Episode #95 Transcript: 6 Ways to Immediately Boost Volunteer Signups
Well, welcome everybody to another episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson, and today we’re going to talk about how to quickly and immediately boost your volunteer signups. I know we talk here a lot about strategy. Volunteer recruitment certainly is a complex strategy. But you know sometimes you just need more volunteer signups, and you need them quick.
So, I thought I would put out there a few quick ways to do this. Ways that can get you an immediate boost in your volunteer signups and get you back on track as quickly as possible. Now not all of these are free. And no, none of them are a magic wand, but they will work if you employ them properly.
So, let’s just get straight to it. What do you say? All right. Let’s start with tactic one for boosting your volunteer signups. Diagnose what’s working and what’s not working. That’s your first tactic before you do anything else in terms of tinkering with your volunteer recruitment and your volunteer signup strategy.
You need to figure out what’s broken. Because if you fix what’s broken and double down also on your biggest source of volunteers, you can make exponential leaps in the number of volunteers who sign up for your opportunities. So, you want to track what we call micro conversion. So, the steps from each step in the journey that your volunteers take to become an active volunteer.
For example, visiting your website, filling out an application. participating in an interview, completing training, those kinds of things. You want to see where volunteers are getting stuck. So, this requires you to start to collect some data. Where are people getting stuck? You may already know. You may know the first place people get stuck or the main place people get stuck.
If you already know, just anecdotally, and you don’t have the data yet, if you want signups, fix that broken thing as quickly as you can. Improving just one step upstream could mean exponential growth downstream. So, we’ve got to figure out where people are getting stuck and smooth out our process. In Volunteer Nation episode 42, I talk about why your volunteer recruitment isn’t working and what to do instead. Have a listen to that episode, it’ll give you an idea for maybe some of the things you want to look for that might be broken. But before you do anything else, you need to do a quick assessment of what’s working and what’s not working. And, you know, if something’s working, do more of it. Why not, right?
If it’s working, you might be able to double your volunteer sign ups just by doing more, doing twice as much of that thing that’s working. So that’s my first tactic. The second tactic to boost volunteer sign ups is to increase the number of personal asks. We know time and time again, when volunteers are surveyed, potential volunteers or volunteers, people that aren’t volunteering right now why aren’t you volunteering?
The number one answer is nobody asked. Nobody asked. So if we can just improve the number people we ask to volunteer for our organizations within any given week, if we start to keep track of those personal asks, and we boost those personal asks, Now, when I say personal asks, I mean a one to one ask, so something in person or over the phone.
Not talking about broadcast email, I’m not even talking about emails. You might make a personal ask through a text conversation, but a personal ask happens in a conversation. It’s not a one-way communication. So, there’s people you want to think about if you want to think about who you want to reach out to ask.
These asks could be done by you, they could be done by your volunteer recruitment team, they could be done by coworkers, they could be done by whoever. But here are some people you might think about developing a list and then reaching out to. First of all, people who have responded to your calls to action, of course.
I say, of course, but I hear a lot of complaints from volunteers who have submitted applications and never hear back from organizations. So obviously, if there’s anybody who’s just, you know, has indicated an interest by submitting a form or raising their hand, make sure you get back to them. Those are the people to ask first.
People who open the majority of your broadcast emails, if you have a newsletter or send out other types of emails. Check out who is opening, and you can figure this out through your email software and could ask your marketing and communications people to help you with that. But whoever is opening those, mostly those people are very engaged.
They are passionate about your cause. So why not ask them? They obviously care a lot otherwise, they wouldn’t open your emails. So that’d be a great group to ask. Another group to ask would be people who interact with you often on social media. So, people who are liking, sharing, commenting. If there’s some frequent flyers in your social media feeds that aren’t volunteering already, you can make a personal ask to them.
And in this case, you could directly message them via social media. Another group is people who volunteered in the past but haven’t volunteered lately. You might just reach out to them and say, hey, we know you volunteered in the past, wondering if you want to return. Another group is people who applied and went through training, but didn’t stick, so they finished their training, but when it came time to sign up, they didn’t, or maybe they signed up for a shift and then didn’t show up.
Now, you must be careful with this. You don’t want to. Ask people who aren’t going to be committed and reliable, but there may have been something that happened in their lives or maybe the role just wasn’t the right fit for them. So I would ask those folks and then people who attend your events, whatever they are, if they’re if you’re doing Any type of public speaking, training, public education, anytime you’re out in the public there are people in the audience that are passionate about what you do, and you can make an ask of them, you can see who in the audience is sitting up in their seat, who’s asking questions, and then approach them after your talk and say, you know, you seem really excited about this topic.
