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marketing volunteer opportunities online|
This information was last updated on August 7, 2000
Marketing volunteer opportunities online offers many benefits for recruiting both face-to-face and online volunteers:
Online marketing should not replace your offline recruitment methods. It will, however, greatly augment those efforts, by reaching new audiences and reminding people how they can support your organization.
- It's effective, fast and easy, and doesn't require any additional costs.
- It's an excellent way to reach non-traditional volunteers, and populations that might be under-represented in an organization's volunteer ranks (seniors, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, etc.)
- You can reach a very targeted group, such as a particular kind of professional (a lawyer focused on the arts, a human resource professional in a particular region, an accountant with expertise in a particular kind of software, etc.) or people in a specific geographic area
Before posting your volunteer information into cyberspace, however, some very important words of caution:
When providing volunteer information online, whether in the form of an e-mail announcement, discussion group posting or a web page, remember:
- DO NOT recruit volunteers online (or offline, for that matter) until you have well-defined, written opportunity descriptions, and you have an immediate next step for people who call or e-mail about these opportunities (a date for a face-to-face meeting or orientation, for instance, even if it is several weeks away). Asking for volunteers but not responding to them immediately or not having a method to immediately place them into your volunteer program is like advertising a product you don't really have, and it can cause hard feelings about your agency on the part of potential supporters.
- If your organization cannot or does not answer e-mail within 48 hours of receipt (two business days), don't include your e-mail address as a way for potential volunteers to contact you. Instead, in your online announcements, direct volunteers to call. The VV Project has heard from many, many people who read about an agency's volunteer opportunities online and e-mailed their interest in helping; these potential volunteers were never contacted, and after weeks of waiting, went on to other volunteer assignments with bad feelings toward the original agency they had wanted to assist.
- Make sure those who answer your agency's phone know you are posting information to the Internet, in case there is an increase in phone calls regarding volunteer opportunities or calls about "that e-mail you posted."
- include the organization's name, physical address, phone number, e-mail address (if this is an acceptable way for potential volunteers to contact you), and Web address (if you have one).
- provide information about specific volunteer opportunities (an overview of the kinds of service opportunities available will do).
- provide information that will educate potential volunteers about the organization's mission, program focus, and value to the community, as well as the value of volunteers to this organization.
Online Discussion Groups
- Announce volunteer opportunities on appropriate Internet newsgroups and lists.
Look for groups whose participants are located in or focused on your geographic area, and groups centered around a particular subject or issue. For instance, if you are looking for someone to help with Web site development, contact a discussion group for Web site developers. For someone to help with an environmental project, look for an environmental activists group. For help at a special event for an agency that works in a particular city, find a group for citizens of that city.
Also called Usenet, newsgroups are Internet discussions, each dedicated to a particular topic. Newsgroups can be accessed via a news reader or via many Web browsers, such as Netscape. Messages are "posted" to the newsgroup, for everyone who subscribes to the newsgroup to see (it is free to subscribe to most newsgroups).
Internet mailing lists are discussions via e-mail. Messages go to a central point and are then "reflected" automatically back to all who subscribe to the list. It is free to subscribe to an e-mail list. However, please note when you subscribe to any of such lists that the address for subscriptions is DIFFERENT than the address for posting comments and questions.
Lurk before you leap; get a sense of the audience on a particular newsgroup or list before posting, to make sure that the audience would be receptive to your information. For instance, don't post volunteer opportunities to the newsgroup soc.org.nonprofit, as this group is made up of other nonprofit professionals who are looking for volunteers themselves. Posting inappropriately can result in bad publicity for your organization.
Good places to look for appropriate newsgroups and lists are via these Web sites, using the appropriate keywords:
Search using the name of the city where you are located and another keyword, such as volunteer, general, human resources, or the name of nearby colleges and universities to get the names of Internet discussion groups in your area that would be appropriate for the posting of volunteer opportunities.
There are too many regional newsgroups to name here. Plus, new newsgroups appear and others disappear continuously. Here are a few examples of regional newsgroups, to give you an idea of keywords to look for when searching for appropriate newsgroups to post your volunteer opportunities (note that if you click on a group to which your Internet Service Provider (ISP) does not subscribe, you will get a "file not found" error; contact your ISP if you think it should provide access to a particular newsgroup; or, access the group via remarq.com or dejanews.com.
for announcements of San Francisco Bay Area volunteer opportunities and activities
For volunteer opportunities in the Seattle-area
Discussions and postings about anything in Nebraska.
General discussions, Chicago area.
Items of general interest to the Washington, DC area.
General discussions for Tacoma/Pierce County Washington.
Discussion of general matters in Santa Cruz, California
World Wide Web
- Provide information to Web sites that post volunteer opportunities, or link to volunteer opportunities. Impact Online's VolunteerMatch service is a place to start. When you've registered your organization on VolunteerMatch, look into registering on other Web sites that offer ways to promote your volunteer opportunities via their Web sites (such as Action Without Borders and ServeNet).
- Prepare a page on the organization's web site for volunteer opportunities, or at least, information on how and why to volunteer with the organization. Make sure the site's home page and other key pages link to this service informatin page.
- Follow the guidelines of our information on How To Find Technical Assistance Volunteers to be involved virtually. This is an extensive, very detailed guide on how and where to recruit online volunteers with particular areas of expertise -- human resources, legal advisors, web designers, accountants, professional groups for members of a particular ethnicity, etc.