Finding volunteers can be one of the hardest parts of running a charity. For a lot of people, although volunteering offers great opportunities, it just takes too much time. Fortunately, the internet is making it a lot easier and a lot less time consuming for both charities and people to get involved.

Ahead of National Volunteering Week (June 1st – 7th) we take a look at how the internet can help non-profits and volunteers get the most out of volunteering.

Getting People Involved

More and more non-profits are using the internet and social media to involve volunteers at the very heart their causes and campaigns.

This is a win-win situation as many volunteers have often been affected by the particular issue they are campaigning for and are able to share powerful personal stories helping charities raise awareness. It also means that via the internet non-profits can offer meaty volunteer opportunities that can be tailored to the time volunteers have to offer – from regular online support and mentoring to a one off blog post.

Jodie’s a mum of two who works in IT, but her blog of her volunteering trip to Zimbabwe is at the heart of the Oxfam Blog alongside their national and international stories.

Smaller non-profits are drafting social media savvy volunteers in to help post on their Twitter feeds and update Facebook. It’s always best to brief social media volunteers to ensure that they are on message with your charity’s aims and to ensure what they are posting is useful and interesting. The Forum – who work with migrant and refugee communities – hold a 7 week Digital Activism For All course which encourages volunteer activism using the internet, Facebook and Twitter.

Harnessing Expertise

Coming up with a solid social media campaign can be a difficult task, but there are a lot of people on the Internet who know how to do it. How can they be found? Through social media. Send out tweets asking for anyone who can help you out. There’s a good chance that a Twitter expert will be following you and if they are already following you it shows they have a certain amount of interest in your cause. Do the same on Facebook by posting to your wall asking if anyone wants to help you out. There are no better Facebook experts than those who use it every day.

A great example of this is a campaign launched this year by BritMums called Charity Connections – Blogging it Forward. They are one of the largest and most influential networks for parent bloggers, and this new initiative is about them helping charities harness the promotional power of bloggers to spread awareness of their needs and campaigns.

Making Things Easy

One of the things that puts off many potential volunteers is the misconception that volunteering has to take up all of their time. This just isn’t the case anymore. There are some great websites that are designed to get people their volunteering fix and help charities get important work done.

Sparked is an excellent example of such a website. It’s a micro-volunteering site that matches up users’ skills and interests to challenges set by charities. These challenges could be anything from generating new ideas, helping mobilise a social media campaign or designing a logo. Within minutes people can be matched up to challenges that suit their interests and can get started helping out. Setting challenges for users is great for charities because it ensures that you can get a wide range of people interested in helping you out.

Another online tool useful for getting volunteers is Do-it, an online database that helps people find the right charity to volunteer for. It’s a quick way for people to find a volunteering opportunities that suits them. If you want to get your charity listed in the database the price varies from around £30 to £450 a year, depending on your size.

Saying Thanks

There are few things more powerful at building loyalty than a genuine thank you. It’s important that if someone puts in the time and effort to help you out that you show your gratitude. The internet gives you a number of different ways to say thanks; it could be something as simple as sending out a tweet thanking your volunteer for all their hard work, or something more complex like this great thank you video from Cancer Research UK specially designed for National Volunteer Week 2012.

Sharing your story

Through blogs and videos you can really highlight the work you are doing and the impact you are having. RSPCA Danahar made this great video to showcase the role volunteers play in the charity, their day to day tasks and the ultimate feelgood factor – lots of cute cats and dogs.

It’s a great tactic because not only does it put the volunteers in the spotlight, giving them a few minutes of fame, it also shows the great work that you and your volunteers are doing – encouraging more people to get involved.

Developing Relationships

People volunteer often to get something out of it – whether that’s a sense of giving something back, helping others, meeting new people or improving their CV. Some websites have cottoned on to this and reward acts of social good with prizes!

BlueDot rewards volunteering, donating and campaigning for charities with dots – which can then be redeemed against downloads and gig tickets. So, the more good someone does, the more dots they get, and the more rewards they gain.

This ensures that volunteers are rewarded and feel valued on many levels – they are getting something out as well as putting in, and as a result are more likely to volunteer in the future.

These are just a few ways and ideas you can use to help boost your volunteer programme via the internet. If you’d like more tips then get in contact with us or sign up to our newsletter.

Blog Post by Jordan Harling & Jo Dunning

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