How to Build a Foolproof Volunteer Communications Strategy
Every organization that relies on the hard work of volunteers understands just how important it is to foster a connected and motivated team. Communicating with volunteers has become more important than ever since 2020 and is essential to increasing volunteer engagement and retention. Effective communication strategies can greatly impact your organization's ability to cultivate long-term and meaningful relationships with volunteers. Creating these long-term relationships will not only help your nonprofit retain volunteers, but it can also help inspire those volunteers to donate more time and even money towards your cause. In this quick guide, we’ll offer some foolproof volunteer communication strategies to help you foster meaningful long-term relationships with your volunteers:
- Get to know your volunteers on a personal level.
- Incorporate individuals’ communication preferences.
- Take a multi-channel approach.
- Automate basic communications.
- Be sure not to over-communicate.
1. Get to know your volunteers on a personal level.
Volunteers come from all walks of life and have diverse skills, experiences, and interests. This means the more targeted and personal your communications are, the more effective they will be. The best way to connect with your volunteers personally is by harnessing volunteer data to create curated communications for each volunteer.Most organizations collect basic information from all volunteers in the recruitment process. However, most of this basic information doesn’t give you a clear picture of who those volunteers are and what they are passionate about. To better understand the motivations and passions of your volunteers, consider collecting information about their interests and preferences during the registration process. Include a couple of questions about volunteers’ skills and what influenced them to sign up. You can quickly update all your existing volunteers’ profiles in your volunteer management software as you get to know them better or simply ask them to add their interests themselves. Once you have that information, you can also look at volunteer activity data about the kind of programs and events they have already volunteered for. With all that information, you can segment your volunteers with similar engagement histories into a list. Then, send them more targeted communications about your organization’s great work, and encourage them to sign up for volunteer opportunities that you know they will be interested in. The more personalized and relevant communications your volunteer receives from your organization, the more connected they will feel toward your cause.
2. Incorporate individuals’ communication preferences.
Not all volunteers check their email inboxes regularly, which is why it's essential to use multiple communications channels in your strategy to ensure nobody is left out. Like most people, volunteers will have a preference for how they want to communicate with your organization. There are plenty of channels to pick from when communicating with your volunteer, from email and phone to SMS and social media. When it comes to those more personalized communications, consider collecting communication channel preferences for each volunteer. Doing so allows you to add each individual’s preferred channel to their volunteer profile in your database, so you can segment your list and send out communications to the right channels depending on volunteers’ preferences. For instance, some volunteers might prefer reading updates about your organization in your monthly newsletter, while others like to scroll through your Facebook page to stay in the loop on upcoming opportunities. Ensure you’ve got a comprehensive strategy for each platform so that all volunteers receive high-quality communications.
3. Take a multi-channel approach.
You must make good use of all the communication channels you have at your disposal to ensure important communications don’t go unseen. While most organizations use their website as their primary communication channel for important updates and new volunteer opportunities, it’s a good idea to make sure that you are using a multi-channel communication approach. By sharing important information and updates through all your communication channels like email, social media, and even local media, you increase your chance of successfully delivering that information to all your stakeholders. Many organizations are comfortable sharing communication through email and their social media account, but that's not always enough. Consider taking your communication approach further and include other channels like SMS text messaging or even in-app messaging through a volunteer mobile app. As AccuData’s direct marketing guide AccuData’s direct marketing guide states, it can take between 18-20 different touchpoints to reach a new supporter for the first time. This means that the broader your communication strategy is, the better the success rate. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new.
4. Automate basic communications.
There is no need to draft and manually send every routine volunteer communication. Not only does that take up a lot of time, but chances are you will make some mistakes and potentially forget to include important people on those communication lists. Take the stress and guesswork out of sending shift updates and reminder messages by investing in a volunteer management system that automatically sends those communications to volunteers. Automated communications ensure that every volunteer is kept informed on any changes to their own shift schedule or other changes that directly impact them. These messages are a great way to keep volunteers informed and engaged while ensuring that they aren’t receiving any unnecessary emails that can confuse and frustrate them. Remember that the more personalized and targeted your messages are, the better the experience you can provide to each volunteer.
5. Be sure not to over-communicate.
Nothing is more frustrating than receiving dozens of communications a week from an organization that is completely irrelevant to you. While communicating information to volunteers is important, making sure that you limit that communication to relevant information is essential to avoid overwhelming them. If you send too many irrelevant emails, there is a chance that volunteers will ignore all of your messaging and potentially miss out on important information that can directly impact their experience and your organization's operations. When creating communications, make sure to automate and segment your audience as much as possible, ensuring that only the volunteers affected by the information receive the communications.
Now that you have a better understanding of the core components of creating a great volunteer strategy for your organization, it’s time to get to work and start implementing your own. Remember, each and every volunteer has their own set of expectations and preferences. Make sure you respect each individual communication style whenever possible to ensure that every volunteer has a great experience with your organization.
This article was contributed by Cassandra Smallman, Head of Marketing at InitLive.