Motivate Volunteers Virtually with Nonprofit Marketing Automation

Nonprofit marketing automation helps improve volunteer engagement during Covid.

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Across the country and around the world, nonprofits are in a seemingly constant state of pivoting. Since the debut of COVID-19, organizations have changed how they do everything, from soliciting donors to running their programs. But what’s a responsive nonprofit to do to keep their volunteer program running when they can’t meet in person or gather in groups?

Time for another pivot, this time in your approach to volunteer engagement. Even without in-person meetings, you can engage and motivate your volunteers.

Nonprofit marketing automation activates the same responsive principles you use to connect with donors to build your organization’s relationship with volunteers. Personalized communication, driven by volunteer behavior, keeps volunteers involved even when they’re physically distant. 

How to Use Donor Signals to Target Volunteers with Nonprofit Marketing Automation

Your community is sending you signals all the time, showing you what interests them and what they find most important and meaningful about your work. Responsive fundraising uses these signals to connect with donors and offer suggestions for their next, best action. The framework can also apply to volunteers. 

When someone becomes a volunteer at your nonprofit, they’re sending a strong signal about their commitment to and interest in your organization. More than ever, they should feel included and important in the work you do. Personalization and communication help convey that volunteers are a valued part of your community. When you listen to their signals, connect with their interests, and suggest next steps of involvement, you’re meeting them on a human level and building a real relationship. 

Signals to listen to include website behavior, emails opened, links clicked, and social shares, along with the things volunteers actually tell you in conversations, like, “I am really excited about your educational outreach program!” or “I hate phone calls.” 

Nonprofit marketing automation allows organizations to send the right message to the right contact at the right time. It would be impossible for an already-overwhelmed nonprofit staff to individually track every donor signal, but a responsive CRM and nonprofit marketing automation make it simple to track signals and engage every donor and volunteer personally, at scale. 

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5 Ways to Use Nonprofit Marketing Automation to Inspire and Engage Volunteers

1. Virtual Events

Virtual events are a safe and convenient way to bring people together.  They can keep volunteers connected to your organization and engaged with each other. Online fundraising events have gotten a lot of attention lately, but there are more possibilities for nonprofits. Using video conferencing and other technological tools, you can offer your volunteers: 

  • Trainings and orientations
  • Meetings
  • Classes
  • Film viewings
  • Webinars and talks
  • Panel discussions
  • Informal social gatherings

As you plan your virtual volunteer events, it’s important to be responsive to volunteers’ interests. “Zoom fatigue” is real, and if your volunteers are working online all day, they may not be motivated to attend something that’s only mildly relevant to them. 

To find out what kind of virtual events are most interesting to volunteers, use marketing automation to conduct a survey, and then consider the trends that emerge. Do your volunteers want to start an online book club to learn more about your cause, have an online happy hour to meet other volunteers, or attend a webinar on a new program? Ask them! 

2. Video

Video is attention-getting and easy to quickly watch and absorb. Add it to your nonprofit marketing automation flows to thank volunteers, send a quick update, or share a behind-the-scenes look at your programs. 

You can send videos to your entire volunteer base, or 1:1 messages to specific volunteers. Using video tools like Bonjoro, you can send volunteers a personalized message without doing a lot of legwork. These messages are great for recognizing milestones like anniversaries and birthdays or sending a personal thank you.

Your videos don’t need to be professionally produced or edited to be impactful, even a simple smartphone recording can do the job. In this case, the value isn’t slick production, it’s personalization and authenticity. 

3. Engagement Sequences

Just like a “Welcome Series” of automated emails helps keep the excitement going for new donors, engagement sequences can keep your volunteers invested in volunteering. An engagement sequence is simply a timed sequence of communications, triggered by volunteer behavior. 

For example, if a volunteer attends a virtual training, the engagement sequence that follows might include:

  • A thank you email for attending, with a link to the recording of the training
  • A day later, an email with additional resources related to the training, with a call-to-action to download a resource packet
  • A couple of days later, a video clip related to the training, with an invitation to subscribe to your Youtube channel

If a volunteer completes an online volunteer assignment, the engagement sequence could include:

  • A thank you email with an impact story
  • A day later, an assigned call from a staff member to see how the assignment went
  • A couple of days later, an email with an excerpt from your volunteer blog, with an invitation to subscribe

Engagement sequences prolong the volunteer’s good feelings while keeping your organization top of mind. 

4. Social Media Highlights

Social media is a great way to highlight your volunteers and their contributions. Use your CRM to keep track of important milestones like volunteer anniversaries, volunteer hour achievements, and birthdays, and automate task assignments to give your volunteers a shout out on their special days.

You can also highlight volunteer activity on social media, celebrating what they’ve accomplished in the past, explaining volunteer roles to your larger audience, and thanking your volunteers. 

5. Informational Content Sequences

Informational content sequences are a nonprofit marketing automation tactic designed to educate the recipient about your cause. These are best used with volunteers who have signaled that they want to learn more. 

An informational content sequence can be used to introduce a new program, celebrate volunteer contributions, or go deeper into cause-related learning. It can include videos, blog posts, articles, interviews, direct mail, and phone calls. 

An informational content sequence to introduce a new program might include:

  • Day 1: A slideshow introducing the program
  • Day 2: A video explaining the issue the program solves
  • Day 3: A Q&A with someone served by the program
  • Day 4: An infographic about volunteer roles in the program
  • Day 5: A CTA to sign up for a volunteer role in the program
  • Day 6: A follow-up call with everyone who signed up

An informational content sequence to celebrate volunteers might include:

  • Day 1: A video thank you to volunteers from executive director
  • Day 2: An infographic about volunteers annual achievements
  • Day 3: A Q&A with longest-serving volunteer
  • Days 4-6: Slideshows about volunteers in specific programs
  • Day 7: A video thank you from people served by programs

Keep Engaging Your Volunteers with Nonprofit Marketing Automation

Your volunteers may be on a break for the moment, but you’re going to need them in the future. Continually engaging them is good for volunteer retention and keeping your volunteer base strong. More than ever, now is a time to strengthen ties and build relationships within your community–nonprofit marketing automation helps you consistently connect with every member of your community in a personal and meaningful way. 

Responsive Fundraising: The Blueprint for Engaging Modern Donors

Traditional fundraising strategies no longer work. This blueprint explains why today's donor expects more, and how nonprofits are shifting to responsive fundraising.

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