How to Find Volunteers for Your Next Virtual Event
Guest blog by: Karrie Wolzniak
In the past year, more organizations (including associations, clubs, boards, unions, and nonprofits) have turned to virtual events to engage their members in new ways. As a result, these groups have also had to quickly adapt to virtual volunteerism as well.
Whether you’re looking to host a virtual or hybrid election or an online fundraising event, having enough dedicated volunteers to keep things running smoothly is essential. At OneCause, we work closely with nonprofits and have seen emerging best practices for how organizations can leverage virtual volunteers.
One of the most challenging components of virtual volunteer management is getting volunteers on board with your virtual event. That’s where this quick guide can come in handy! By incorporating the following tactics into your virtual volunteer recruitment plan, you’ll have individuals ready to help out in no time.
To pull off your virtual volunteer event, we suggest that you:
- Leverage strategic email marketing.
- Make the most of your social media presence.
- Encourage peer-to-peer recruitment.
- Optimize your organization’s website.
- Communicate what will be asked of volunteers beforehand.
Recruiting virtual volunteers offers a variety of benefits both for the supporters themselves and for your organization. After all, you get support for your next event, and volunteers have the chance to make an impact on an organization they care about, in a convenient and accessible way.
Ready to learn more about effective virtual recruitment practices? Let’s dive in.
1. Leverage strategic email marketing.
More than likely, you already have a fairly extensive email list you use to communicate with members and other supporters. As you plan your next virtual event, consider sending out an e-blast inviting them to participate as volunteers.
Follow these tried-and-true email tips to make the most out of your digital communications efforts:
- Start with a catchy subject line. One of the most critical aspects of email marketing is getting the recipient to open your email in the first place. When you include a catchy, intriguing subject line, studies show that the odds of your message being read go up significantly.
- Personalize your message. It’s harder to ignore a request that mentions you by name—whether that’s for a donation, event participation, or volunteer opportunity. Including your prospective volunteer’s name in both the subject line and body of the email gives your messaging a more personal feel and increases the reader’s connection to your group.
- Include a clear CTA. Let’s say you got your email opened and read and your recipient is interested in responding. You don’t want them to be confused about the intended next steps or how to get involved. Include a specific and eye-catching call to action as well as contact information for who to reach out to with additional questions.
Remember to seek volunteers well in advance of your upcoming virtual event so you have ample time to train them for their roles. Depending on the type of event, consider launching an email marketing campaign several months in advance of the big event to drive greater volunteer engagement.
2. Make the most of your social media presence.
If you have a social media following (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn), be sure to leverage each channel to grab attention and drive volunteerism.
Maximize your social media presence with the following tactics:
- Direct followers to an online volunteer registration page. Similar to your email CTAs, it’s important that followers understand exactly how to sign up to volunteer from your relevant social media posts. Be sure to include a link, either within the post or in your bio, sending users to a simple online sign-up form.
- Consider your audiences on various social platforms. Different platforms are best for targeting different audiences and posting different types of content. As you craft your social media strategy, consider the host platform and how you can tweak your appeals to each site. For example, Instagram tends to focus on image and video-sharing while Twitter favors short and sweet text-based updates.
Leveraging social media strategies allows you to spread the word about your upcoming online events and subsequent virtual volunteer opportunities far and wide. It’s free to create and share organic postings, while promoted content will require financial investment.
Consider how many and what types of volunteers you’re looking to recruit, then start publishing calls for volunteers from your social media accounts as soon as possible.
3. Encourage peer-to-peer recruitment.
According to studies by OneCause, one of the best ways to recruit volunteers is by taking advantage of the network of support you already have. Typically referred to as a peer-to-peer approach, this strategy focuses on asking members or supporters to recruit their peers (such as friends, family members, colleagues, and other members) to get involved.
Here are some of our favorite ideas that have seen success in the past:
- Reward volunteers who enlist peers. Don’t just ask volunteers to invite their peers—reward them specifically for doing so! This might be a tangible prize, public recognition, or a virtual badge.
