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Community involvement is the lifeblood of most nonprofit organizations.
Ideally, your community should serve the organization as much as the organization serves the community.
Unless you're an international organization, you started your nonprofit in your community, to SERVE your community.
But is your community serving its nonprofit?
It's time for your nonprofit to step up its game to get more community involvement going.
"If you build it, they'll come" may sometimes work, especially if you offer a valuable service, but as a rule, it's your job to get your community engaged.
This is important:
You don't want them to just come. You want them to come to serve.
There's a difference.
Why Community Involvement Is Important for Your Nonprofit
Your organization probably relies on volunteers, but there are many reasons why community involvement is so important.
However, besides relying on volunteers, your organization is a part of the extended family that is a community.
Not only do you need people who will volunteer in your organization, but your organization itself needs to be a part of the community in which it does its work.
The community should feel as if the organization belongs to them.
Volunteering helps people be healthier and happier
Here is a little known fact:
Volunteering helps individuals and groups as much as it helps nonprofits.
Furthermore, some could argue that it helps volunteers almost equally.
Here are some of the health benefits of volunteering.
Watch this short video from Dr. Allan Luks, one of the premier experts on volunteerism.
Here is a TED talk by Dr. Stephen Post, another expert on volunteerism, explaining all of the extensive health benefits of volunteerism.
24 Ways to Increase Community Involvement
Recruiting volunteers and fostering community involvement isn't easy, but there are definitely some best practices that can help.
Check out these tips.
1. How to make it fun and interesting
Anything you can do to make your community involvement campaign stand out and get noticed will go a long way to helping you meet your volunteer goals.
Check out this video on how one agency got creative to recruit real-life "superheroes."
2. Tap the resources!
Don't leave out those most eager of volunteers: young people.
First of all, you'll find scores of volunteers at your local high school. And if you're lucky enough to live near a college campus, you'll strike gold.
On top of that:
Appeal to students by reminding them how great volunteer work looks on their resumes. Also, this demographic is very interested in the impact they're making.
However, keep in mind that young adults and teens live very active lives. Therefore, you'll need to work hard to keep them engaged.
55 percent of youth age 12-18 volunteer. (NationalService.gov)
3. And while you're at the high school and college...
Inside every learning institution are little micro-institutions.
Think about clubs. Also, associations. And sororities and fraternities.
If you can get these groups involved in your nonprofit, you'll never run out of volunteers.
A new crop comes in with every school year.
4. Don't discount the power of visuals
Get some high-quality brochures and handouts. You'll probably be able to get a discount from a local printer for good quality handouts. However, even if you don't, they're affordable enough.
You need to be well stocked on these items. Keep them with you wherever you go, and ask your staff to do the same.
Because the truth is:
You never know when you'll have an opportunity to talk about your organization.
Also, be sure you have business cards.
5. Participation matters...
Participating in local events is one of the most important things you can do as a nonprofit.
Think of festivals, holiday celebrations, career fairs, and more. Anything that goes on in your community, you need to be involved.
If it's an event that offers booths, be sure to reserve one for yourself.
Have lots of handouts on your table, and a free giveaway like candy.
Nothing draws people to your booth or table as much as candy. And make it good candy!
6. Your space is a commodity!
If you have an office in the community, there are likely times you're not using it, such as when the office is closed.
One thing you can do:
Allow other groups to use your space to have meetings, small parties, and other events.
This will raise awareness of your organization and raise your profile in the community.
7. How to leverage social media
Since most people are on Facebook, you can target your ads to reach very specific groups of people.
Moreover, Facebook recommends that nonprofits use ads to:
8. Provide high value
If you have a solid training program and robust volunteer program, you are providing a value to the community that goes beyond whatever your nonprofit's mission is.
For example, if you're working with young people, you can put extra focus into developing them as leaders who are respected and recognized in the community.
This will serve them well in all areas of their lives.
Also, don't discount the benefit and value of making people feel that they're needed.
9. Meet your for-profit neighbors
As you forge relationships in the community, you'll have the opportunity to ask business leaders to get their employees involved.
Something you need to know:
Most businesses have an official charity or nonprofit they support. Try to find one (or more!) that will make your organization their favorite.
10. Don't forget this aspect of the community
Most churches partner directly with nonprofits in their community.
Regardless of religion or domination, try to get with all of your area churches to see how you can work together to provide services to the community.
11. About social media...
To effectively use social media to drive community involvement and volunteerism in your nonprofit, you need to have a strategy.
You can't just go and post a random meme on Facebook or re-tweet public figures. You need a solid social media marketing plan and strategy.
It doesn't have to be extensive.
Simple is fine. But make sure it looks professional.
"Your traditional fundraising, marketing, and outreach materials cannot just be cut and pasted into these channels. Social media content needs to be carefully, creatively crafted for the specific channel, ALWAYS with the audience in mind."
Julia C. Campbell
author and nation speaker with a passion for
nonprofit digital storytelling and social media (@JuliaCSocial)
Here is a fact:
In the 21st century, social media will drive your community involvement and volunteer program.
12 social media stats for non-profits
Here are some stats that should convince you of the importance of social media.
There's just no getting around using social media for community involvement. Furthermore, why would you want to?
12. Leverage this tool
Set up your Facebook and Instagram to auto-post to Twitter.
While you may not be on Twitter every day, if you've got Facebook and Instagram set up to auto-post, you'll maintain a great Twitter presence.
However, don't ignore Twitter. Check in a couple of times per week to follow people and organizations who follow you, "like" mentions, etc...
Twitter may not be your most active social media network, but you want to be sure you're using it. It's extremely useful for things like Twitter chats, which we'll cover below.
