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Boost Volunteer Engagement Using Digital Tools


Two volunteers seated at table, their exchange relayed through speech bubbles. Younger one says, "Let's trend #VolunTinder, swipe right to help society". Older female volunteer laughingly responds, "Great idea, because my gardening skills are a dating disaster!"
Volunteers Discuss Digital Innovation

In today's fast-paced interconnected world, small and micro charities in the UK are discovering new and innovative ways to engage volunteers and foster a sense of community. As a charity consultant, I've seen first-hand how volunteer engagement using digital tools can transform volunteer experience, create a vibrant community spirit, and in short be lifelines that connects hearts and hands to causes. Wherever your organisation is on its digital journey, use this guide to help bolster volunteer involvement and your volunteer community.

 

Understanding the Digital Landscape

The digital world is vast and varied, and you may be put off by the idea that other charities seem two or three steps ahead of you already.  That’s definitely not true among smaller charities, when we know we're always grappling with limited resources. So, take a deep breath and just get started, because volunteer engagement is so valuable. Consistency and authenticity are key, and your confidence will grow rapidly as you bolster a community spirit.

 

Before diving into strategies, it's crucial first to understand the digital landscape. The internet offers a plethora of tools and platforms that can facilitate communication, volunteer involvement and collaboration, and community building. From social media to dedicated volunteer management software, the opportunities are endless.

 

Research your tools: Understand the features and audiences of different platforms. For example, Instagram is great for visual storytelling about and for volunteers, while Twitter can be perfect for updates and links to articles. LinkedIn can help you tap into professional networks and the volunteer community.


Digital literacy: Ensure that both staff and volunteers are comfortable with the tools you choose. This is likely to mean organising training sessions and creating simple guides tailored to their needs.

 

Embracing Social Media

Social media is the town square of the digital age.  Here are just a few simple tips to help you make the most of it for your organisation and for volunteer engagement.

 

Content calendars: Plan your posts with a content calendar. This ensures regular update and helps you prepare for key events or campaigns to maximise volunteer involvement and a community spirit.


Authentic storytelling: Share stories that resonate – real anecdotes about your volunteers and the part they are playing in your organisation can be incredibly powerful.


Engage, don’t just broadcast: Two-way communication is key. Volunteer involvement is about encouraging interaction by asking questions, responding to comments, and creating posts that involve them in conversations.

 

Leveraging Technology for Volunteer Management

Streamline Onboarding: Use digital forms and online databases to make signing up as a volunteer as simple and straightforward as possible. I am not going to recommend any one in particular, but there are a number of digital volunteer management tools to check out, including VolunteerMark, TimeCounts and VolunteerLocal.


Efficient scheduling: Also take a look at a platform like SignUpGenius to help you manage volunteer schedules without the back-and-forth of emails.


Personalised recognition: Use tools like Canva to create personalised thank-you graphics or certificates, adding a personal touch to volunteer engagement and recognition.

 

Fostering an Online Community

Creating an online community for your volunteers provides a digital home to foster community spirit.


Exclusive spaces: Platforms like Slack, Discord and WhatsApp can be used to create private spaces for volunteers to chat, share and collaborate.


Regular virtual touchpoints: Organise regular online meet-ups, workshops, or webinars to bolster volunteer engagement and help volunteers stay informed. Encourage them to share stories and anecdotes.


Collaborative projects: Use collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams to enable volunteers to work together on projects, even from a distance, as this fosters a sense of ownership and team spirit.

 

Challenges and Solutions

Naturally, every digital journey encounters the occasional roadblock, but these can be managed:


Bridging the digital divide: Offer varied levels of engagement to take into account individual preferences, and for those with different access to technology. Be open to providing basic tech training and offering support for those who may not be as comfortable with digital tools.


Tech literacy: Host workshops and create simple, visual guides to help volunteers who might be less tech-savvy feel more at ease with digital tools.

 

 

Success Stories

Celebrating and sharing success stories can act as a beacon for both current and potential volunteers:


Case studies:  Share detailed case studies on your website or via newsletters that go beyond mere statistics to tell the deeper story of your impact.


Video testimonials: Use the power of video to share impactful stories from volunteers, which can serve as a powerful tool for engagement and recruitment.

 

Final Thoughts on How to Boost Volunteer Engagement Using Digital Tools

As you harness the power of digital, remember that technology is a means, not an end. It’s a vessel to carry your mission further and to knit a community, bound by shared purpose and passion.

 

Keep exploring, adapting and innovating. The digital realm is ever evolving, and so too should be our approach to using it. With the right blend of technology and humanity, your charity will not just grow, it can flourish.

 

Remember, the true power of digital is not in the tools themselves, but in the connections they enable and the stories they help us share. Whether you're just starting or looking to improve your existing efforts, remember that your approach should be as unique as your charity. Good luck, and here's to building a stronger, more connected volunteer community!

 


Jenny Hopkins is the founder of The Boiling Frog. After an early career in publishing, she moved to the charity sector as CEO of a regional frontline charity. Over a period of ten years, she was credited with transforming it into an award-winning organisation and trusted partner of local health and social care statutory bodies. She now works as a charity consultant, sharing her own learning and experience to help small and micro charities adapt to an ever-evolving operational environment, alongside doing a part-time PhD research study on the impact of marketisation on deaf charities. Recently, she has created the unique 'Tools for Charities' resource to help senior managers achieve some of their everyday tasks more quickly, more easily, and hopefully with a lot less stress.


Jenny uses The Boiling Frog blog as a way to reflect and challenge her own experience and perceptions about the role of charities in society today. She also volunteers as a trustee for two charities.

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