This is the third post in a series of articles on the topic of digital marketing for nonprofits and creating the perfect nonprofit website. In the first two articles, we discussed creating your about page or mission page, and in the second article we discussed creating program and impact pages.
There are only 5 pages you need to launch an effective website for your organization and to get found online. There are three more pages we’ll cover in this series, and in this article we’ll discuss how you can design creative volunteer pages that engage your readers and spark them to take action.
What Are Nonprofit Volunteer Pages or Take Action Pages?
Most nonprofits operate under constant strain from resource limitations. That’s why we ask for help, and your volunteer page is the place to generate that support. Some political advocacy campaigns call their volunteer pages take action pages or get involved pages. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use the term volunteer pages to represent them all.
A volunteer page is a way to let your readers know that there are opportunities available to get involved with your organization and to help the group of people your nonprofit or advocacy campaign serves.
If the reader has already seen your “about page” or your “impact page” and they have the same interests as your organization, they will be more likely to offer their help. That’s why we include calls to action on those other pages that lead back to our volunteer page.
When someone volunteers their time they are making a commitment that goes above just reading a website or sharing a link on social media. It represents a move to a higher rung on your ladder of engagement, and once you generate such involvement it's easier to re-solicit this group for more help in the future.
Remember, there are several nonprofits competing for the same viewers’ attention. If your impact page is blank and your mission statement unconvincing, asking for volunteers will be a waste of time. You need to give your readers a good reason for them to spend their time in support of your organization. Make sure those other pages are complete before venturing into a volunteer page. You can read more about creating "About Pages" here, and creating "Impact Pages" here.
If you tell a story before you ask for help it will spark more people to action. Pull in snippets from your impact page and wrap that into a clear and concise volunteer appeal focused on the work central to your mission or a single project on which you are currently working.
Here’s an example of how to tell a story before asking for help:
"Ninety percent of adult smokers begin this deadly addiction as teenagers or earlier. As a result, youth are critical and powerful voices in the fight against tobacco. They encourage their peers to be tobacco-free, stand up to the tobacco industry and its deceptive marketing, and urge elected leaders to take action. Through our Youth Initiatives, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids fosters young leaders who are striving to make the next generation tobacco-free."
That’s how Tobacco Free Kids introduces its youth programs and engages the younger generation to get involved in their advocacy campaigns. Here is a quick breakdown of why this brief story is so effective:
- It uses a key statistic to quickly explain the problem: 90 percent of adults who smoke started in their teen years...or earlier.
- It creates hope and optimism that with a little work the problem can be solved. It uses emotional words like “Stand up” and “urge your elected leaders.”
- It provides a solution - joining the youth initiative.
Think about how you can make your story this powerful and concise. Then close your volunteer page with a form for people to sign up or take action. That form should sync with your CRM so all volunteer contact information is recorded automatically.
A good CRM for nonprofits, like Salsa CRM + Engage, will keep your volunteers organized and help you capture relevant information from all your volunteer forms. It will also help you tag those volunteers and send automated messages to keep them active and engaged.
What Elements Should You Include on Your Volunteer Form?
A typical volunteer form will include multiple options for your potential supporters; not too many to overwhelm but enough variety for them to find something that suits their level of time commitment and skill level.
Most nonprofits will have a volunteer form that includes things like:
- Spreading the Word on Social Media
- Signing a petition
- Helping in the office with admin tasks
- Helping at an in-person or virtual event
- Participating in an educational event to learn more about the nonprofit
- Being part of the organization’s local chapter
- Host a P2P event in your neighborhood
- Share a personal story in writing or via video
- Agreeing to do something outlandish to show your support. Remember the ice bucket challenge?
For an issue advocacy campaign, a volunteer form might also include options like:
- Circulating Petitions
- Hosting an Event in support of a bill or piece of legislation or a specific candidate
- Receiving literature or yard signs for posting in their neighborhood
- Talking to neighbors on the phone
- Talking to neighbors at their homes
- Distributing advocacy campaign literature
Don’t just list the things you’d rather not do yourself because the likelihood is other people don’t want to do those things either. Also, make sure you include some simple tasks that anyone can do. Not everyone who gets involved is willing to take on a major volunteer role at the beginning of your relationship. Offering a few simple tasks like helping in the office, or sharing on social media are things that people can do without large time commitments and the impact of that work can be realized quickly.
There is an inverse relationship between the number of things you ask for on a volunteer form and the number of volunteer form submissions. That means the more questions you ask the fewer submissions you get. Keep it simple, but make sure to get the info you need.
The more conversational you make it the more engagement you will get. Experiment with asking for just enough info to get a sense of what they want to do, and their contact information, of course. This gives you the ability to re-market to them. To ask follow up questions one at a time, or to fill in the gaps about where in your program they might make the best fit.
If you don’t need their physical address don’t ask for it. If you need to send the volunteer documents, try to automate that process over email, don’t make them download reams of information without giving them the context needed to accomplish the task. If you must send a letter or printed package, try explaining why you need that information in the form description so that people will be more willing to give you their personal or work addresses online.
Examples of Great Nonprofit Volunteer Pages
https://results.org/new-volunteers/sign-up/ a nonprofit working to address global poverty, created a dynamic volunteer page that gives potential supporters a holistic view of their volunteer program. It includes a simple form with a dropdown for the potential volunteer to choose what is important to them.
