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Marketing with Purpose: How to Mobilize Potential Volunteers

Your nonprofit relies on the generosity of volunteers who donate their time and effort to help you achieve your mission. Fortunately, with an estimated 25% of Americans actively volunteering their time to charitable organizations, you have plenty of opportunities to recruit new volunteers for your programs.

However, with so many organizations vying for volunteer support, your nonprofit needs to market itself effectively to stand out from the crowd. Use these tactics to understand what makes potential volunteers tick and align your marketing efforts with their interests.

1. Understand your target volunteer.

The first step of any effective marketing campaign is to determine your target volunteer audience so you can make your messages as relevant as possible. Keep these tips in mind as you identify and appeal to a target audience for your next volunteer recruitment campaign:

  • Explore your existing volunteer positions. Ideal volunteers have skill sets that match your nonprofit’s needs, so dive into your volunteer openings to understand the type of person who would be the best fit. For instance, if most of your job descriptions require volunteers to lift heavy materials, you might target adult volunteers and emphasize that need in your volunteer marketing outreach.
  • Assess your current volunteers’ demographics. While looking at your volunteer requirements, study your current volunteers’ demographics, such as location, skillset, age, job, and interests. This can help you understand what other volunteers might prioritize so you can tailor your messages to their preferences.
  • Understand your target audience’s motivations. The most common reasons volunteers join nonprofits are because they have a passion for the cause, they want personal fulfillment from charitable activities, they want social connections, or they want to develop their skills. Narrow down the motivations for your specific organization by asking current volunteers why they’re with your organization, and by asking new recruits why they wanted to join. 

Once you thoroughly comprehend your target audience and can get into their headspace, it’s time to start crafting your messages.

2. How to tell your nonprofit’s story.

Your nonprofit’s story is one of the most essential value propositions you have to leverage, and marketing allows you to spread it far and wide. Highlight these integral parts of your nonprofit’s story in your outreach: 

  • Context. This is how your nonprofit came to be where it is today. You can touch on your founding members here, but keep the focus on your purpose and beneficiaries.
  • Protagonists. For marketing purposes, these should be your beneficiaries, not your staff or leadership. They should always be at the center of your story so potential volunteers can empathize with them.
  • Conflict. Every nonprofit aims to address a societal need or problem on behalf of its beneficiaries, which is your story’s conflict.
  • Action. What is your nonprofit doing to help combat the conflict? Highlight specific programs and their impacts so potential volunteers can understand how they’ll be contributing to the solution. Include testimonials from current volunteers to inspire potential recruits to follow a similar path. 
  • Vision for the future. While your nonprofit’s story doesn’t have an ending, you should describe your vision for the future and how your volunteers can help achieve it. 

Adding storytelling elements to your marketing materials makes them more engaging and clarifies your purpose so you reach the right audience. 

Want to level up your volunteer management? Get started with POINT here!

Digital channels offer more reach and creativity to your volunteer marketing campaign. Plus, it’s convenient and cost-effective to get started. 

3. Use numerous digital channels for volunteer recruitment.

Fifty & Fifty’s guide to nonprofit digital marketing suggests leveraging the following digital channels for your volunteer outreach:

While most digital platforms offer paid advertising opportunities to amplify your reach, you can make an impact without spending a dime through programs like Google Ad Grants. If accepted, you earn $10,000 a month to spend on search engine ads. Consider starting with these opportunities before scaling up to paid ones to see which are the best fits for your nonprofit’s budget and needs. 

4. Create many types of content.

In the digital age, there’s no limit to the type of content you can create and share with your networks. All you need is a bit of creativity and a solid understanding of the platform you’re sharing on, and you’re ready to get started! Some effective options include:

  • Videos. The beauty of video content is that you can tailor it to be as long or short as you like. Use video to create anything from short-form volunteer spotlights to long-form beneficiary interviews. Done correctly, video marketing can be more engaging and informative than most photo- or word-based content.
  • Blog posts. Writing educational articles or case studies on your nonprofit’s blog is a great way to get the word out about your cause and volunteer opportunities. You can include calls-to-action throughout the body copy that point volunteers to your sign-up page.
  • Podcasts. Informing your volunteer prospects about greater trends in your vertical can inspire them to get involved via your volunteer program. Plus, by inviting colleagues in the nonprofit space to be guests on your podcast, you gain access to their following and broaden your range.
  • User-generated content. Your marketing will come across as more genuine if your prospects are hearing directly from current volunteers. Ask your loyal volunteers to post under a unique hashtag for your organization about their experience. Then, embed these posts in your volunteer website so prospects can get a feel for your community and what their own experience would be like.

No matter what type of content you choose to create, ensure it aligns with the channel you’re sharing it on and promote it via a multichannel marketing strategy. For instance, if you post a new podcast with a nonprofit influencer guest, link to it in your upcoming blog post and ask the guest to share it with their own networks.

NXUnite recommends including your nonprofit’s branding across each channel. This includes incorporating your logo, typography, and color scheme into all materials, whether they’re hosted on a blog or through a video.  

So…marketing with purpose helps mobilize volunteers

Marketing is a major connection point between you and long-term advocates for your cause. Inspire them by integrating your story, initiatives, and beneficiaries into everything you post and share. Remember to personalize your communication and be creative with your content, and you’ll be racking up signups in no time!

Want to level up your volunteer management? Get started with POINT here!

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Javan Van Gronigen
Creative Director | Founder

As Founder and Creative Director of Fifty & Fifty, Javan is the tip of the proverbial spear. Javan started his digital design career 20 years ago as Art Director for what is now one of the world’s largest digital agencies (Mirum, a JWT Company). He then moved on to Invisible Children where he was responsible for managing the team and all digital assets through the entire historic Kony 2012 campaign. At Fifty & Fifty, Javan has participated in and led every project, including 300+ websites, campaigns, and brands.

Photo Lindsey Schad
Lindsey Schad
Head of Communication Team

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.