The impact of dedicated volunteers on political campaigns and advocacy organizations shouldn’t be underestimated. Not only do volunteers tend to be among the most engaged supporters, but they can also help engage others.

To attract the passionate volunteers you need to make a difference for your campaign or cause, you’ll need to leverage compelling volunteer recruitment strategies and creative messaging. Depending on your audience, this may mean launching an optimized broadcast texting campaign to engage those on your contact list with personalized language. Or, you might branch out to new audiences by placing compelling paid ads on search engines. 

In this guide, we’ll explore how your organization can craft messages that inspire users to transform from passive observers to loyal volunteers. Let’s get started!

Use clear, compelling language.

Your volunteer recruitment messages should be directed at audiences that resonate with, believe in, and have a connection to your cause or mission. But getting your message in front of the right audience is only half of the job. You also need to catch their attention and convince them to join you in your efforts.

On channels like social media, you have as little as three seconds to capture a user's attention and convince them to engage with your ad or post. When it comes to SMS and email campaigns, you’ll need to motivate recipients to open the message using just the preview text or subject line.

To increase the chances that your messages are opened, read, and convert readers, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be concise. Remove unnecessary fluff from your recruitment messages. This includes the use of passive voice, filler words, vague sentences, and redundancies. Always edit your work and make it as short as possible without losing meaning.

  • Appeal to the audience. Why does the audience you’re recruiting from care about your cause? What would the impact of their volunteer efforts be? Identify these motivations and align with them in your messaging. For example, if supporters are passionate about voting rights, you might explain that your volunteers helped hundreds of eligible voters make their voices heard during the last election cycle.

  • Evoke a sense of urgency. Establish that without help from volunteers, your organization—or its beneficiaries—could lose something valuable. For example, this Google Ad from the ACLU asserts that everyone’s freedom is at stake, but the organization can defend it with help from supporters.

It’s also important to create effective calls to action (CTAs). Your CTAs should be very short and provide the final push that readers need to take the next step (e.g., a button that says “Apply to Volunteer Now!”). Make sure that it is as convenient as possible for readers to take the next step by linking to pages like your application form.

Optimize volunteer recruitment messages for each channel.

Once you’ve developed attention-grabbing messages, you’ll need to make sure that the copy is tailored to the communication channel you are using. While text messages tend to be very short, emails can be longer and include more multimedia elements.

Here are some basic ways to optimize your appeals depending on the communication channel:

  • Text/SMS: Text messages should be short and direct. Immediately state the purpose of the message and provide clear instructions about the next steps. Include a strong CTA in the message such as “Reply ‘Volunteer’ to get started!” Remember to abide by anti-spam best practices, such as including opt-out instructions in the message.

  • Email: Start by creating a short subject line that both describes the purpose of the message and makes readers want to open the email. Take this opportunity to provide more details about volunteering in a readable format, like bullet points. Leverage visual elements like images, graphics, and clickable buttons that link to your application form.

  • Social media: Prioritize creating eye-catching graphics and videos for social media in order to stand out. Any copy used should be concise and compelling, ideally focusing on the benefits of volunteering with your organization. Provide links to relevant landing pages and consider leveraging hashtags on certain platforms to increase reach and engagement from your target audience.

  • Paid search advertisements: Begin by selecting target keywords that the ad will appear for on the search engine results page. For example, you might target a keyword like “[Your Issue] campaign” or “how to volunteer with [Your Organization].” Use copy that inspires a sense of urgency and leverage options like geotargeting—a setting that allows you to target users in specific locations—that resonate with potential volunteers. 

Getting your messages out to your audience doesn’t have to be a major drain on your marketing budget. You can leverage free or inexpensive social media and email marketing tools, as well as SMS platforms like Impactive that offer a “pay for what you need” pricing model tailored to your unique communication budget. 

Also, if your organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you may be eligible to receive paid ads on Google for free through the Google Ad Grant. As Getting Attention explains, this program provides $10,000 in Google Ad credits to qualifying organizations. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to agree to certain policies outlined by Google, set up a Google for Nonprofits account, and have a functional website.

Promote multiple ways to get involved.

Keep in mind that not all prospective volunteers will have the same time, skills, or interests, meaning that you’ll need to offer a variety of volunteer opportunities. Mentioning the diverse ways volunteers can support your organization makes contributing more accessible, attracting more recruits.

Here are some ways to make it easier for new volunteers to find their niche:

  • Briefly listing various roles (e.g., canvasser, phone banker, event volunteer, etc.)
  • Providing virtual volunteer opportunities supporters can do from anywhere
  • Requesting volunteers with specialized skills, such as data analysts or marketers, to offer pro bono services
  • Building issue-based committees for those with special interests

While individual preferences are important, remember that some volunteers just want to be of service to your organization in any way—in this case, tell them what your top needs or priorities are. For example, maybe you are struggling to fundraise and need volunteers to help you generate funding through text or phone banking.

Create a streamlined experience.

To give volunteers the best experience possible during recruitment and onboarding, you’ll need to set up a streamlined conversion journey. 

A conversion journey consists of the steps the prospect needs to complete before achieving the action you want them to take—in this case, becoming a volunteer. Map out the journey from the first interaction you have with them to the final step where they join your team. 

For example, a supporter receives a text that urges them to click a link to a blog post about volunteering. They navigate to the blog post and click on the role they are interested in. This routes them to an online application form. However, they need to finish the form—and move ahead with tasks like onboarding and training—for the conversion to be complete.

To ensure that you don’t lose recruits once they reach the application, Funds2Orgs’ guide to volunteer recruitment recommends keeping the form as straightforward and user-friendly as possible by only asking for relevant information (e.g., contact details, availability, skills, etc.). Additionally, check that your onboarding processes are simple and organized to ensure that recruits have a positive experience.

Using these volunteer recruitment strategies, you can reach more prospective volunteers and inspire them to take action. Remember to regularly thank them for their support and share other opportunities for them to get involved or further your cause, like securing volunteer grants from their employer. By cultivating an environment that prioritizes relationship-building, growth, and efficiency, you’ll form a strong base of loyal volunteers.

Feb 27, 2024
From the Field