What’s unique about their action page is that it displays additional links which give potential volunteers more information like how much of a time commitment they should expect to give, volunteer roles available, success stories, and even links to online volunteer training. Some may think it counterintuitive to restrict who volunteers, but giving potential volunteers this information up-front can really help people self-filter their submission. That cuts down on administrative time your staff spends going through submissions and speaking with potential volunteers. It will reduce volunteer flake rate, and help to ensure that those who get involved have the time, energy, and understanding to do what will be required of them to be successful in your volunteer program.
Anyone who has volunteered with a nonprofit has experienced a situation where they felt under-engaged. That experience probably left a big impression on you and probably caused you to look elsewhere for volunteer opportunities. Explaining to volunteers what you expect from them can help manage their expectations for involvement, and help provide more context around the types of work they’d be performing for you. If this filters out a few people before they show up and find out the work doesn’t match their skills, this will ensure those who do volunteer have skills that match your needs more closely.
If your organization organizes volunteers by the program, your volunteer page can be broken up into sections with information about each program and a short form for each or a link to individual volunteer forms for those individual programs.
Some nonprofits need support from their community but not in the form of in-person volunteers. These organizations can still create volunteer or "Get Involved" pages but the focus shifts from event or program based volunteerism to general support or advocacy.
That's what Adagio Health does with their community engagement page, shown in the image below. Adagio's is a very effective page for encouraging their community to take action, and while they try to focus on corporate sponsorships and general financial support, they do offer some easy tasks that anyone can do, like spreading the word on social media or getting involved with their Young Leadership Council.
Volunteer Pages and Your Nonprofit CRM
The previous two articles in this series taught you how to create an About Page and an Impact Page. Those pages are informational nature and although we recommend you place a call to action (CTA) at the bottom of those pages, those appeals are typically just links that move people to other areas of your site.
In comparison, the volunteer page is the first page you’ll create that asks your reader or supporter to submit their contact information to you. Anytime you capture contact information you need a place to store it and recall it for future marketing. This is the job of the a nonprofit CRM.
Nonprofit CRMs like Salsa CRM + Engage help you generate forms tailored to your organization and its unique data requirements, and to keep embed those forms for easy data collection on any web platform.
As your supporters are submitting your volunteer form they should be tagged properly and then segmented for future outreach. If your volunteer form offers different actions like some of the examples listed above, a good nonprofit CRM will help you segment those submissions and automate the most appropriate outreach. Personalizing outreach to your potential volunteers will generate higher engagement and actual participation than generic outreach that doesn't speak to the reasons the volunteer offered to help in the first place. Sending an email to someone who offers to help with social media with links to share, sample text and images they can use will result in much faster participation then sending a generic volunteer email that simply tells them someone from your team will eventually be in touch.
For advocacy campaigns, a good nonprofit CRM is critical to your operations. Oftentimes, volunteer activity for these groups do not come in the form of physical attendance, but in petition signatures, phone calls, texting, and letter writing. These types of targeted volunteer activities require constant communication, in-depth education, scriptwriting, and more. The same volunteer may also need to pass through different departments at a political organization. They may start with volunteer coordinators, then learn from policy directors, work with communications advocates, and even outside consultants. Advocacy tools with marketing and email automation, like Salsa Engage, make all that information visible to your entire team and easily managed from one single dashboard.
Nonprofit Marketing Automation for Volunteer and Take Action Pages
Anyone who fills out a volunteer or take action form should receive an email immediately after submitting the form to let them you received their information. You can use that auto-response email to pass on helpful information that your volunteers may need. This can be documents, forms, dates and times, etc. It's okay to simply tell them you'll be in touch, but that can't be the only message they receive. Do not let potential volunteers wait for follow ups. If they lose interest you will not get them back.
Keep them active and engaged by sending automated messages in sequence. You can send emails or texts to make sure potential volunteers stay current on important events, or to build excitement for a date that might be out a few weeks or months.
Wait a few days or a week and then send another email. Wait a few more days, and send another note. Before the big day arrives, send a final email to make sure those volunteers are ready to get to work! All of these messages can be automated with a great marketing automation tool like Salsa CRM + Engage.
If your CRM allows you to segment contacts based on the choices presented on the volunteer form, you can get very granular with your marketing and outreach to those potential volunteers.
For example, someone offering to help with social media could have the tag "Volunteer: Social Media" added to their contact record. A search for all contacts tagged "Social Media" allows you to quickly develop a list of relevant contacts, and then emailing that list is just another step. Rather than sending a blanket volunteer email to your entire organization, you can send instructions specific to the action the volunteer said they would take. For our example with social media volunteers, you might send them sample graphics or text to share.
The more you automate, the fewer items your staff need to spend time managing, and the more volunteers you can put into action!
Volunteer and take action pages, like the other nonprofit website pages we’ve discussed, are most effective when they convey your message clearly and consistently.
Follow the tips in this article and remember to test your volunteer page to deliver the best conversation rates for your organization. Sometimes, it’s not the biggest number of volunteers that matter, but the quality of volunteer you get. That can take a few months to play out, so don’t feel you need to tweak the volunteer page every other day.
At Salsa, we love sharing creative websites from our nonprofit community. Take a moment and share this article with a friend or family member or colleague you think can benefit from its lessons. When you do, share a link to your own volunteer page and tag Salsa on Facebook so we can amplify your message and help generate a few new supporters for you!
Good luck and happy creating!
Articles in the Nonprofit Website Design Series:
- Part 1: About Pages & Mission Pages
- Part 2: Impact Pages & Program Pages
- Part 3: Volunteer and Take Action Pages
- Part 4: Fundraising and Donate Pages
- Part 5: Homepages
- Part 6: Integrating Your Nonprofit Website with Other Tools