3 Steps to Turn your Volunteers into a Marketing Army

Guest blog by Abbie Cooke, VP of Chariot Creative, a North Carolina marketing and web design firm.

Nonprofit marketing needs your attention. A little strategy can go a long way, and an entire team of volunteers can carry it further. From grassroots teams to multi- million dollar organizations, effective marketing is the top of the list of things in which to invest some resources. This is where supporters come from, where growth happens, where networks pool their resources to make one life-changing opportunity happen for an individual…or 10,000 individuals. You’ve got the passion for your cause and a great team. Now turn those volunteers into a marketing army by thinking in terms of strategy, consistency, and using the tools you’ve got to their full potential with these three steps.


1. Develop a Strategy, Polish It, Be Consistent

You can’t fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to nonprofit marketing, and your volunteers can’t fly by the seat of your pants either. So first thing’s first: know your niche and develop a marketing strategy around that information. Evaluate who your audience/supporters currently are and who you want them to be. Fortunately, knowing your demographic is easier than ever thanks to some handy online tools. For example, Facebook lets you see what percentage of your followers are male or female, what age groups they fit into, etc. Many email marketing services, like MailChimp, give reports on who opens your newsletters and where they click within the email which gives a picture of what your audience responds to. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips! Use these channels to refine your strategy – from branding to where and how to market your cause.

If you have different volunteers overseeing different marketing tasks, have them pool the data from the sources they manage and work to create a unified approach. Once you know what direction to take your brand or next capital campaign, it’s extremely important to polish it up. In the marketing world, we say that “Content is king”. This is because your ongoing content (images, text, videos) is both where you make first impressions and where you build trust. Provide facts and resources to back up your efforts. Be real, be relatable. Dot those i’s, and cross those t’s. First impressions are everything, so make a point to ensure all volunteers use good grammar and punctuation in all public content and maintain a knowledgeable but approachable tone. This applies to everything from a tweet to an e-newsletter. Write well, offer value, be consistent. Communicate the importance of these concepts to your entire team. Everyone associated with a nonprofit is a marketer for the organization on some level, so it’s important to use all that planning to give your team a solid set of tools to refer others to and even to learn from. Educate your volunteers in your cause and set the tone for how to represent it.

2. Involve Volunteers in Utilizing Social Media Platforms

Social media can be your best friend, but it requires work. Have your social media volunteers focus on consistency and strategy. Each platform has variances in when and what you should post for maximum effect. Anyone would greatly benefit from a crash course in this! Even volunteers who aren’t part of your marketing team are likely to want to post about the nonprofit on their personal accounts at times. Determine what your organization’s guidelines should be for appropriate content for volunteer posts, and encourage all volunteers to share official posts to increase exposure.

Let’s look at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Here is a general guide, but your niche can affect your ideal days/times, so just use this as a reference point, not a rulebook. Use the analytics feature of your account to tweak. (Specifics can also vary by data source. Feel free to explore more on Hubspot or Coschedule.)

  • Facebook: Monday is the worst day for likes and shares. Wednesday-Sunday are the best days. Traffic picks up at 9am. About 1-4pm is best for engagement.
  • Twitter: If you are speaking to businesses: Workweek posts do well with peaks on Wednesday around noon and near the end of the workday. If you are speaking to individuals: Weekends are good times to post in addition to workdays, and commute hours have good engagement.
  • Instagram: Sundays are worst days for posts. Mondays and Thursdays are best days. 8-9am, 5-6pm and evenings are best. Social posts with videos or photos perform best on any platform.

Research high-traffic hashtags for Twitter and Instagram, and use them! Interact with your supporters and peers online!

3. Your Volunteers’ Experiences Matter

This one might not be as obvious as when we think of donor or beneficiary experiences, but no nonprofit should overlook it. Your volunteers are a reflection of your organization. Their enthusiasm for your cause and your operations is important because word-of-mouth advertising is invaluable. Take their excitement a step further by having some of them leave great online reviews on important sites like Google, Yelp, FourSquare, etc. An insider’s perspective on the quality of an organization can be very helpful with making good impressions with other supporters. Online reviews are also good for your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) because Google pulls some of them to display in searches which can encourage website traffic. (Insider tip: spread them out over time. It can look suspicious to search engines to have multiple reviews all hit on the same site on the same day.)

These three steps each offer some sound support to your nonprofit marketing needs. Marketing is a multi-faceted and ongoing effort, but addressing these creates a great foundation. Digital marketing is a great way to use volunteers to help grow nonprofits!