- Utilize gamification strategies. Leveraging common elements of gameplay to maximize your virtual volunteer recruitment strategy is a great way to get new and existing volunteers engaged from the start. Consider hosting a competition to see which person can enlist the most volunteers to help out at your virtual event.
Peer-to-peer strategies work because of social proof, or the idea that people tend to be more inclined to value or try out new things that they see loved ones publicly engaging with.
Social proof has driven strong results for nonprofits and other organizations by boosting recruitment and increasing net new supporters.This powerful trend is also a fantastic way to recruit new volunteers who already have a connection to your mission.
4. Optimize your organization’s website.
Your website is one of your most valuable marketing assets and incorporates details about all of your upcoming events and how to get involved. Regardless of the recruitment strategies you use to obtain new virtual volunteers, you’ll likely be sending users to your website to learn more and register for open opportunities.
So how can you make sure your organization’s site is ready? We suggest that you:
- Provide ample relevant information for volunteers. Make sure your website contains the right information that you expect volunteers to need. For example, when is your upcoming virtual event? How can volunteers get involved? What volunteer roles are you currently recruiting for? Who can users contact for additional information? You also want this information to be readily available to site visitors thanks to clearly noted menus and navigation.
- Ensure your site is mobile-friendly. With more and more website traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s critical that your organization’s site is optimized for mobile usage. This means that text and other elements should automatically resize on smaller screens and that users should not be required to pinch, scroll, and zoom excessively.
- Make converting easy. If you’re including an online registration form on your website, make sure it’s as quick and easy as possible to complete. Too many questions or other obstacles can cause potential volunteers to lose motivation and abandon the form without ever hitting submit.
Once your site is fully optimized, begin linking to it from your emails, social media posts, and more to ensure supporters can easily find what they need.
These website design best practices can be applied to all sorts of associations, clubs, and other member-based organizations to ensure maximal engagement and encourage users to get involved in a deeper way.
5. Communicate what will be asked of volunteers beforehand.
Volunteers are not likely to sign up for a shift if they’re unsure what is required. Understanding what will be expected of them is a critical prerequisite for getting involved and driving participation.
By communicating expectations early on in the process, you can maximize the number of volunteers who register. Consider the following best practices:
- Post clear and detailed job descriptions. Asking for virtual event volunteers is not likely to be specific enough for prospective volunteers to make an informed decision. Instead, include particular role titles and the responsibilities that go along with it.
- Note any skill or training requirements. Do your virtual event volunteers need to have experience with a particular software program? Will your organization provide required training? Make sure you receive qualified leads by publicizing requirements beforehand.
This re:Charity guide to volunteer management shares that it’s of utmost importance to train your volunteers well—especially when it comes to virtual engagement opportunities.
Many virtual event volunteers will be helping out in new capacities and with new responsibilities. They might not have experience with some of the most vital elements of your virtual event, so it’s crucial that they understand what they’re getting into ahead of time and are given reasonable expectations about their roles. For example, be sure your virtual volunteers understand the basics of live streaming if your event will incorporate real-time broadcasting to your audiences.
A big part of effective virtual member management is providing your members with engaging opportunities to get involved with your organization. Ask them to take their support to the next level by volunteering at your upcoming event!
Whether you’re planning your first virtual experience or are simply looking to expand your base of dedicated volunteers, strategic recruitment practices are critical. Consider the above tips, adjusting as necessary to fit your organization’s specific needs.
Then, once you have ample virtual volunteers on deck, make sure you equip them with the tools, training, and management processes they need for success. Your volunteers, staff members, and event attendees will thank you!
Karrie has spent more than a decade bringing innovative technology and fundraising strategies to the nonprofit industry. As one of the first executives at OneCause, Karrie combines her 20 years of experience in marketing with her passion for helping nonprofits expand their reach, leading industry research, marketing strategy, and fundraising consulting initiatives. She is also an active speaker on donor and fundraising trends, and has been featured on Forbes.com, Philanthropy Journal, and Nonprofit Hub.