Nonprofit marketing automation has revolutionized how organizations are able to mobilize volunteers—providing new and innovative ways to engage and activate supporters. With automation, nonprofits can implement responsive principles to engage specific groups of volunteers with tailored messaging, making it easier to engage volunteers with specific skills or interests.
In this article
- How to use donor signals to target volunteers with nonprofit marketing automation
- Five ways to use nonprofit marketing automation to inspire and engage volunteers
- Keep engaging your volunteers with nonprofit marketing automation
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 the 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.
Five ways to use nonprofit marketing automation to inspire and engage volunteers
Create virtual events to mobilize volunteers
Virtual events are convenient ways to bring people together. They can keep volunteers connected to your organization and engaged with each other. Online fundraising events received a lot of attention starting in 2020, but there are even more possibilities for nonprofits now. Using video conferencing and other technological tools, you can mobilize volunteers with the following:
- Training and orientations
- Film viewings
- Webinars and talks
- Panel discussions
- Informal social gatherings
As you plan virtual volunteer events, it’s important to be responsive to volunteers’ interests. “Zoom fatigue” is real, and if your volunteers may already be working online regularly—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!
Use video to deepen volunteer engagement
Video is attention-getting and easy to watch quickly 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.
Engagement sequences that encourage a next step
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 the following:
- 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 the following:
- 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.
Celebrate volunteers on social media
Social media is a great way to highlight your volunteers and their contributions. Use your nonprofit 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.
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 the following:
- 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 the executive director
- Day 2: An infographic about volunteers’ annual achievements
- Day 3: A Q&A with the longest-serving volunteer
- Days 4-6: Slideshows about volunteers in specific programs
- Day 7: A video thank you from people served by programs
Deeper engagement also provides the opportunity for turning volunteers into donors—which may be a natural next step for many of your supporters.
Keep engaging your volunteers with nonprofit marketing automation
The right strategy paired with the right volunteer management tools can help cultivate volunteer engagement. Your volunteers are key to the growth of your mission and impact. Continually engaging them is good for volunteer retention and keeping your volunteer base strong. There is never a bad 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.