Engaging Volunteers Through Social Media

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Engaging volunteers through social media offers many opportunities to motivate and inspire volunteers to support your organization. Focus on their interests and skill sets to design activities that will engage them more.

Last year I wrote a short article about Ten Ways to Engage Staff with Social Media. It was designed for large and mid-sized organizations seeking ways to get staff to support the larger organizational initiatives. We continually hear that the key challenge organizations have is not in creating the strategic plan and identifying the strategies and actions, but “implementing” the plan at all levels in the organization. How do you tap into the hearts and minds of your staff to motivate them to support these strategies while they perform their daily work commitments?

These 10 techniques I suggested in the article are also relevant for non-profit and charitable organizations with limited staff and which rely on volunteers to do much of the organizational work. This occurred to me the other day as I led a group of volunteers through a review and update of an association’s social media plan. We generated many ideas, but haven’t identified who will execute and how they will do this. So we face many of the same challenges as well.

In these busy times when everyone is over-tasked with work and family responsibilities, how do you get those same people to commit to helping your non-profit organization grow? How do you get your board members to actually do the work rather than just show up for meetings?

Social media offers a variety of platforms to keep volunteers engaged and informed. It’s important to think of creative ways to help them share information, to inspire them to action, to make the volunteer work fun, rather than a chore. Here are five ideas to help you understand and inspire your volunteers.

  • Think about who your volunteers are. What’s the average age? Do they work full-time in high powered jobs? Do they have long commutes between home and office? Or do they work from home or have flexible hours? Do they have young families or elderly parents to care for? Are they fully committed on weekends to soccer and football matches, ballet and music lessons, or elder care concerns?
  • What time commitment is needed to achieve your outcomes? Let your volunteers know what the expectations are. Can they support the organization while commuting to and from work? Social media can help them do this. Does their employer support volunteerism and give them time and budget dollars for this? Social media offers many ways to promote that organization’s support of your non-profit.
  • What are your volunteers’ other interests? Think about how you can weave support of the non-profit into their daily lives and interests – through contests, online games, online auctions, sharing stories, etc. Create platforms that are easy and fun to use, making it enjoyable to participate. Share heart-warming stories that inspire them to be involved.
  • What are your volunteers’ individual talents? Ask each one to identify their one specific talent, something they excel at doing and therefore really enjoy. If they could spend 8-10 hours a day doing just that, what would it be? Then build the volunteer activities around those skillsets. That way you have people pursuing their own passions rather than agreeing to take on a task they don’t really want because no one else has stepped up or that’s the vacancy that exists. Focus on their skills and interests, and you’ll eventually fill the needs for the major job functions and then some. With their help, you may find creative ways to outsource some of the more mundane, but necessary tasks.
  • Ask your volunteers to manage one of the social platforms – the one they use the most. You may find several agreeing to manage together as a group because they understand that platform and use it every day for themselves and/or their work. Set minimal criteria for branding and messaging, but give them creative license to create fun and interesting ways to engage others. Set challenge stretch goals with rewards to turn their activities into fun competitions with other volunteers. Regardless of our age, we all love to win!

Those are a few ideas I hope to implement with my social media committee. Perhaps I‘ve stimulated other ideas in your mind. If so, please share. If you would like a copy of my article about Ten Ways to Engage Staff With Social Media, click the button below.

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