I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the donor acquisition process; well, actually more about the volunteer acquisition process which presumably is connected. I filled out volunteer forms on 2 nonprofit websites recently – the local chapter of the American Diabetes Association (type 2 diabetes runs in my family) and the Arthritis Foundation (my mom has had Rheumatoid Arthritis since she was a teenager). So far, the Arthritis Foundation has contacted me about the specific event I was interested in (the Jingle Bell Walk/Run) and the Diabetes Association has just sent me an ask for their annual appeal (not very appealing).
I brought our communications manager and my mom to the annual Jingle Bell walk/run last Sunday to volunteer. Honestly, I just wanted to volunteer (and see if my mom – who is about to retire – might be interested in getting involved), but my analytical marketing brain just doesn’t stop!
The first thing I noticed was that they had no volunteer orientation. It was my first time at the event and I literally had no idea what to expect. They sent an email prior to the event that told us to go to the volunteer tent to pick up our assignment. I arrived at 6 am fueled by a Carl’s Jr. breakfast that hopefully would sustain me in spite of only a few hour of sleep (note to self – only choose volunteer assignments that don’t involve early mornings).
We were assigned to a game station about a mile and a half away – somewhere in the middle of the 5k walk route; it felt very remote but scenic – kind of like camping except that the campers were all running by wearing Santa hats (and sometimes Santa beards, red and green stockings and tutus)!
So, even though we weren’t participating in the walk, I guesstimate that I walked about 6 – 7 miles by the time we were done; too far for my mom though, so I probably should have asked for an arthritis-friendly station assignment… and while I enjoyed the activity, I don’t know that I really accomplished what I set out to do – to get a feel for what the organization was like and where I might fit in to help – and meet some people involved with it. Literally, the only time I met or spoke to anyone from the organization was for a few seconds at 6 am at the volunteer tent to get my assignment!
But back to what I’m really thinking about. How are they going to engage me as a volunteer? Clearly in this economy, engaging your volunteers and turning them into donors would be a low-hanging fruit kind of scenario. Check out this article Blurred Lines: Turning Donors into Volunteers…into Donors where they talk about volunteers donating on average 10X more than non-volunteers!
Here’s what I’m thinking would make for some great volunteer engagement:
- Respond quickly to people who sign up online to volunteer for anything. This is a perfect opportunity to use an automated welcome email that includes some info about the event and your organization. Even though you’ll be sending out another email later, it’s good to acknowledge the volunteer right away.
- Have some kind of orientation before an event or activity even if its only for 10 minutes before the volunteers report to their stations on the day of the event.
- Put together a volunteer orientation packet (a general one for the organization and then one specific to any events); the packet can be used at the orientation and/or linked to in the volunteer welcome email.
- Assign your volunteer coordinator (or another staff person or a veteran volunteer) to meet and greet all volunteers – touching bases with them at least once during your event or activity.
- Ask your volunteers to take photos at the event or activity for your website and marketing materials. People love taking and sharing photos – and you may get some interesting gems you can use. Plus, it’s just one more way to engage them.
- Send a follow-up thank you email – make sure it’s addressed to them only (rather than showing a whole bunch of CCs and a generic salutation) and sent within a week of the event or activity. Include other ways to volunteer or get involved, and ask them to follow you on social media.