Build a Virtual Volunteer Program With Your Website

As more nonprofits look to engage their communities and supporters remotely, adding virtual volunteering to your organization’s list of ways to get involved means taking a close look at the technology that you’ll need to make it happen. And what better way to find a virtual volunteer than using your nonprofit’s website to promote and recruit for virtual volunteer opportunities?

To be honest, your target audience for virtual volunteering is likely going to include people who are already confident Internet users. Make sure that your website is up to the task of recruiting these savvy, online volunteers. We’ll outline how and where to use your site to promote opportunities and help you craft a virtual volunteer description that gets the job done.

Your Website’s Role in Volunteer Recruitment

When it comes to getting people to take action online, you must offer a user-friendly experience that’s secure, quick and straight to the point. Most nonprofits are aware of how important this is when it comes to online fundraising, but have you given equal attention to your process for finding and motivating volunteers?

Whether you’re looking for volunteers to give their time in-person or remotely, there are a ton of perks to posting volunteer positions directly on your website. And now that there’s increasing interest in virtual volunteering (both by nonprofits and the volunteers themselves), how you use your website can put you at a competitive advantage.

  • You can optimize your volunteer opportunity descriptions using SEO best practices to attract interest from people who are searching online for similar positions.
  • If your website is set up with analytics tracking, you can learn which virtual volunteer opportunities drive the most interest and what sources drive traffic to them.
  • Using online forms on your site to collect volunteer applications streamlines how you collect information about each person in real time, especially compared to making folks download a form and send it back to you.
  • Even better, using a more structured volunteer management system, plugin or third-party service that’s integrated with your site helps organize volunteers by interest, abilities or schedule.
  • Listing individual volunteer openings on your website provides you with the landing pages you need to promote opportunities elsewhere online, such as Google Ads, social media, emails, online directories, and the websites of partners or like-minded groups.

What to Include in a Virtual Volunteer Description

Recruiting a virtual volunteer can be a very similar process to finding an in-person volunteer—but there are a few pieces of information that will be helpful to share upfront. There’s almost nothing worse for volunteer satisfaction than a bait-and-switch on what you’re asking them to do after they agree to help. This is where a well-crafted volunteer position description can weed out folks that aren’t a good fit and encourage those that are an ideal match.

Take a little time to envision who the target audience is for each role, then start to map out the key pieces of information that you think they will want to know in advance. Your descriptions should look a little different depending on the type of person you’re looking for, how much experience they’ll need, the level of complexity, and what you think would motivate the right person to get involved.

  • Does the volunteer position have a title, like Social Media Ambassador? (A great title could be a motivator for someone looking to boost their resume, especially with all of the recent pandemic-related unemployment.)
  • Will they be reporting to a specific person or position on your staff?
  • What is the scope of the volunteer’s responsibilities?
  • What knowledge, skills, technology or type of home set-up are required or preferred? Be sure to mention any specific software, platforms, Internet speeds, or language skills they’ll need to volunteer remotely.
  • Are there accommodations for volunteers with disabilities? Don’t forget that virtual volunteering can be a good fit for those with limited mobility, vision, or hearing.
  • Is the position geared toward children, teens, college students, families, adults or seniors?
  • Will any training or onboarding be required? If so, how will it be delivered?
  • Do you have a required time commitment or availability windows?
  • Will the position transition away from being virtual or remote in the future?
  • What are the anticipated outcomes you’re hoping to achieve?
  • What perks, benefits or acknowledgment can the volunteer expect?
  • Will the position help someone fulfill community service hours?
  • Are there organizational values that you want this person to embody?
  • How do you want them to apply or get in touch if they have any initial questions?

Examples of remote and virtual volunteer opportunities

If you need some help getting started with your descriptions, or simply want some ideas for the types of volunteer opportunities that can be done remotely, we’ve rounded up some examples based on different areas of nonprofit work.

  • Remote communications volunteers might help with writing content, research, translating content into other languages, captioning videos, managing photos, and more. See how the Organization for Autism Research recruits for blog and newsletter contributors.
  • Online outreach volunteers can assist your nonprofit in providing programs and services, like reading to kids over Zoom, participating in a phone bank, mentoring, hosting online tours or organizing virtual support groups. For example, RAINN uses remote volunteers for the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.
  • Virtual event volunteers can offer an extra set of hands, eyes or ears for online gatherings, like helping to facilitate an online conference or manage registrations. Hands On Nashville recruits volunteers to assist with webinars, including running online polls and troubleshooting tech issues.
  • Pro bono or professional volunteers could lend their expertise and talents by providing remote graphic design support, Google Ads management, bookkeeping, and legal or financial advice. AsylumWorks recruits professionals to assist with virtual informational interviews and resume coaching with asylum seekers.

6 Ways to Promote Opportunities on Your Site

Let’s get practical. Here are six places where you can promote virtual volunteer opportunities on your nonprofit’s website and elevate your volunteer program more generally.

  1. Main volunteer page. There should be a central location on your website where you introduce your volunteer program and list current opportunities for people to explore. This is also a great place to leverage volunteer testimonials, like on the Translators Without Borders Volunteer page.
  2. Individual volunteer descriptions. If you’ve done a great job writing up descriptions for each of your virtual volunteer opportunities (more on that below), give them a place to live on the site as a sub-page of the main volunteer page. There could even be some value in optimizing them for search depending on the type of position or your mission (e.g., online volunteer tutoring or online volunteering mental health).
  3. Homepage. Highlight virtual volunteer positions as one of the calls-to-actions on your homepage. As one of the more highly trafficked places on your website, it’s an ideal place to recruit volunteers. 
  4. Blog posts. There are lots of ways to blog about volunteering. In addition to highlighting open positions, blog posts can also talk about the impact of volunteers, feature volunteer stories, and celebrate their successes. Check out this example from HIAS.
  5. Program, service and advocacy pages. We typically recommend having one call-to-action per page on your site, depending on the goal of the page and its audience. Most organizations default to asking for donations, but consider if you have virtual volunteer positions to promote instead.
  6. Thank You pages. After someone submits a form on your website, are they redirected to a Thank You or confirmation page? Depending on the action they just took, it might be the perfect next step to ask them if they’d like to continue their support or interest as an online volunteer.

Taking your volunteer program online can be a blessing and a curse. In addition to finding new ways to use volunteer power, you’re also relying on technology to help bridge the gap and make the experience work for everyone involved. Let your website do some of the heavy lifting by using it to recruit people for virtual volunteer opportunities and transform them into your newest supporters.

For more resources on running a virtual volunteer program at your nonprofit, be sure to check out “How to Promote Volunteerism at Home: A Guide to Recruiting and Engaging Virtual Volunteers” from Galaxy Digital and The Virtual Volunteering Wiki from Coyote Communications.

How have you had success with recruiting virtual volunteers? Do you have any tips to share with those who are providing virtual volunteer opportunities for the first time? Jump into the comments with me below.