Volunteer recruitment is one of the main priorities of many nonprofits, but are you actively working to move those efforts forward? When was the last time you took steps to shake up your online volunteer recruitment? Nonprofit websites have the power to attract new and dedicated volunteers to your organization. But only if you take the time to harness it.

Digital Volunteer Recruitment Strategies

There are a variety of ways to use your website and digital marketing to work toward a goal of boosting volunteers. Find ways to attract new volunteers online, whether you’re looking for virtual help or in-person opportunities.

While there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to implement all seven of these recommendations (we know how things go), select the ones that you think would have the most impact on your audience and go from there.

Allow online sign-ups

We live in a digital age where people expect to be able to sign up and begin application processes online. Offer your website visitors a simple and easy way to sign up directly on your site, keeping the process short and sweet. There’ll be plenty of time to get to know your new volunteer once they begin their service, so stick to only necessary information through the application form.

Rather than posting on other volunteer websites, posting on your organization’s website comes with a variety of enticing benefits, including flexibility in the sign-up process and the opportunity to control how you follow up with new volunteers.

If your nonprofit does not have a built-in volunteer system or the means to set one up at the moment, consider using a free volunteer management plugin or building a simple interest form for new volunteers to reach out and begin the application process.

Keep your website updated

Make sure your website is up-to-date with all available opportunities. It seems like an obvious recommendation, but website content slips through the cracks at even the most diligent nonprofits. And visitors to your website can’t sign up for opportunities that they don’t know exist.

Maybe they’ve been browsing your site looking for a specific type of opportunity and opt to move on to other organizations when they don’t find what they’re looking for on your site. Likewise, when a volunteer opportunity is no longer available, be sure to remove it from your site or update the content to reflect that.

Use our website maintenance checklist to keep your volunteer opportunities and the rest of your website fresh.

Nail your tone and messaging

Signing up for a new activity and making time for it in your schedule is not easy. Nonprofit marketers know that better than anyone! The tone and messaging that you use when promoting volunteer opportunities are crucial to your success. New volunteers want to feel welcome, appreciated and supported.

Will there be training? Is there a point person they can reach out to with questions? Will the work be enjoyable? Will they feel the impact it has? Qualm their fears with a friendly, welcoming tone and helpful information around expectations and how your organization supports its volunteers.

Fill in your supporters

Have a new volunteer opportunity? Let your supporters know! Regularly update supporters about new opportunities through email, social media and your blog — whichever channels you use to communicate with supporters (and potential volunteers).

You can also use these marketing tools to highlight opportunities that you have a hard time filling. Don’t be afraid to admit to your supporters that people are not signing up in droves. In typical human fashion, they may assume that someone else has stepped in to help. Aside from giving extra visibility to these opportunities, it allows your supporter to feel like more of a hero when they do step up to the plate.

Use volunteer testimonials

Social proof is a powerful thing. The words of other volunteers and their experiences could be the tipping point for recruiting new volunteers. Include testimonials from current volunteers on your nonprofit’s Volunteer Opportunities page (or whatever you’ve named that page), as well as peppering them on other relevant pages, like Impact or About Us. You might even take your volunteer testimonials a step further and highlight current volunteers on your organization’s blog. 

If you don’t have testimonials from volunteers, it’s never too late to start collecting them. Asking for feedback about their experience working with your organization will not only give you an extra tool to recruit new volunteers, but can also strengthen your relationships with current volunteers and offer insight into potential volunteer program improvements.

Create volunteer-focused communities

Everyone likes belonging to a community. Making friends can be hard, and joining a group of strangers is never easy. Who is your typical volunteer? Volunteer programs targeted toward specific groups of people can help build a community around your organization.

Add collaborative and relationship-building elements into volunteer opportunities to help deepen volunteers’ experiences and the impact they feel. Plus, it can’t hurt your volunteer retention numbers!

We’ve seen some of our nonprofit clients have success around community-focused volunteer groups. For example, Project Home Again created the VolunTEENS, a volunteer program specifically for teenagers to bond over acts of service. And Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley started their Women’s Crew to bring women in the Bay Area together for monthly volunteer activities.

Play up the impact

Similar to fundraising, focus your communications on your volunteers and the impact they can have during the volunteer recruitment process. Use copy, photos and video on your site to show the good that volunteers can do through your organization. People want to help good causes, but they also want to know that their time and efforts have the potential to make a real difference in the world.

Volunteer Retention

While the above strategies help get new volunteers in the door, don’t forget about the people who already give their time on a regular basis. Do you have a plan in place for reaching out and connecting with current volunteers? You won’t regret taking the time to foster volunteer engagement and to build relationships that result in lifelong supporters.

After all, it’s much more difficult to convince someone to take that first step and show up to volunteer than it is to convince someone already familiar with your volunteer program to stick around.

How does your organization approach volunteer recruitment online? Are there other ways to boost volunteers that you’ve seen work well? Let me know in the comments below.