Have you considered volunteering? Would you like to hear more about the volunteering opportunities we have at our organization? So how should you ask? Something like I just modeled, I noticed this about you. It’s a very simple formula. I noticed this about you that You know, maybe you seem very interested in our email and our newsletter topics or you seem passionate about our cause We have this particular project or goal We’re trying to reach would you be interested in learning more about how to help us reach this goal through volunteering?
When you’re making the ask, you’re actually asking them, the person you’re talking with, if they would be interested in learning more. You’re not, the first sentence out of your mouth isn’t, hey, we have a shift next week, can you join us? That’s not how this conversation goes. So, you talk a little bit about the goal and why you think, or the initiative or, the project that you’re undertaking.
Talk a little, talk a little bit about that goal and why you think that that person might be a good fit for helping reach that goal. And then ask, would you like to hear more about the opportunities? And if they say yes, then you don’t have to feel awkward at all because they’ve invited you to share.
Tactic number three to boost volunteer signups, is to track and radically decrease response time. Now what I mean by response time is the time from when someone reaches out or submits an application to the time someone contacts them. The goal should be one business day. Nobody in this world is going to wait more than one business day.
Most people are going to be off to the next thing, or they’ll forget about you, or they’ll find another volunteer opportunity. You’ve got to put together a team that can contact people. Now, the contact doesn’t necessarily have to be via phone or via text. It could be via email. So, you can reach out to people in this case, just to let them know, hey, we’re so excited to meet you.
We’ve received your application or your interest form, or we’ve seen you RSVP’d for our upcoming info session. We’re super excited to meet you. Here’s a few things to think about. And here’s a story about the impact of volunteers. It’s that simple. But they’ve got to feel like they didn’t submit their application into a dark black hole.
Because that happens a lot. That happens a lot. Volunteers are frustrated by this. So, if you can show them that you are eager to have them on board, you’re going to boost the number of signups. The other thing you want to do this is not improved, if you’re over one business day as a standard for response time, set up a calendar booking.
Set up a calendar booking on your website, allow people to book a time with you for a 15-minute quick call to learn more about volunteering and see if it’s a good fit. This is not necessarily your response time. So, you’re them, but you’re getting them action. They’re able to take action quickly.
And that satisfies that need for speed, because people in today’s world have a need for speed. And so, if you can set up a calendar booking link, like Calendly, I use Calendly for my bookings, and I will set aside certain times of the week where I will take bookings. You don’t need to necessarily have appointment options for every day of the week.
You can choose a few days of the week and have people choose from those. And then you can also once people submit their booking, you can send them a thank you. You can redirect them to a webpage where you have thank you and more information about volunteering, a video, et cetera. Some software will allow you to do this.
You can trigger a series of emails or at least one email before you have your chat with your prospective volunteer. There’s a lot you can do to build relationships.
So, think about decreasing response time and meeting that need for speed from the community, from the public. People want responsiveness. Think about when you buy something on Amazon. You know when it’s shipped, you know when its orders are placed, you can track the package all the way to your front door stoop.
People have really acclimated to knowing everything about a process and to know where they’re at in a process. So, think about that in, in terms of improving the volunteer journey as well, but to immediately Boost volunteer signups, give people the ability to be in contact within a day or book time on your calendar.
All right let’s take a quick pause from my six ways to immediately boost volunteer signups. And when we get back, I’ll share. Three more. So don’t go anywhere.
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Okay, we’re back with my six ways to immediately boost volunteer signups. Before the break I talked about diagnosing what’s working and what’s not working.
Tactic two to boost volunteer signups was to increase the number of personal asks. Tactic three to boost volunteer signups was to track and radically decrease response time. Let’s get on to tactic number four. Use paid ads and public service announcements or PSAs to interrupt just for a minute and grab the attention of people who don’t already know you.
One of the hardest things to do is to reach out beyond the people who already know about your organization. It’s very hard. And most companies, you’ll notice, and there’s nothing wrong with it, pay for advertising in some way. Even a volunteer pro from time to time will pay for paid advertising on Facebook or LinkedIn.
And early in the days of volunteer pro, we bought Google ads because nobody knew who we were. when we first opened our website, launched our website for VolunteerPro, nobody had a clue what it was. And so, we had to do a little bit of advertising. So, there’s nothing wrong with paid advertising.
