Leading a group of passionate volunteers, doing deeds that help the community around you, and making a meaningful difference to an important cause are what make the job of a volunteer management leader worth it. With 2020 throwing us for a loop and COVID-19 putting your regular in-person volunteer engagements on pause, many have turned to virtual options.
You’ve likely already dipped your toes into virtual volunteering, whether that includes incorporating more online opportunities or implementing a volunteer management solution. Virtual volunteering not only empowers your supporters to take action for a cause they care about, but it can even expand your volunteer base. All you need is a dedicated and effective way to recruit those volunteers.
With the internet saturated with different content and experiences, how can you ensure that your own volunteer opportunities reach the right people and inspire them to participate?
Here at Galaxy Digital, we often work with volunteer leaders like you to help mobilize supporters and maximize impact. This guide will walk you through some of the top tips we have for recruiting volunteers during this time and even a list of top virtual volunteer ideas to try out.
- Invest in top volunteer management software.
- Promote your exciting volunteer opportunities.
- Take your onboarding online.
- Keep your volunteers engaged.
- Explore this list of virtual volunteer ideas.
With the popularity of online experiences and the abundance of software to help facilitate them, this article can even help you recruit volunteers in a post-COVID-19 world. After all, it’s very likely that virtual volunteering will become a regular part of your organization’s offerings. Let’s dive in!
1. Take advantage of volunteer management software.
To inspire and motivate your volunteers during this time, you’ve likely already invested in some sort of volunteer management solution. With virtual volunteering being the current norm, technology can help keep track of key data points, facilitate volunteer communications, and organize volunteer opportunities— all while both your team and volunteers stay socially distant!
In order to make the best use of your software, consider how you normally recruit volunteers and how that can be adapted to a virtual experience. Here are some of the top ways you might leverage your volunteer management solution to handle your regular recruiting responsibilities:
- Online registration. Instead of gathering volunteer information through paper forms, it’s crucial that you have an online registration tool for your opportunities and programs. This not only allows you to collect key information on your volunteers but can help you create branded and optimized pages for each opportunity you host.
- Virtual volunteer screening. For some of your opportunities, you might need to interview or screen a volunteer before they can participate. Consider interviewing volunteers with a video chat or conferencing tool, like Zoom or Skype.
- Online document collection. It’s easy to share key documents online now, even if it’s just through email. For a more sensitive process like signing an agreement, explore some e-signing tools. Your volunteer management solution might even have e-signing capabilities built-in.
- Email or text communication. With an email tool or text messaging tool, contacting your volunteers online is more convenient than ever. Consider solutions with automation capabilities to help ease the load off your own team members.
We’ll be exploring more volunteer management software capabilities in the following sections, but the above are some of the key ways that you can take advantage of your solution.
Remember, having an integrated system is essential if you want your volunteer management solution to work seamlessly. This way, all of your important data is centralized in one place, allowing any of your tools to add to or pull from it.
2. Promote your exciting volunteer opportunities.
Once you have a dedicated volunteer solution in place and are familiar with all the tools and capabilities, it’s time to start brainstorming how you might promote your online opportunities.
It’s safe to assume that the volunteers who are interested in virtual events and experiences are likely active on other online platforms. This includes your website, email, and even social media.
When it comes to your website, the important thing to remember is user experience. As soon as a prospective volunteer lands on your site, their journey to learn more about virtual volunteering and the opportunities you offer should be seamless and streamlined. Create a dedicated page within your site to those opportunities, and include a clear button to it within your main menu or as a call-to-action on other pages.
- With email segmentation, group your volunteers based on their preferences or skills. For instance, create a specific group for those who are skilled in coding and web design. Then, market any relevant virtual volunteering opportunities to that segment.
- Take advantage of data automation to pull key metrics from your database and personalize your email communications with volunteer names and other top details. Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates.
- Consider reaching out to schools, corporations, or other community partnerships. You never know, they might be interested in providing volunteer help, whether it’s from the goodness of their own heart or because of a specific program.
