Engaging Volunteers in Nonprofit Marketing

Many nonprofit organizations depend on help from volunteers, and sometimes that includes using volunteers in nonprofit marketing. Having volunteers on your team can be beneficial in many ways, including keeping costs down for the organization and creating rewarding opportunities for individuals with specific skills to give back to their community.

From volunteers who serve on the board to the ones who show up to staff an event, volunteers are critical to the success of a nonprofit. But volunteers can also create risk for an organization if not properly trained or supervised.

If you’re engaging volunteers in your marketing efforts, keep these tips in mind.

Have a clear message

Volunteers need to know what your organization does and how they do it before helping with any aspect of marketing. That means the organization needs to have a clearly defined message first before they tap into volunteers to help share that message. Whether helping with managing social media or making calls to ask for donations for an upcoming event, volunteers need to know how to talk about the organization to ensure the message remains clear and consistent.

Create a style guide

Your style guide helps protect your brand, so be sure to create at least a basic style guide before you start engaging volunteers to help with marketing. Your brand is a total package that includes your name, your logo, the look and feel of any print or online materials, and the voice you use in written materials. Your brand includes how people feel about your organization, which can be impacting by all of those things and more.

The style guide should outline how to write the organization’s name, what (if any) abbreviations are acceptable, and guidelines for using the logo and any logo marks. It’s also helpful to include common colors used in marketing materials and the preferred spelling of commonly used words. For example, are you a nonprofit organization or a non-profit organization or a not-for-profit organization when referring to yourself? (Here at StoryPath, our style guide specifies nonprofit.) As questions come up from volunteers, add them to the style guide.

Run everything through one editor or reviewer

The best way to ensure consistent voice and style is to make sure all written marketing materials go through one consistent person for review. That could be a volunteer editor who clearly knows the message and style guide or a contracted editor to help ensure consistency. Or it could be the marketing manager on staff who has the final say on all content. Whoever it is, narrow it down to one person as a final check on voice and style.

Consider social media takeovers for volunteers

A social media takeover is when you specifically say something like “Jim, one of our long-time volunteers, will be doing a social media takeover this weekend to give you a firsthand look at our event.” And then Jim posts from the organization’s social accounts but signs or tags each post as “Jim Smith – Volunteer” so people know the context. This approach can provide a little more flexibility and show a different perspective to your followers, and takeover posts by an individual often get higher engagement than the usual social media content posted by an organization. When people get to see and hear the perspective of a supporter of the organization, it allows them to better understand the organization itself. You’ll still want to ensure volunteers are clear on your organization’s message and style guide before starting a takeover though.

While volunteers are a huge asset to any nonprofit organization, you want to make sure they’re adding value to your marketing efforts and not creating confusion. With these tips, you can ensure a consistent marketing message across all channels when engaging volunteers in your marketing.

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