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How to attract more volunteers than ever before through online marketing in 2018

By Alexandra Gavril - November 30, 2017

In an age when being busy has become a status symbol, it can be a challenge to attract enough volunteers to your organisation. Even if you stand for a good cause, have a nice website and are using social media to reach more people, this won’t guarantee success in 2018.

It may be time to shake up your recruiting methods. In this article we’ll explain which online marketing strategies to use in 2018 to attract more volunteers who are eager to participate and support your cause.

Tell a story that makes people feel connected to your cause

People need a reason to care about a cause or an issue. They need a reason to want to get involved. If you can tell it to them in the form of a story, you’ll have a higher chance of getting people involved.

While it’s normal for your cause to not resonate with some people at first, try to find an angle that might be relevant for a bigger part of your audience.


For example, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign wasn’t successful because so many people resonated with the cause and wanted to immediately support and donate to the cause. It was successful because of the entertainingly genius marketing idea and how easy people could get involved.

So, no matter what causes your non-profit is fighting for, whether it’s to encourage people to adopt more pets from shelters or to collect clothing for a local homeless shelter, find an angle and a story that’s engaging and makes people want to volunteer.

For example, few people think about what it would be like to lose everything and become homeless. In telling real stories about others who have lost their jobs and homes, and how your organisation has helped them, you can get people thinking about how hard it must be for people in that situation, and maybe entice them to volunteer.

So try to find a connection that would work for your cause that would emotionally resonate. Make sure you keep the message simple and straightforward to hold their attention.

Explain how they can make a difference

Focus your message on what it means to be a volunteer at your non-profit. While it’s important to explain the role, what they’re expected to do and how much time it will take, it’s more important to focus on how being a volunteer can help make a difference. When they see that their participation will have a positive impact and actually do something, they will want to join in.

Video is a fantastic and very effective way to illustrate how people can help. So try to get some footage of volunteers working within your organisation and maybe even get them talking about their experience.

Here’s an example from Animal Humane Society where they show what a day looks like at the animal shelter and how volunteers help out:

And here’s another one from Make-A-Wish Australia where volunteers talk about what it’s like to add a little magic to other people’s lives:

Use live video

Live video is taking content marketing by storm, and that will continue in 2018. It’s not only a powerful way to communicate your story but it’s also more engaging for your audience to experience it.

If you’re not sure live video is right for your organisation, or if you think it might be a waste of time and resources, maybe these stats will help change your mind:

So if you’re still thinking text and images, it might be time for an upgrade. If you want to attract more volunteers in 2018, you’ll need to start working with live video to capture the attention and engagement of your audience.

You have plenty of platforms to work with, from Facebook Live and Instagram Live to Periscope and YouTube Live. If you don’t know how to use these social networks to do live videos, these resources are very helpful at explaining how each one works:

So use whichever social platform your audience is on, and start live streaming videos.

Don’t know what you should be live streaming? If you’re trying to attract volunteers, you can do live videos about anything from your cause and mission to a special moment in the life of a volunteer or someone you’ve helped. You can also do a Q&A where you answer people’s questions about volunteering with your organisation.

Now, if you’re not comfortable going live, and prefer doing a traditional video instead, that’s also an effective way to get people’s attention.

Here’s an example from charity:water, a non-profit organisation that excels at using videos in their communication:


Use the right hashtags

Hashtags are still an integral part of any social media marketing strategy. That’s because they work and, when used right, they can be fundamental to generating exposure and audience engagement.

If you’re not familiar with hashtags, they function as a way of labelling your content to help make it easier to discover by users.

Now, many organisations will hashtag their name, but unless yours is popular, your content might not get the broad reach you want. So instead try to use more general hashtags that potential volunteers might search for, such as #volunteering or #volunteerwork.

Check out our beginner’s guide to hashtags where we explain what hashtags are, how to use them, tools to find the most effective ones and also tips on how to create your own hashtags.

Leverage influencers

In 2018, make sure you put influencers to work. People listen to them more than even, so if they’re volunteering or recommending your organisation and supporting your cause, they will too.

So find those influencers that may want support your cause and get them talking about your non-profit and your causes. Encourage them to volunteer with your organisation and to share their experience and what it meant to them.

If you want to learn more about influencers and how to find and build a relationship with them, check out below resources. While they’re written for businesses, the same advice applies to non-profits as well.

Integrate website chat and messaging into your marketing

People want to communicate anytime and anywhere they want with your organisation. So you need to be where they are, ready to answer their questions and concerns.

Messaging is expected to be a big online marketing trend in 2018 so you best be prepared. Depending on your time and resources, and where your audience spends time online, make the effort to provide people with different ways to communicate with you. These can be a website chat and/or external social media and messaging tools like WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook chat.

You can also take advantage of these tools to reach out to potential volunteers privately and have a one-on-one conversation with them about the causes you support and how their help can make a difference.

Wrapping up

There you have it – some of the best ways your organisation can use online marketing in 2018 to attract more volunteers. Try as many as you can to see which ones work best for your organisation.