Aside from just using your website or email to reach supporters, build out a dedicated social media strategy. This is an easy way to let followers know about exciting virtual opportunities, highlight some of your top virtual volunteers, thank your supporters, and share volunteer impact/accomplishments. Depending on the platform, you can even include photos or videos to tell your story. You can even expand your audience by encouraging followers to reshare your posts.
3. Take your training online.
Because of the unique nature of virtual volunteering and its dependence on web-based tools, your volunteers will likely need specific training to prepare them for the opportunity and introduce them to your organization’s processes. A comprehensive and well-planned volunteer training program helps familiarize volunteers with your mission, further connecting them to your cause and encouraging them to continue supporting it. This makes recruitment much easier as you offer more virtual volunteer experiences.
Traditional volunteer training usually happens in person. Face-to-face interaction encourages participants to connect with one another and build a community. For online training, the right tools can help facilitate a similar type of engagement.
For example, instead of having someone teach volunteers how to handle a task in person and then testing them afterward, you might instead incorporate online quizzes to pivot this process to a virtual format.
Along with the above suggestion, you can:
- Host remote volunteer training sessions with a livestreaming tool.
- Create engaging pre-recorded content that volunteers can continue to reference as a resource.
- Incorporate interactive e-Learning using slides and other clickable elements.
Incorporating online elements into your regular training programs is a good idea even in a post-COVID-19 world. It’s a great alternative for those who can’t make the training and is cheaper to facilitate. Instead of constantly using your own team member’s or another volunteer’s time, the trainee can complete the training at their own pace!
4. Prioritize volunteer retention.
One of the challenges of a purely virtual experience is keeping your participants fully engaged the entire time. Because most activities have to be done through a screen or another piece of technology, it’s easy for supporters to get distracted and even completely forget about the task at hand.
If you want to continue recruiting virtual volunteers you have to think beyond acquiring them and start prioritizing your retention efforts.
In fact, it’s much more cost-effective and beneficial to keep your current volunteers than to constantly use resources and time to find new ones. Long-term support is crucial for driving your organization’s mission— the longer that a volunteer is with you, the more driven they are to accomplish your main goals and give to your cause (whether that’s in time or money).
Often, the reason why volunteers don’t choose to participate again is that they don’t realize the significance of their past impact. Sending a thank you letter or email after the virtual volunteer is done reminds them of their hard work and shows how much your organization values them. If you’re not sure how to start your thank you letter, Fundraising Letters is a great resource with templates to explore.
Your communications shouldn’t just end at your thank you letter. Send another follow-up email summarizing the entire volunteer opportunity, the hours put in, and the impact it has had on your mission. Using concrete numbers and data translates this impact into tangible terms. You can even provide a quote or video made by the community that the volunteers have helped for a more intimate thank you.
5. Explore this list of virtual volunteer ideas.
Sometimes, the reason why volunteer leaders have trouble recruiting supporters for virtual opportunities is that they just don’t know what opportunities to offer. A frequent question that you might ask is, what kind of virtual volunteer ideas will get supporters excited?
As you start brainstorming, consider looking to your database for popular past experience or directly asking your volunteer base with a survey. The first method can clue you into the type of opportunities that volunteers have historically been attracted to. The second method empowers your volunteers to offer their own suggestions for the opportunities they’d like to participate in.
While the virtual volunteer ideas you host will likely depend on your unique organization and mission, we’ve compiled a list of our top choices in hopes of inspiring you as you plan for 2021. Taking insight from our Galaxy Digital article on virtual volunteer recruitment, here are some of our favorite ideas:
- Data entry (or other administrative tasks)
- Tutoring or mentoring
- Graphic design
- Managing social media accounts
- Editing or writing
- Document translation
- Online fundraising
- Phone/text banking
Consider the tools you have at your disposal and the goals you want your volunteer to accomplish. The ideas above should give you some guidance as to what is feasible online and what might not be. Then, see what’s most relevant to your organization and start planning the ideas that will reach you quickly to your goal.
To summarize, successful volunteer recruitment depends on a comprehensive tech solution as well as some key marketing strategies. Remember to always consider your volunteers’ point of view and preferences— after all, your recruitment strategies should meet volunteers where they already are. The above tips will set your organization up for success and help your own virtual volunteering opportunities stand out during this time. Good luck!