March 19, 2018

How to use tell-a-friend campaigns for volunteer recruitment

A version of this article originally appeared on VolunteerPro and is reprinted here with permission.

Volunteer recruitment “tell-a-friend” campaigns are easy ways to expand your volunteer recruitment campaigns by tapping into the networks of your existing volunteers. Your biggest fans will be more than happy to help you spread the word, but they need encouragement and the tools to do it.

That’s where word-of-mouth marketing campaigns can be an asset to your volunteer recruitment efforts.

These campaigns are simple yet powerful ways to use social proof to spread the word. To get your campaign rolling, pull together a small team of volunteers to help develop it.

By involving volunteers at the very outset, you’ll gain buy-in and cultivate a willingness to help. So, don’t do this in a vacuum without their participation.

Step 1: Engage—listening & interaction

Start by deepening your understanding of what motivates your volunteers: Why do they continue to help out? What do they get out of volunteering? What do they tell others about their experience?

It’s important to understand which messages your volunteers will be comfortable sharing and their friends will understand. Focus on the specific words they use to describe what they do in partnership with you. Also, be sure to poll volunteers on the specific communications methods they prefer (email, social media platforms, etc.)

You can gather this information through any or all of the following:

  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Comment cards
  • Individual conversations

Step 2: Equip—inspiration & an ask

Next, gather “buzzworthy” ideas and information that volunteers will be excited to share.

To kick off your campaign, orient your volunteers by sharing some of the following. Ask them to share their ideas, too.

  • Compelling stories
  • Inspiring service
  • Insider knowledge
  • Unbelievable facts
  • Funny disclosures

Step 3: Empower—tools to share

Finally, create simple ways that the info gathered in Step Two can be shared online or on land. When creating text, graphics, or videos, feature the key words volunteers shared in Step One so you are sure to be “speaking their language.”

Below are just a few ways you can create pre-packaged content that can be easily shared:

  • Tell-a-friend buttons & links on your website that generate emails
  • Emails sent to volunteers to forward to friends
  • Social media posts & pics (simple, but inspiring)
  • Post Cards
  • Business Cards

More tips for “tell-a-friend” volunteer recruitment campaigns

Below are a few more tips to keep in mind to make your campaign even stronger.

  • Ask volunteers directly to share and like your content and social media properties.
  • Include a start and end date for the campaign, so you ask volunteers to focus a short, discrete amount of time versus an open-ended ask.
  • Keep track of the number of volunteers who are referred by your team and celebrate each step of their progress.
  • Personally thank those who refer applicants with handwritten notes or emails.
  • Include a “tell-a-friend” link on every web page that mentions volunteering.
  • Offer “sneak peek” insider info they can share as someone who is “in the know.”
  • Create videos that feature volunteers in them that they will want to share with others.

Recruitment and retention are some of the top challenges volunteer managers face—by taking advantage of your current volunteers’ enthusiasm for your mission, you can make your job that much easier.

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Tobi Johnson
Tobi Johnson is President of Tobi Johnson & Associates (www.tobijohnson.com), a consulting firm whose mission is to help nonprofit organizations strengthen their volunteer engagement strategy. In 2015, Tobi launched VolunteerPro (www.volpro.net), an online learning and networking community for leaders of volunteers. Each year, Tobi releases the Volunteer Management Progress Report, the results from her global state-of-the-industry survey.