Nonprofit Volunteers: Three Big Ideas to Keep Them Connected & Happy


July 16, 2018

Many hands together with a heart painted on them, implying generosity

Volunteers are your best ambassadors, the lifeblood of your organization. So how can you supercharge their engagement and commitment to your mission?

Here are 3 big ideas that can create long-term connections with your volunteer base, plus deliver greater value beyond the satisfaction they get from making a difference by supporting your organization.

1. Create an Interactive Volunteer Directory

We are not talking about a static volunteer database. (I am going to assume that you have basic volunteer info, even if it is an Excel spreadsheet). What you want is a dynamic, shareable directory that allows volunteers to connect with each other to amplify their energy, and stay connected with your organization. With an interactive directory you go beyond the one-dimensional view of a volunteer and bring each person to life by shining a light on their unique activities, skills and personalities. Plus the directory would reside in a private, branded environment in the context of your organization.

What’s cool about an online directory is that any volunteer with an active profile can filter and search by a multitude of fields like program participation, location, education, occupation or skills. To take it a step further, by adding a mapping overlay you get an immediate visual for where volunteers with like interests are located. Looking at this from an organization’s perspective, you could quickly use this feature to better match event locations to where there is a cluster of volunteers.

And by the way, you can create the same type of directory and interactivity for your donors, but that is a topic for another blog post.

2. Cultivate Affinity Groups

Now that you have your volunteer directory launched (and everyone is loving it), the natural next step is to create affinity groups.

What’s an affinity group? It’s a gathering of individuals, in your case volunteers, around an interest, a cause, fundraising events... you get the idea. It's an online space you provide your constituents to connect and engage around something that is important to them.

If your organization sponsors running events, you might have a volunteer (who is also a runner) search the directory for people with the same interest and invite them to join a runners group. Within the group they can share tips, upcoming races, photos and other assets. While this activity might be already occurring on Facebook or LinkedIn, you may not be a part of it. You don’t own the data and it’s not building goodwill for your brand. When you provide the infrastructure for these groups, you get a sustainable solution to cultivate and curate your community.

3. Promote Peer-To-Peer Fundraising

Here’s my last big idea – leveraging groups for peer-to-peer fundraising. Remember our runners from above? They could easily work within their group to create a running event to support the organization. And because they are members of the larger connected community, they are able to reach out and ask for support. The big benefit for you is that the event is integrated with your organization and you gain total visibility.

Nonprofits are being challenged to launch more creative events, more often. When your volunteers are truly engaged with your organization they can become a tremendous resource for ideas. If you knew more about your volunteers you could, for example, find a  few marketing professionals among them who might come up with some pretty creative spins for your peer-to-peer initiatives. Who better to nurture that activity than a passionate supporter of your mission.

There you have it – 3 big ideas to supercharge your volunteer base. What are you doing to better engage your volunteers?  Please leave your comments below.

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