Chances are you want to make a positive impression on the community that your organization serves. Your mission may positively impact the community in a variety of ways but how are you using community engagement to reach, retain, and engage volunteers? In the last decade it has become harder to entice people to volunteer.
According to a 2015 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 24.9 percent of adults volunteer, a percentage that has decreased since 2005 (28.8 percent). The decrease may seem insignificant, but when you account for the millions of volunteer hours the decrease represents, the number becomes more concerning.
If your nonprofit wants to increase volunteer registration, find qualified talent, and increase retention rates, it is key to develop a positive and trustworthy relationship with the community. The truth is, your community wants to engage with your nonprofit.
A study performed by America’s Charities found that 86 percent of companies believe that employees expect them to provide opportunities to do good in the community. Is your organization investing in the right tactics to provide corporate and private parties in the community with an avenue to do so? If not, here are a few tips to help increase community engagement.
Create Relationship-Driven Community Awareness Goals
Having a plan to increase community engagement is the first step your nonprofit should invest time in. What does your organization want to achieve? What is your current community engagement strategy? How can your current program be improved upon or optimized to deliver more value? These are just a few of the questions your community engagement plan needs to address.
Focus on developing a plan that is relationship driven and outlines how your organization will continue to develop relationships at each touchpoint with supporters, partners, and prospects. Community engagement is an opportunity to deliver your organization’s message, get to know the community, and develop lasting connections. It also presents an opportunity to inform the community of the various ways they can give, including volunteerism and financial gifts.
Focus on Developing Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
One of the best ways to increase community engagement is by creating value in exchange for value. How is your organization rewarding partners, donors, and volunteers in the community? Your nonprofit can deliver value in a plethora of ways. One tactic that you may want to consider is providing community volunteers with skill-development opportunities through ongoing training.
Offering skill development in exchange for volunteerism may appeal to volunteers and corporate partners who can utilize new skills attained by employees. Before developing a skill-development program and promotion plan, consider corporate partners and the skills that are most important to them and their businesses.
Altruistic programs have also been shown to help the for-profit industry in a variety of other ways. Businesses that partner with a nonprofit and offer opportunities to give have been shown to have higher employee retention, recruitment, and engagement rates. Use community engagement as an opportunity to promote these benefits.
Finally, promote your organization’s impact to the community to increase engagement. Share success stories, partner testimonials, and mission metrics that demonstrate the good your nonprofit is achieving and how the community will benefit from your organization in the future. Telling your organization’s story will attract partners who align with your mission, goals, and values.
Increase Volunteer Opportunity Awareness by Getting Involved
One of the most valuable community engagement partners that your nonprofit has is current supporters. Current supporters can help your organization promote and identify opportunities for community involvement. Volunteers, donors, and partners should be nurtured and converted into brand ambassadors.
Find out what events your supporters, prospects, and the community as a whole are involved in and increase participation in local events. Demonstrate that your nonprofit cares about what is going on in the community and wants to have a strong presence there. Doing so will prompt more people to fill volunteer opportunities with your organization.
Remember, as your organization increases community involvement, the need for consistency becomes more important.
Don't Forget to Ask
Finding opportunities to increase community engagement may be as simple as asking more questions. Ask the community for input regarding where to be involved, who to partner with, and what opportunities your organization has for improvement. Who knows your community better than the people in it? One of the top reasons that people do not become involved with a nonprofit is because they were never asked to do so. In fact, a recent study found that 88 percent of people give because someone asked them to. Are you asking your community for volunteer opportunity involvement? Are you asking your current supporters to give in other ways? (Example: converting volunteers to donors)
Increasing volunteers through community engagement is all about leveraging relationships and being in the right place at the right time. Your nonprofit should start by measuring your current engagement strategy and volunteer program, developing goals, creating touchpoints, becoming more involved in community events, and begin asking people to give. How is your nonprofit using community engagement to impact volunteer and donor program success?
Eric Burger is the marketing communications manager for VolunteerHub, an organization that provides volunteer management solutions for nonprofits across the globe. Eric has worked in the B2B software industry for the past two years and has over seven years of experience in digital marketing.