This past year has required nonprofits to rethink how they run their programs, requiring major digital transformation for most organizations. Through this transformation, many nonprofits have chosen to implement virtual volunteering opportunities and programs. This way, they are able to continue their positive impact in any way possible during a turbulent period for any in-person interaction.
There are many ways virtual volunteers can help your cause, but fostering the same feeling of community and connecting with those virtual volunteers can be difficult. Since you cannot meet face-to-face with these volunteers, building a digital volunteer engagement strategy is essential to fostering long-term relationships with your virtual volunteers.
This article will offer best practices to set your organization up for success by connecting and engaging with your virtual volunteers in a meaningful way. Specifically, we’ll cover the following tips:
- Make volunteering as easy as possible
- Communicate your nonprofit story
- Share additional ways to get involved
- Show your appreciation
Now, let’s jump in and get started on the path to meaningful volunteer engagement!
1. Make volunteering as easy as possible
For many volunteers, virtual opportunities are great because they can work at their own schedule from their own home. Therefore, be sure that everything remains as convenient and easy as possible to attract and retain virtual volunteers. Making virtual volunteer opportunities readily available to the public is crucial to recruiting all the volunteers you need. If eager volunteers don’t see opportunities available, they will likely look at other organizations to donate their time.
Since everything is online nowadays, it has become more important than ever to have good volunteer management software that allows you to post events and activities online and allow volunteers to sign up for the shifts that work best for them. A VMS should also encourage volunteers to submit the number of hours they have worked, allowing you to keep track of all your virtual volunteers’ progress.
The right volunteer management strategies and tools will ensure that you can deliver a great virtual volunteer experience by eliminating unnecessary hoops and hurdles during the shift sign-up process.
2. Communicate your nonprofit story
There is nothing more motivating to a volunteer than learning how their hard work directly contributes to their community and the world. That makes harnessing the power of storytelling to foster greater volunteer engagement an easy win for your organization. Impact stories are a powerful way to inspire volunteers to increase their commitment to your cause and encourage their network to join them.
However, the stories you tell are just one part of the equation; the methods and channels you communicate those stories are just as important. Since your volunteers are remote, you will need to identify which channels they are most likely to engage with and then share the stories through those means. Here are some key outlets to consider:
- Your website
- In-app messaging
- Social media (messaging, posts, or even groups)
- Video meetings
As you build your impact stories, make sure to use as many hard facts, statics, and images as possible to further enhance the story and its validity. The frequency in which you share these stories will also motivate your volunteers to get further involved in your mission.
3. Share additional ways to get involved
Most volunteers are involved in one or two volunteer programs or initiatives, and they aren’t always aware of the other work being done toward the cause. This is especially true for virtual volunteers, since they work from their homes and aren’t as connected to other volunteers and staff members.
This means it’s important to communicate other opportunities that are available to your virtual volunteers so they can join in to further engage with your organization. The more engaged your volunteers are, the more committed they are, and the more likely they are to also become donors.
Sharing upcoming volunteer opportunities on your website, through email, and on all your social media channels is a great way to encourage your volunteers to increase their engagement. To bring in some extra donations, add a donate button on your website, volunteer sign-up page, and any communication you send out to your volunteers.
This approach to fundraising can be effective, but if you want to take it even further, consider running a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign within your network of volunteers. By offering prizes and other incentives for those who raise the most, you can go a long way in deepening your volunteers’ commitment and increase your organization’s impact.
4. Show your appreciation
One of the most important components of a successful volunteer engagement strategy is prioritizing communication and appreciation to your volunteers. These dedicated individuals are often the largest workforce in a nonprofit organization, and they are the foundation of all the work your organization does toward your cause.
With such an important role, it is important to thank your volunteers for their hard work routinely—not just on a specified volunteer appreciation day. A simple thank you message after every shift or week worked, an appreciation event like a thank-you lunch, or even a small gift can go a long way in making your volunteer feel valued.
After a year of remote work and digital transformation, harnessing virtual volunteers’ power and skills is a great opportunity for nonprofits to increase their impact. Connecting and engaging with virtual volunteers requires some time and effort, but building a sense of community will ensure you retain and deepen their commitment to your cause. By applying the four best practices outlined in this article, your organization will be set up for long-term success with your virtual volunteer programs.
Head of Marketing at InitLive
Cassandra is a passionate content creator dedicated to fostering positive impact through thought leadership in both the Nonprofit sector and live events industry. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.