August 29, 2016
Volunteer programs and online communities go hand in hand. It makes sense, right? Your online community is the go-to space for your members to connect, learn and share resources. Why not add volunteer opportunities to that list?
Melding your volunteer programs with your online community is a natural progression. Not only does it make it easy to for members to find opportunities -- they don’t have to search, they just go to the community -- but it connects a strong social aspect to volunteerism. Members browse and sign up, but they can also connect with fellow community members through their volunteer activities.
By having everyone in your entire association, no matter how big or small, in one spot, your reach becomes bigger than ever before. Not only can you connect with everyone in one spot, but they can connect with each other. This allows members to share opportunities, encourage one another to volunteer and become excited about what your association has to offer.
True, an online community helps your association recruit and encourage volunteers, but a huge benefit to a community is the peer-to-peer encouragement it fosters. Instead of volunteering or signing up in a vacuum, by connecting volunteerism to your online community, members can ask questions, encourage each other and deepen their sense of community through volunteering. So, not only does the connection strengthen your volunteer programs, but it also strengthens your overall community.
One of the hardest parts of managing volunteer programs is matching the right opportunities with the right volunteers. Some people have tons of time, others can only commit to small tasks. How do you engage people at all levels?
The trick is to create many easy opportunities and then to build on those opportunities. Remember, it’s not one size fits all -- some people enjoy in-person events, others prefer to stay behind a computer. This is great for your association. What projects do you need help with? Get creative with volunteer opportunities so you can engage the widest segment of your members as possible.
For example, do you need to create a new eBook? Post the opportunity on your community, but segment it out. Maybe several members want to help, but can only commit to research, or writing one particular section. Another member loves copyediting, and one more enjoys graphic design and even owns photo editing software. Instead of searching for someone who can help with the entire process, you can find many people who can expertly help on a smaller level. And with the community, they can easily collaborate and connect with each other while working on the project.
Each interaction and filled opportunity, no matter how small, deepens the relationship between member and organization, adding value and meaning to their association membership.
Having everyone in the same place helps you reach more volunteers than before, but it also helps you manage them more effectively. Rather than guessing how effective you programs are, use collected data to know exactly how much money your organization is saving, how much time members are spending, and what tasks are most popular.
Depending on your platform, you can also integrate other information, such as member information from an AMS, and event information, to ensure events run as smoothly as possible. Members can easily browse opportunities, see who else is volunteering, register for volunteer events and nominate peers -- all in one place.
Motivating members -- even passionate ones -- to take action and actually volunteer can be hard. By putting your volunteer programs on an community platform, you can recognize and reward volunteers for their hard work -- motivating them and their peers. Depending on your platform, you can create custom badges and a point system to motivate members. Not only does it feel rewarding to receive a badge, it also can trigger a healthy dose of competition amongst other members.
But don’t assume people only volunteer to get badges or points -- often people are motivated by a sense that they’re contributing to the greater good, or that they’re part of something important. A recent study on what motivates Wikipedia volunteers found this to be true -- volunteers were motivated because they felt like they were part of a community.