While you may not know what your volunteer program will look like over the next few weeks, even months, organizations like yours can benefit from thinking about your volunteer engagement (or re-engagement) strategy. You may need to remind your supporters that you’re still out there and need their help! We’re here to help you inspire your volunteers to take action. It’s up to you and your community leaders to decide what’s best for your community.
But when you feel ready to re-open, here are some ideas for re-engaging your volunteers with your cause. Want some inspiration first?
Refresh Your Get Connected Site
Regardless of how your organization is responding to the pandemic, you likely made changes to your Get Connected site along the way. So, in order to re-engage your volunteers, you’ll want to get your Get Connected site up to speed. Here are some ways to refresh your volunteer site:
Update Your Opportunities Page
You may have made bulk changes to your site while stay-at-home advisories were in effect. You can take the following actions to get your opportunities page ready to welcome volunteers again and reflect current and upcoming programming.
- Remove opportunities and events that were canceled due to COVID-19 measures.
- Review ongoing and future opportunities. If you deactivated some of your ongoing and future opportunities, you may decide to reactivate them if applicable. Note that this isn’t an activity you can perform in bulk. You may also choose to clone individual opportunities to create new, similar ones.
- Update your site with new opportunities. Engage volunteers with a variety of new virtual opportunities as you begin to promote your site.
- Edit virtual opportunities. You may choose to keep some virtual opportunities, especially for those who are not quite ready for group gatherings. If so, decide which virtual opportunities still address needs in your community.
Update Your Site's Spotlights and Images
Because your spotlights and image rotator are prominent on your site, you’ll want to make sure they look fresh and inviting. Consider spotlighting new opportunities. Or, create a spotlight that links to a custom page thanking your community for their support and acknowledging the changes your organization has made during the COVID-19 recovery phase.
You’ll want your site to look reinvigorated. We recommend you switch up the images in your site’s image rotator once in a while, and especially as you invite volunteers to participate in new programming. You may also want to create an image in the rotator featuring a program or initiative (and link to the appropriate opportunities page).
Re-establish Regular Communication
Some of your volunteers will be ready to participate in your in-person opportunities while others may need some time and reassurance. So your first step in drawing your volunteers back in is to establish regular communication once again while being sensitive to their various sentiments.
We believe volunteers are more likely to re-engage with your organization when they feel:
Excited about new opportunities
Informed about major changes to programming
Prepared for getting involved again
Here are some ways you can use the communication tools in your Get Connected software to re-engage your volunteers and community partners:
Send an Email Blast
One of the best ways to keep your community informed is to reach out via email, especially when circumstances are changing regularly. We don’t recommend you overwhelm your volunteers with all this information in one email. Instead, consider composing an email drip campaign or newsletter. We have created a recommended sequence to inspire engagement efforts:
Email 1: “Welcome Back!”
We recommend you start with an introductory (or re-introductory) email when resuming programming. Welcome your volunteers again and thank them for their continued support. Let them know that you’re back up and running and you need their help. Bear in mind that some of your volunteers may not be ready to commit to regular in-person. Help your volunteers feel safe by communicating your newly implemented safety measures and infrastructure. Overall, we recommend that you keep the tone of your first email outreach should be gentle and reassuring.
Email 2: “Check Out Our Exciting Volunteer Opportunities!”
Once you have re-welcomed your volunteers, highlight brand new opportunities in an email and direct volunteers to your opportunities page on your Get Connected software. Do you plan to continue some of your virtual volunteer opportunities? If so, let your volunteers know! It’s a great way to engage participants who may not be ready to commit to regular in-person volunteering. If you are commencing your in-person opportunities, we recommend you include information about your organization’s updated social distancing policies. End your email with a call to action, inspiring volunteers to visit your opportunities page and sign-up (don’t forget the link).
Email 3: “Here’s How We’re Moving Forward”
Finally, we recommend you communicate major program updates and changes, such as:
Program mission - some organizations may have shifted programming and/or their mission in response to COVID-19, during recovery, or may shift moving forward to address the changing needs of their communities
Communication methods, contact information, and emergency phone numbers
The pandemic has had a profound effect on the way many community-based organizations operate moving forward. By acknowledging these changes, you can help your volunteers feel involved in the direction of your program. Your communication with your volunteers should be reassuring in tone, and we recommend you send these emails with an acknowledgment of your community’s continued support.
Send a Text
Text messaging is an inexpensive way to reach your volunteers with a bit more urgency. Keep your texts short and snappy in tone, and include a call-to-action. Here are some examples of texts to re-engage your volunteers:
“We’ve missed you! When you’re ready, check out our volunteer opportunities here. From all your friends at [organization name].”
“Hey there! We’re back up and running and eager to make a difference! Sign up to volunteer here [insert website link]. ”
“Just a quick note to let you know that we can’t wait to see you again! Volunteer here."
Promote Your Site on Social Media
Social media is a powerful engagement tool, and there’s no better time to compose a re-engagement strategy than now. Need some content inspiration? Try these posts:
Announce your return to business as usual
Feature new opportunities or initiatives
Highlight your virtual volunteer superstars
Thank your supporters
Let your community know you’re thinking about them
Post pictures of happy volunteers participating in your opportunities (don’t be afraid to draw from pre-pandemic photos)
It’s important to stick with it and keep posting quality material. Your fans and followers are more likely to notice the organizations with an active online presence. Don’t worry, we have resources available to help you craft a social media strategy and share directly from your Get Connected site.
Social Media Resources for Volunteer Coordinators
Plan Something Special
Give volunteers and donors a special reason to get involved again. Consider planning a new initiative, a virtual volunteer fair, or an online appreciation event for your volunteers to look forward to. Don’t forget to promote your event or initiative on social media and in an email blast to your volunteers.
Host a Virtual Volunteer Event
Why not thank your volunteers for supporting your organization? You may not be ready to open your doors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan special virtual events!Use online video tools, from Zoom to Facebook Live Streaming to create virtual events to keep volunteers involved:
Host a virtual volunteer fair to introduce interested supporters to new opportunities, programs, and partner agencies. Invite community partners and programs to share what they’re doing to help the community. You may choose to pre-record these videos and post them on your site. Don’t forget to promote your virtual volunteer fair online!
Facilitate a roundtable discussion or question and answer session using Zoom or Skype to re-engage your most dedicated volunteers. This is also a great way to gather feedback from your supporters to help shape future programming.
Get Creative with Initiatives
Volunteers will be eager for new opportunities. Creating a volunteerism campaign using your software’s Initiatives feature is a great way to get volunteers excited about taking part in your program once again, even if it’s virtual! Here are some ways you can use initiatives to boost engagement:
Encourage volunteers to log their hours and highlight your most active volunteers throughout the Initiative.
Use the Initiative banner to tell your story: Who’s helping and how are they making a real difference?
Highlight your most important opportunities, like volunteering in a box, using the Initiatives banner!
In-person events can let your supporters know just how much they mean to your organization. However you choose to involve your volunteers, your Get Connected software makes it easy to create and manage events. If you need a refresher, check out these articles:
Read how Willamalane Parks and Recreation District engaged their volunteers during COVID-19.
More Resources on COVID-19 Response and Recovery