It doesn’t mean that your marketing isn’t working. It doesn’t mean that you’re not good at marketing and recruiting volunteers. What it means is that you’re putting forth and investing some resources [00:14:00] into reaching out beyond your current circle of friends. And that’s what marketing can do for you, or advertising, paid advertising.
I added public service announcements in with paid advertising because you’re basically being given that advertising for free. So sometimes radio, TV, they’ll give PSAs. It’s very difficult nowadays. But let’s talk about some different ad platforms that you can use. One of course is Google Ads.
And if you listen to Volunteer Nation episode 89, Strategic Volunteer Recruitment Ideas for 2024. It was just a few episodes ago. I talk a lot more about how to use Google and Google Grants. So, check that out. They are free. You can apply and get ten thousand dollars’ worth of paid advertising per month.
So, it’s a great deal. And you’ll show up on the Google search results. And you can start to post volunteer opportunities there. Another platform, of course, is Facebook ads, and you’ve probably seen plenty of those if you use Facebook. Facebook is the largest social media platform. It is still probably the best bang for your buck when it comes to advertising on social media.
But, you know, you do need to know how to do it well. And if you don’t, a good idea is to get a pro bono volunteer who is an expert in Facebook ads to help you with your ad campaign. But it’s possible that your media, your marketing and communications department at your organization already know how to do this so you can tap them as well.
Another talked about local media sources as well, TV, radio, et cetera. for example, if there’s a newspaper that will post public service announcements in the paper, see if you can combine that with story. So, some type of story about your volunteer program. People are more likely to pay attention to a story than they are an advertisement.
It’s just more interesting to folks. So, one way to get what we call earned media is to send out news releases about an event, a volunteer event you have coming up. And to follow that up with some phone calls to local reporters who are covering the beat of nonprofit or community or lifestyle, et cetera.
You’re, again, your marketing communications person or people, or department probably has a list of local and you could talk to them about, you know, how would we do this to get some earned media in our local paper, our local TV stations. It’s a little bit harder to get that earned media, I would say.
Paid advertising, a lot faster. You just pay and you get your stuff up. Alright, tactic number five to boost volunteer sign ups is to use website pop ups and banners. Now, a pop up, you’ve seen them on websites you’ve gone on. They can be annoying for sure, but they’re also really effective. Now you don’t want to do pop ups, set up pop ups on your website that are appearing all the time.
But when you’re in a specific push for volunteer sign ups, one of the things you can do is to have a website sidebar. So, it doesn’t even necessarily have to pop up. It could be if you have a sidebar on your website, you can put a little post about a little sort of ad about your volunteer opportunities.
You can have it slide in or pop up in the middle of your page. I like to have it slide in in the bottom right. I’ve started doing that lately because I think it’s a little less annoying. You can also use A banner at the top of your website that either slides up, and opens, or it just is always there for the time being.
So, there’s different ways to highlight across your website that you are doing a push for volunteer signups. Now, in these pop ups, you don’t want to include a ton of information. You just want to have an image or a photo. With a call to action and a deadline so maybe its small title depending on how big it is, but it shouldn’t have a lot of information.
You’re not going to put a list of opportunities available. You just are hoping people will click so you must create it design it so it’s clickable. So, I always include a button and these as well, say: Learn More on the button. And then people, or Volunteer Now on the button. So, people can click on it.
So that should link, when people clicked on that pop up, it should link to your booking page or an RSV page for an info session, for example. I would not Link that to your main volunteer recruitment hub page, so the main page that is sort of the website within the website, that main page that talks about volunteering.
You might link it to a specific page that talks about a specific volunteer opportunity that you want to fill up right now. But I would not send it to a page where there’s a lot of information that’s varied, where people are going to continue to browse and not take action. You want your pop ups to send people to a place on your website where they can take quick action.
Okay, so think about that. You don’t want it to be just, I’m just going to send them to our volunteer recruitment page and hope they figure it out. Nope, that’s not it at all. You’re sending them specifically to the where you want them to take action. You can also check out Volunteer Nation episode 5 where I talk about 8 ways your nonprofit website is failing to attract volunteers.
And you can assess how your website’s doing by listening to that episode. I will put these links, of course, in the show notes. Then our final tactic to boost volunteer sign ups is to make presentations where volunteer ready people hang out. I like to quote that, air quote that, volunteer ready people. Often, we’re targeting our volunteer recruitment and our calls to action.
