Recruit Volunteers Online: Find Your Next 20 COVID Superheroes with Smarter Strategy
With the upswing in virtual volunteering and remote volunteer roles, many nonprofits are wondering how they can better recruit volunteers online.
The “build it and they will come” strategy just doesn’t seem to be working anymore.
We put up a webpage, post on some sites … and wait … and wait … and wait.
Nothing. Nada. Crickets.
And we assume that no one in our community is interested in volunteering anymore.
Or, that the support we need is too difficult, too complicated, too intense, too inconvenient, etc.
But that could not be further from the truth.
Volunteerism During COVID:
Are Volunteers Interested Anymore?
Even in a pandemic, where lives are at risk, people have volunteered.
In fact, the United Nations has noted a global surge in volunteerism due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) doubled its goal of recruiting 250,000 volunteers, with nearly five people per second answering the call for volunteers to help vulnerable, homebound people with food delivery during the crisis. This prompted the agency to boost their goal to 750,000 volunteers total.
And, according to research from the Points of Light Foundation, community engagement is still important to people, with 73% of survey respondents said that volunteering will be more important than ever before and 75% saying that donations will be more important than before the pandemic. Further, 95% said they will maintain their current level of involvement (56%) or do more (39%) to get involved and make a difference with their causes of choice after the pandemic passes.
So, neither current active volunteerism nor the intent to volunteer has been eliminated by the Coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not surprising.
Humans are social animals. Also, many of us have a compassionate gene and empathy is baked into our DNA.
So, volunteerism works with our very nature as human beings.
So, what is behind lackluster results in volunteer recruitment.
Certainly, as VolunteerMatch research points out, there has been hesitancy to volunteer for several reasons. Whether its government regulations, fear of being exposed to illness or exposing others. Time constraints, income concerns, or fear of social stigma, volunteers have legitimate reasons to consider their service carefully.
But the needs of nonprofits and those they serve continue.
For some, the community needs are even more significant and pressing than ever before. For many, anxiety about reductions in funding and revenue are commonplace as noted in research studies across the US.
And there are people out there who want to help.
The challenge is that we need to meet them where they are at … online and on their smartphones.
Unfortunately, most organizations are not adequately prepared to connect with supporters online.
Our 2021 Volunteer Management Progress Survey reported that, while volunteer-driven organizations had experienced an improvement in digital maturity and sophistication, there was still much work that remains.
The good news is that 78% of leaders of volunteers who responded to the survey agreed or strongly agreed that they plan to continue use technology after the pandemic.
It’s a great first step.
For more on how nonprofits are using technology to engage volunteers, check out our free 2021 Volunteer Management Progress Report HERE >>
Recruit Volunteers Online with Three Simple Strategies
So, to reach volunteers where they live, where do we start?
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to cover the topic in detail in partnerships with Donorbox, a company that helps nonprofits fundraise online through online widgets and forms. In the online seminar “Find Your Next 20 Volunteer Superstars with Free Tools & Smarter Strategy,” I covered a focused three-step system to help nonprofits grapple with how to recruit volunteers online.
There was such enthusiasm and energy for the topic, I thought I would cover the basics here for our blog readers, too.
In a nutshell, there are three essential strategies needed to build a presence online that can recruit the ideal volunteers you need, those that are passionate about your cause and ready to make a commitment whether it be online, in person, or in a hybrid role.
I break it down below in three simple steps. Regardless of your level of sophistication or experience, these are some of the most fundamental strategies you can use to build an audience that takes action online.
These are what I teach my new Volunteer Management Fundamental Certificate course students and my seasoned VolunteerPro Premium Membership community members. They are that important.
STEP ONE: Build a Volunteer Personas That Represent Your Ideal Volunteer(s)
Marketing Personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers, in this case, volunteers.
Personas help us internalize the ideal volunteer we’re trying to attract and relate to them as real humans. They are an imaginary “archetype,” NOT a stereotype.
They help you focus beyond the “general public,” break down your audience into segments, and find and communicate more effectively with your prospects
Having a deep understanding of your persona(s) is critical to designing recruitment messages that resonate, choosing the right messengers, and using the right channels to share your appeals. They also help you Time your asks to your ideal volunteer for the best results
They also help you deliver experiences that meet their direct needs.
When you are crystal clear on the characteristics of your ideal volunteer Persona, you can find and present them with a message that moves them to action.
In the end, you will need to develop one to three volunteer personas that stand for your ideal volunteer(s). To make your job easier, start with people who may already be interested in what you do. Consider who might have a vested interest in your type of work or cause? Consider students, retirees, people from specific professions or communities.
Who has a natural affinity for what you do? Start there.
STEP TWO: Improve your Google Search Results & Ranking
The truth is that if people can’t find you or don’t know you exist, they can’t engage with you. The first place people look is Google.
