March 12, 2013

Attracting young people to your nonprofit

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Use social media to encourage youth volunteerism in your organization

Guest post by Alison Richmond

Young people can be an incredible source of volunteers for nonprofits – they tend to have much more spare time than adults and often see volunteering as a good way to gain work and life experience to add to their resumé. But attracting young people can be difficult. released an index toward the end of last year in which they interviewed young people discussing their attitudes toward volunteering. With their suggestions in mind, here are some steps toward attracting young people to your nonprofit.

Communicate by embracing social media

Ask your volunteers to share on their Twitter or Facebook accounts the work that they’ve been doing and what they’ve gotten out of it

The current generation of young people are highly invested in social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogging and more. For them, almost everything happens online, in a public space. Emails, newsletters, newspapers and even TV news tend to be ignored, while social sharing has become the paramount media channel.

To engage teenagers via social media channels, nonprofits should set up a Facebook page and Twitter account and regularly post content that engages potential volunteers and asks them to spread the word to their friends.

Ask your existing volunteers to share on their Twitter or Facebook accounts the work that they’ve been doing and what they’ve gotten out of it. For example: “Just spent the morning dog-walking at my local animal shelter – keeps me fit, plus loads of cute puppies!”

Interact and engage with your supporters

Be aware: These channels work best as a two-way street, with comments and questions being replied to swiftly. This generation is used to quick responses so leaving someone’s question hanging for two days is likely to turn off potential volunteers. Make sure that you’re checking in at least once a day, monitoring your social accounts, and replying to any comments.

Use your existing audience to engage their friends. Name-checking people who have volunteered at an event via your social media channels can be extremely effective in spreading the word, as the young people in question tend to share or retweet the post.

Facebook and Twitter are great but don’t give you the space to write more lengthy articles, so set up a blog for your organisation and post regular content, then use Twitter and Facebook to link to the posts.

Events, photos, videos and more

HfH Engagement

Photographs get shared on Facebook a lot, especially those that are cute, funny or shocking. Find a photo that represents your organisation and post it, remembering to ask users to share. If your nonprofit has regular events, make sure you take photos at the event, and post them on Facebook, tagging those volunteers who have Facebook accounts.

In DoSomething’s study, many teens said that they were put off volunteering because they didn’t know exactly what would be expected of them

Having a recruitment drive or a big one-off or semi-regular event? Use Facebook’s Events feature to invite your existing volunteers, and then ask them to personally invite their friends. Include a lot of information about what the event will entail. In’s study, many teens said that they were put off volunteering because they didn’t know exactly what would be expected of them.

Offer incentives to your regulars to bring a friend with them, such as a prize drawing entry – this doesn’t have to cost anything. You can ask local businesses to offer a prize and in return they will receive publicity and a partnership with a nonprofit organization that boosts their brand image.

Short videos are a great way to increase your audience and attract new volunteers. It doesn’t have to be shot by a famous director or scripted by a comedy genius, just show your volunteers working, explain what they get out of volunteering and the benefit that they are providing.

You can also create a YouTube video channel for your nonprofit, and upload videos regularly. Use your Twitter and Facebook accounts to link to the video. Ask people to share it – videos and images are more than three times more likely to be shared if you simply add, “Please share this video/image” at the bottom of the post.

Social media has really taken off over the past decade and it has brought us new ways in which to communicate. With the power the internet possesses, don’t neglect the various social media channels available when looking to encourage young people to get involved with your nonprofit.

How does your organization encourage young people to volunteer?

Alison Richmond works in the fundraising industry and understands that volunteering is very important for the third sector. Alison particularly enjoys discovering new fundraising ideas for various causes and she currently works for easyfundraising in the United Kingdom. The editors apologize to Alison for changing “organisation” to “organization.”
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