To everybody, but you know what most people do not have volunteering on their mind I would hazard a guess, maybe 95 percent of the population does not have volunteering on their mind because they’re already volunteering. And I would say does not have seeking new volunteer opportunities on their mind, to be more specific.
Many already volunteer. Or they’re not interested in volunteering and they’re never going to be interested in volunteering. You’re trying to attract a sliver of the population when you’re using this, this tactic. You’re trying to find people who have been thinking, hey, you know what? I want to volunteer. I want to donate my time.
So, this takes some strategy and strategy takes thinking. And so, you’ve got to first know who your ideal volunteer persona is, who is the person, the archetype of the person. You’re trying to reach and if you check out volunteer pro blog how to conquer Recruiting volunteers using personas – I talk in detail about how to write up a volunteer persona.
So, check that out of course, I’ll post a link in the in the show notes. So, once you have your persona figured out consider where they might be So let’s say you’re a person looking for volunteer opportunities because again, they are a small sliver of the population of people who at this very moment are looking for volunteer opportunities, they’ve decided they’re going to volunteer, and so you got to think about where they’re looking for.
If it’s a college student and they want an intern opportunity, well, you might go to an intern fair at a local university because everybody who’s going to that event is looking for an internship. So, it is like, you know, captured audience. It’s like the perfect place for you to be. It’s a targeted recruitment, right?
Now, not all ideas and populations are that easy to think of an example of, but I’m just showing you how you know, if you’re going to spend your time and energy, spend it where the people who are quote unquote volunteer ready hang out because they are the most likely because all you’re doing there is competing with other nonprofits if they’ve come in, but you’re not competing with apathy or people’s disinterest in volunteering because they’re all interested.
So, it makes your life a lot easier. If you can, if possible, get on the agenda to present. At that place where those people hang out. So, your agenda when you’re presenting should look something like this. You start with the community problem your organization helps solve. Then you talk about the solution that includes volunteers.
So how are you solving that problem through volunteer involvement? You talk about what happens if there are no volunteers to help or limited number of volunteers to help. What’s the final result? And alternately, what’s the final result if volunteers are there to help? And then you make your call to action.
You notice I have said nothing about listing the 101 different requirements for volunteering at your organization. I haven’t listed the five different modules of training they need to go through. I haven’t listed anything, talking anything about the requirements. You can answer those when you have Q& A at the end.
Now, when you have your call to action, should look something like this. You can join us as a volunteer with these three simple steps. Now, your behind-the-scenes process for bringing volunteers on board may be more complicated than three steps. You’ve got to figure out a way to communicate that in three steps.
So, apply, go through background check, get trained, and you’re ready to go. Right? Might be that. So, you’ve got to figure out a way to frame this in very simple terms. So, people, three, sometimes, three to five steps, five would probably be the most. I like three, people can remember three. And the simpler it is, the more likely people are going to sign up.
Because that’s the name of the game for this episode, to boost your volunteer sign ups, right? So, the simpler you can make it, the more people are going to sign up. Because confusion is your enemy. When it comes to volunteer recruitment. Alright, final thing, just a bonus tip. Make sure you’re working closely with your marketing and communications department.
To see if there are also Any opportunities to collaborate on campaigns, media coverage, etc. They may be up to something that could help you, that could boost what you’re doing. So, make sure you’re working with them closely. And if you want to learn more about how to make that collaboration work more effectively, check out Volunteer Nation Episode 81, How Volunteer Services and Nonprofit Marketers can work together with Kivi Leroux Miller.
Kivi Leroux Miller is an expert in nonprofit marketing, and she has some great tips that she shared during that episode. Alright gang, to wrap it up, the six ways to boost volunteer signups are, number one, diagnose what’s working and what’s not working, number two, increase the of personal asks, number three, Track and radically decrease response time.
Number four, use paid ads and PSAs to interrupt. Number five, use website pop ups and banners. And number six, make presentations where volunteer ready people hang out. And if you do those six things, you are going to boost the number of volunteer sign ups. So, I hope this helps inspire you to focus your energy if you need some quick volunteer recruitment tactics, these are my best bets.
If you like this episode, I’d love it if you would share it with a friend and please be sure to rate and review us. We love those five-star ratings, and we love to hear your comments about the show. So, join us same time, same place next week on The Volunteer Nation. Thanks everybody.