Mobile searches consist of about 60% of all online searches globally. Google handles 96% of search traffic coming from mobile.
In addition, research shows that significantly more searches are carried out on mobile phones (64%) than on desktop devices (35%). In fact, people not only search more on phones, they search for more diverse topics there, with are also more than twice as many keywords that are characterized by mobile traffic.
If this is where people go with their questions, you need to be on the other end with an answer. And, because most people don’t scroll past page one, your volunteer opportunities need to appear on the first page of search results.
You can do this automatically through advertising, and Google offers $10,000 ad grants to get you started. Or you can do so organically by creating relevant content and getting more clicks. This takes longer but is an important addition or substitute of ad campaigns that may come and go.
In addition, your search result needs to be click-worthy.
Unfortunately, the internet is rife with lackluster volunteer opportunity posts that are uninspired and offer little in the way of compelling messaging.
From another perspective, that’s good news for you.
If you take the time to write up thoughtful, purposeful subject lines and meta-descriptions for your nonprofit’s web pages aimed at recruiting volunteers online, you will have a much better chance of standing out from the crowd.
In the end, you need two things – 1) to appear on page one of the Google search results in both mobile and desktop searches, and 2) your search result needs to be as interesting and informative as possible within that character limits set by Google.
STEP THREE: Update Your Volunteer Landing Page(s)
A landing page is a stand-alone web page created about a specific topic. The goal of a landing page is to convert visitors into leads by funneling traffic toward a call to action.
In general, traffic comes to them from other online destinations (like other pages on your website, Google Ads, email marketing, or social media), and the visitor “lands” on this page.
You can create landing pages for your main volunteer recruitment “hub” and create separate learning pages for each volunteer opportunity you need to fill.
If you have existing pages, they likely need to be brought up to speed on what’s working now online.
For more details on how to improve your landings pages, check out Volunteer Recruitment Tips: How to Design Web Pages that Convert HERE >>
After reviewing hundreds of volunteer recruitment web pages, I can tell you unequivocally that yours probably needs a refresh. Trust me, like all web pages aimed at converting visitors, they need to evolve as your audience does.
Review your landing pages within the content of your larger digital communications. Do they match up? Do they make sense? Do they represent a logical journey? Or is there a journey at all?
One simple step to increase the follow-through of prospective volunteers is to keep your design and messages consistent throughout all communication steps in their journey from browser to joiner to learner to doer.
On-page “trust elements” like any of the following can also help build credibility and boost conversions when you recruit volunteers online. Testimonials are some of the most powerful “trust elements” in digital marketing.
Here’s where you can offer prospective volunteers the real deal about the benefits of service through your organization. Your content should build trust around your claims by not promising the moon, rather than.
For more on how to use testimonials, check out Using Volunteer Testimonials as Social Proof HERE >>
Finally, the only way to truly know what works best for your ideal volunteers is to act and test. Digital marketing data can tell you who’s visiting from where, what they’re reading, and how long they’re staying on your pages.
Work with your communications or web page team to review what you post online and see where you can improve. If you do this, you can go nowhere but up.
Here’s the bottom line about how to recruit volunteers online: if there is one “silver lining” to COVID, it is that is has offered us the impetus to grow and evolve.
You have an opportunity right now to change how you’ve been doing things and to reinvent the volunteer experience from the very beginning and to improve how your recruit volunteers online.
Now is the time to move from crickets to a community, full of engaged, committed, enthusiastic volunteers who are ready to help you meet your most important goals.
Recruit Volunteers Online Now:
Watch a Free Training Here
Interested in implementing these recommendations and taking the action steps needed for success? Look no further.
Check out my entire free training, complete with Q&A, on the Donorbox website or YouTube Channel. You can also grab the accompanying slides and workbook on our VolunteerPro website.
Find Your Next 20 Volunteer Superstars with Free Tools & Smarter Strategy
If your organization struggles with too much work and not enough people, there is good news ahead.
More people than ever are interested in helping their favorite causes thrive by contributing their time, talent, and treasure. And, as doors re-open post-COVID, people are craving the connection and community that volunteering can offer.
But how do you connect with just the right people needed to fuel your charity’s needs? And where should you focus your energy to get the best responses to your calls to action?
In this training, we answer these questions and more. You will learn how to pinpoint your ideal volunteer and attract them using a few simple online tactics that meet volunteers where they’re at.
Supporters are in your community right now looking for a place to commit their time. They just don’t know you exist yet. Join us and learn what it takes to get in front of this enthusiastic and reliable fan base, ready to help you take your mission to the next level.
At the end of this webinar, you will be able to …
- Understand the #1 mindset shift you need to make to attract a committed fanbase of support
- Pinpoint and find volunteers who are ready to join and are ideal for your nonprofit
- Write solid Google volunteer recruitment ads that grab attention and get clicks
- List the essential elements you need to build an awesome volunteer landing page that converts website visitors to volunteers
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