction if they don’t know you well is to say, I’m not signing up for anything here. I don’t even know if I want to volunteer yet, and I don’t want to get spam from these people. So it’s different when people are putting their name in email in and they know they’re going to get something from you.

It’s another thing when people have to say, set up an account and put a password in. That’s a whole another psychological level of commitment. And so instead of doing that, I like the idea of using an interest form where people just put their name, email. And maybe a little bit of information about why they’re interested in your cause or when they might be interested in volunteering or what roles.

Very, very simple. And then you have it set up automated to send them an email directly and say, okay, here’s some information, and then you can follow up with an individual email or you can have your volunteer welcome team do that, et cetera. So two-way communication. The most you can do the ways you can do it, you can also create a quiz online.

What kind of volunteer are you? There’s all kinds of software out there to do quizzes, there’s one that’s called SCORE that we’re going to try out here at VolunteerPro, actually. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes where you can create a quiz. And then you can send people to particular pages where there’s a video.

So what kind of volunteer are you? And then finally, for having that conversation, you can use a chat bot. So if you’ve ever been to a website where you can talk to customer service, chatting and typing into that little chat bubble. Usually it’s on the bottom right hand side of a website. You could create a chat bot, some of these chat bots, actually, you can set them up to automatically answer certain questions, and it can be powered by artificial intelligence. It’s pretty cool. Or sometimes people have live chat bots and they have someone on the backend answering questions. You could have this staffed by a volunteer welcome team.

Are you interested in volunteering? You want to learn more? Pop in your name here. Let’s get started. You have questions. Our volunteers are here ready to answer. So you’re having a two-way conversation. So it’s not so much a trifold brochure about volunteering anymore. That’s not what your website should be doing nowadays because we have the technology to do more.

The final sixth and final of our strategies to recruit volunteers using your website. Finally, and probably most important is to tell good stories. Tell good stories. Stories are social proof, and social proof is what drives human behaviors. The human species love to clan. We like to hang out in groups, so I like to use this example of the barbecue joint.

Because I live in east Tennessee and it’s barbecue central around here. So let’s say you’re going driving down, you’re hungry, you’re going to have dinner, you’re driving down the road, you decided you’re not going to go downstairs and eat brownies. You’re actually going to get some protein in, okay? And on one side of the road, you see one barbecue joint and there’s a line out the door on the other side, no line.

And you only see one person sitting inside and you’re hungry. Which one would you pick? I’m just going to wager that you would pick the one with the line out the front because you’d say, you know what, that looks like some good barbecue, because those people must know, right? That’s social proof in action. We determine the right actions to take based on what the crowd is doing, whether it’s good or bad.

And I’m certain you can think of ways where that’s not good. But for volunteerism, let’s use it to our advantage. Let’s work with human nature, not against it, right? So use pictures, words, videos of people talking about volunteering, talking about their experience, talking about the impact of volunteering, talking about their mission moments, their personal mission moments.

Now these videos don’t need to be super highly produced, and they certainly don’t need to be long. I’m saying 30 seconds to 60 seconds of just handheld video from your phone. Phones take pretty good quality nowadays, so people with mission moments, why I volunteer, why volunteering makes the difference to me, and then people having fun.

Volunteering is leisure time for people. We sometimes forget that. We think volunteers are like our employees, but they’re not, they don’t volunteer to become a unpaid employee. That’s not why people volunteer at all. People volunteer because they want to become and want to be part of something greater than themselves.

They want to become the best versions of themselves and they want to make a difference. And so, and they want to make a difference and have fun while doing it. So, we want to make sure people understand, picture’s worth a thousand words, and if you have people who are smiling and having fun. That’s going to cue to that volunteer, that this is a place where that can happen.

All right, gang, I hope this has helped you. These are some of the main points that I offer my coaching clients when I do audits of their entire communications platform. When we’re getting ready to talk about how we’re going to improve their recruitment results, I will spend several hours peeling through all of their social media and their website and their email.

I’ll do SEO research for them, all that good stuff. And some of these come out over and over and over again as recommendations for my clients. So I just want to make sure that you can also benefit from this. So, to recap, the six strategies to recruit volunteers using your website are, number one, promote to all your website visitors, promote your opportunities. Make sure there is a volunteer now button or link, very obvious on every page. Use it as your primary volunteer info hub. So create that main page that you send everybody to.

Use SEO or search engine optimization keywords and get found on Google. And by the way, all search engine optimization is, is making sure that Google can find you and put you at the top of Google. That’s all it is. It sounds like a big, complicated thing. And there’s lots to it I can say. But that’s what the goal is to get to the top of Google.

Get it organized. Number four, make sure you’re, you have a, a logical progression of pages and links. you may be one or two layers deep. Just make sure it’s super well organized. You can use like an org chart, what they call in web design, a wire frame, but you don’t need to call it that and just organize it with layers like, like your org chart. And then start a conversation. Make sure your website isn’t just a glorified trifold brochure. We’re way beyond that today, in today’s world.

And then number six, tell good stories. Tell good stories. Make sure that people can see those mission moments in action, whether it’s words, video, photos, whatever it is, just make sure people can see that Mission moments are happening every day at your nonprofit. So you’ve got this information. I’m going to put some of these links to these other Volunteer Nation episodes in the show notes.

One other one I have is Volunteer Nation episode 20, How to Design Irresistible Online Volunteer Opportunities. Now, this is more about how to design opportunities to post on others’ websites, your volunteer matches, et cetera, but at the same time, you can use those strategies and principles on your own website as well, so check that out too.

Okay, everybody, that’s what I got for today. I know sometimes volunteer services I. And volunteer managers jurors get put at the bottom of the priority list when it comes to updating websites. And I know sometimes it gets frustrating because it takes a long time.

So you’ll need to message, and those of you who are executives, nonprofit executives who are running volunteer driven organizations, please help those that are leading your volunteers make this a priority because it will make a difference almost immediately in your volunteer recruitment results, if you can just optimize your website, it is your most important asset, in addition to word of mouth marketing and your ambassadors who are out on the street, your happy volunteers, but it is essential and vital that you make sure this is, is as user friendly and helpful as possible.

All right, everybody. So thank you again. Thank you all for listening. We are over a year now with this podcast. It’s hard to believe. It really is hard to believe, and I have been having so much fun with our guests and the conversations we’re having. So, I hope you have two. If you like what we’re doing, please rate and review us, leave us a comment and share us with others.

The more wide our podcast is distributed and the higher we can get on rankings with the algorithms and the more likely I can bring some really fantastic guests here to share their insights with you as well. So thank you again for being part of our audience. And I will see you next time, same time, same place on the Volunteer Nation.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Volunteer Nation Podcast. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to subscribe, rate and review so we can reach people like you who want to improve the impact of their good cause. Bring more tips and notes from the show.

Check us out Tobijohnson.com. We’ll see you next week for another installment of Volunteer Nation.