Simple but Great Advice on Building Digital Volunteer Teams

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This blogpost is a roundup of awesome ideas generated by our #SM4NP community during our Twitter chat about activating volunteers through Social Media (Storify)


Give your volunteer the right tasks

Screenshot 2015-05-20 16.01.38It can be a challenge to figure out how to align the skills and interests of a volunteer with the vast and complicated work of a nonprofit. To make it easier, do the legwork before-hand: have a specific, scoped-out project before bringing volunteers into the organization. As Catchafire pointed out in the #SM4NP tweetchat on May 8th, this can make a volunteer more willing to give their time.

This project should be as meaningful and impactful as possible. Peter Panepento said, “Don’t just give menial tasks to volunteers. Provide thoughtful opportunities around design, social strategy, content generation.” Training volunteers on relevant skills is a great way to make the experience as meaningful for them as it is for your nonprofit, as Katie Savant noted.

Having this extra set of eyes can be extremely useful. Volunteers may approach topics from a different angle, as Sensei Project pointed out, which can give nonprofits much-needed outsider perspective.

Good tasks for digital volunteers

The #SM4NP crowd brainstormed an impressive list of tasks that a digital volunteer can help with, including social media, research, outreach, web maintenance, event plannin2g and promotion, writing and editing, organizing Twitter lists, and promoting crowdfunding campaigns.

Remote volunteers can also help build nonprofits’ networks nationally or globally. As Catchafire wrote, “Who knows where those connections could lead!”

Have a plan for finding YOUR volunteer

Through social media

Reach out to your nonprofit’s biggest cheerleaders first to ask them to volunteer, or at least just spread the word. Any platform where you have a following can work, but many at the #SM4NP tweetchat lauded LinkedIn and Twitter for finding skill-based volunteers.

Go outside your bubble

Try organizations like Catchafire, VolunteerMatch, VolunTEENnation, Taproot Foundation, GoVoluntr, The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN), Handson Network, or your city’s Volunteer Center. Each of these organizations has innumerable tools to connect you to the right volunteer! You can also try Twitter tools like Tweepi, Topsy or Followerwonk (to find followers with specific interests), Traackr or Little Bird (to find influencers) or the location-based mobile app Volunteer Finder. These can really be helpful in separating potential volunteers from the general public.

Help volunteers feel invested in the team- because they are

Although volunteers may only be involved in your nonprofit for a short period of time, they are still crucial members of the team. Time, input, and social networks are among the most important resources for nonprofits, and volunteers can provide all of those. It is the nonprofit’s responsibility both to give volunteers high-level, important tasks AND to communicate its importance.

1Connecting volunteering to impact is not only for the benefit of the current volunteer. It can also be used to attract other volunteers. Celly suggested that nonprofits could include case studies of volunteering in their blog, which can give volunteers a voice and inspire others to get involved.


Amplify team building online

Many choose to volunteer because of the connections it provides. Amplify that through social media and the web, especially for digital volunteers who may feel disconnected from on-the-ground work.

Social media, like any social arena, can be used to make volunteers feel appreciated by your nonprofit. Get to know them, connect with them, and acknowledge and appreciate them through social media. As Caroline Abellar of GoVoluntr said about social media, “They love you, so love them!”

There are innumerable tools to connect to volunteers digitally. These can include Facebook & LinkedIn groups to put a face to people’s names, video calls to make interactions more personal, or simple tools like email and text messaging.

Shine the Light of Gratitude & Recognition

Social Media provides an especially convenient way to recognize and reward volunteer efforts. Be sure to write a LinkedIn recommendation or tweet out a generous tweet thanking the work of your volunteers. In addition to that, after they’re done volunteering, make sure to keep in touch wit3h them. Let them know months later what their work meant for your organization and provide more opportunities to plug in. Communicate their impact in terms of money they helped raise or the number of books or schools or meals served.


Do you want to join the #SM4NP community to talk about social media for nonprofits? Learn more here.


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