Engage, Inform, Recruit: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Recruit Donors and Volunteers

Submitted on Fri, 1/4/2013 - 7:31am
How can a nonprofit use social media to inspire donations and grow its volunteer base?

Engagement Marketing, when done well, can become the single best source of new members, volunteers, or donors for any nonprofit organization. By delivering great experiences and content to your key constituents, you can use that engagement to drive social visibility. Great content and experiences make people feel connected to an organization, and when these connections happen on places like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, one-to-one conversations turn into socially visible endorsements for an association or nonprofit.

So how can a nonprofit use social media to inspire donations and grow its volunteer base?

The key is using the right content for your organization to engage your audience, inform them about your mission, and then recruit them to support your organization—be it with financial support, with in-kind donations, or by volunteering— once you've built a relationship.

Engage your audience with compelling content

Engaging your audience means sharing content that encourages them to act. You can see how successful that content is when people comment, share, like, retweet, and repin. What kind of content is engaging?

  • Multimedia – Use photos and videos to engage your audience. The Pajama Program provides new pajamas to children in need, and their photos of smiling kids and families are a powerful way to tell their story. I couldn't find one of their hundreds of Facebook photos that didn't have some fan interaction.
  • Inspirational – Get your audience thinking about what they can do to help. UNICEF has an entire Pinterest board of inspirational quotes and photos.
  • Asking a question – The Girl Scouts got a lot of mileage on Facebook recently just by asking a few questions: “So we'd love to hear your good news about girls: what skills are they learning? What educational trips have you taken? In what way have they awed and inspired you?” That simple post got 186 comments, 422 “Likes,” and 35 shares.
  • HumorAnimal photos and humor are a natural fit for The Humane Society. Every one of the pins on their cute animal photos Pinterest board have been repinned. Your nonprofit might not have anything to do with animals, but sharing funny content is always a good idea.

Keep potential donors or volunteers informed

Social media allows nonprofits to interact with their audience on a daily basis. Take advantage of that interaction by informing your audience about your mission.

  • Share your news – This is basic, but it's important. Regular posting of your accomplishments, announcements, and events help to remind your fans of the vital role you serve in your community.
  • Education – Your knowledge is valuable—use it to educate your social media audience. The ASPCA has a Pinterest board full of pet care tips. Each pin links to a full article on the organization's blog.
  • Events – Definitely invite your followers to events via social media, but make sure you're posting after the event, too. Event photos and videos allow you to show off your hard work. Make sure you tag participants—people, sponsors, and other nonprofits—in your photos to get more traction like the United Way of North Central Massachusetts did during their annual Day of Caring. As your fans interact with your content, their networks will see it, allowing you to spread your message even further.

Recruit new donors or volunteers to your nonprofit

You've engaged and informed your followers, and formed a connection with them. They're thinking about you on a regular basis and they support your cause. Reach out to them through social media to recruit them as volunteers.

  • Share links to your volunteer opportunities – You can post the link and add a description on Facebook and Twitter, but don't forget about Pinterest. The San Antonio, TX Food Bank has a Pinterest board of volunteer opportunities and donation drives.
  • Talk about your industry – The Massachusetts Service Alliance, which works with dozens of nonprofit agencies, shared this Americorps infographic about what just one Americorps member contributes through their work. It shows your followers how they can make a difference.
  • Use statistics – The Red Cross has posted daily Hurricane Sandy relief updates on Twitter, including volunteer needs. They tweeted that 90% of their 5,700 workers helping with Sandy relief are volunteers, and linked to a website to sign up for Red Cross opportunities.
  • Try LinkedIn – The Heart of West Michigan United Way posts opportunities on their LinkedIn page, and they link to their website, which has a volunteer matching service.

Looking for more ideas how to engage with your members, donors, and volunteers? Check out my session at this year's NTEN conference, "Engagement Marketing: How Nonprofits Win in a Socially Connected World". The session will teach attendees how to attract new donors, members, and volunteers—as well as how to increase donations—using existing customers and social networks; why constituent engagement is so important and how it can be used to turn passionate supporters from a nonprofit's social networks into tomorrow's new donor or volunteer; and practical advice on how to entice people to join social networks and run engagement campaigns that increase visibility—and endorsements—for your nonprofit.

Alec Stern - Vice President of Strategic Market Development for Constant Contact is a primary member of Constant Contact's founding team as one of the original 3 in the attic. Today he spearheads strategic market development and vertical industry thought leadership including Nonprofit and Associations for the company. Alec has been a featured speaker and email and online marketing panel member for both national and regional small business, nonprofit and industry conferences. In the past 20 years he's held active roles in the nonprofit sector which currently include positions on the Board of Directors, Board of Advisors or Executive Committees for a range of nonprofits including; The Boston Public Library Foundation, The Better Business Bureau and The ALLY Foundation. He also works with many National organizations including United Way, Cystic Fibrosis.