When using Twitter, tag relevant people and always tag your volunteers. Everyone loves to be mentioned.
Tweet at least once per day. Make sure your tweet has some multimedia with it, like video or photo.
13. About Twitter, it's more than just posting
Research shows that tweets with one or two (not more) hashtags have increased engagement of up to 200 percent, and are more likely to be retweeted.
"If you want to grow and retain your audience online you need to determine what they are looking for, find the right keywords that will attract their attention and use them within your social media posts as hashtags."
host of Women Speakers Associations and
socia media strategist (@partnerinbiz)
Here are some great ideas:
What works well for Twitter may not be a great hashtag for Instagram. Do some homework on how to use hashtags effectively on both platforms.
14. Another aspect of Twitter you may have missed
There's an awesome thing on Twitter that's not commonly known: Twitter chats.
They're typically scheduled for a specific time and date, usually recurring. However, because of the nature of hashtags and Twitter, you can check in at any time to see what's going on.
In Twitter chats, you can participate with people of like mind and interest.
You can start your own.
For example, your Twitter chat could be called #VolunteerNYC (with your city).
Here's why this would be so effective for community involvement:
Young people primarily use Twitter and Instagram.
So a Twitter chat would potentially draw in some young volunteers.
If you do a Twitter chat, you need to highly publicize it, or you'll find yourself alone for the chat. Create an event on your Facebook page, send out a newsletter, a mass email, etc...
Be sure to ask everyone to share the info.
Here's a great video about Twitter chats.
15. Let's talk about Facebook pages
Your Facebook page is a valuable tool in your community involvement toolkit.
Make sure it's professional looking and reflects your mission.
Fill out all of the following sections of your Facebook page:
Post at least one post per day to your nonprofit's Facebook page, and up to three times. Multimedia (video, photos) do best.
Here's an excellent Facebook marketing plan template.
16. Don't forget this Facebook feature
You can also use your Facebook page to schedule events.
This makes all the difference:
Schedule an event for anything you have going on. This can include:
Be sure to tag LOTS of people when you create your events.
Also, be sure to do this:
Add all the photos you take at events and tag the folks who are in them.
17. Give before asking
When targeting influencers and leaders who work on the ground, give FIRST before asking for anything.
Once they know you're there to help and do good, you'll have some valuable allies in your community.
You're looking for volunteers and community involvement, but consider volunteering yourself. Showing that you're involved will make people more inclined to help you.
18. Another great Facebook option
Facebook has some great built-in fundraising tools, and they make it really easy for you to set up your fundraiser and start collecting donations.
However, besides donations, connecting with Facebook users in your area will increase your community involvement and potentially recruit volunteers.
Check out Facebook Fundraising Tools for more information:
19. Forge relationships
Getting out there and getting to know the people in your community will help you increase community involvement.
Here's what you need to know:
While you need to have relationships with stakeholders, please understand that this means stakeholders of all walks of life and demographics.
Your relationship with a company's CEO will help you get donations and bring on business groups for volunteering. However, your relationship with the secretary at your local church will give you equally valuable benefits.
20. While we're on Facebook, look into this
In Facebook groups, you'll find lots of local groups.
Find all of your local groups and join the ones that are relevant to you.
Also, this is very important:
Create a group for your nonprofit and add its stakeholders, staff, and volunteers. This is a very effective way to communicate info to everyone quickly.
Make sure you add everyone who is involved in your nonprofit in any way.
One of the most effective things you can do to increase community involvement is to pull together a group of dedicated and energized individuals who can go out as ambassadors to get people engaged.
This group can consist of your existing volunteers. However, it's more effective if you have the ambassador group in addition to your core group.
Think college students, influencers at local schools (teachers, for example), and teens.
As we mentioned for Twitter hashtags, Instagram hashtags may be different. Don't assume that what works for one platform will also work for others.
You can create your own or use some that are already out there.
22. Have photos? Use this social media
For photos, Instagram is your go-to social tool.
Upload the same photos you use on Facebook to your nonprofit's Instagram account.
Be sure to do this:
Use lots of hashtags. Instagram allows up to 30 per post, but research shows that engagement decreases after 11 hashtags, so we suggest staying below that.
Put the hashtags in the first comment to your post, NOT your actual post. You'll still show up in tag searches but will seem less "spammy."
23. Go viral
If any social media platform makes nonprofit social media efforts seem daunting, it's YouTube.
Let's face it:
Many people hate getting on camera, and unless you're a semi-pro video maker, you can feel awkward. However, this is where you can recruit some of your young volunteers to help you.
They're tech-savvy, and most don't mind being in front of the camera.
Only 28 percent of nonprofits are on YouTube. However, here are some stats you should know.
So are you building your YouTube channel yet? Check out the YouTube Nonprofit Program overview.
24. Use these 21 catchy campaign slogans in your campaigns and your social media
Have you done your homework on how to market to potential volunteers?
When you're pulling together your volunteer campaign recruiting materials, ask yourself this question:
If Coca Cola were recruiting volunteers, what would they say in their ads?
Because make no mistake about it:
When you recruit volunteers, you are marketing.
Here are some ingenious volunteer campaign slogans.
- 1What you do makes a difference. Act as if it does.
- 2The richest people in the world aren't millionaires. They're volunteers.
- 3It's up to you to make your community better.
- 4Pay it forward. Volunteer today.
- 5Hand in hand with (YOUR NONPROFITS NAME HERE) for a beautiful community.
- 6Help people, change lives.
- 7See someone without a smile? Give them one.
- 8Make a difference today, make a change in future generations.
- 9Don't tell us. Show us.
- 10Preparedness + Opportunity = Success
- 11No one person can do everything, but every person can do one thing.
- 12Volunteering is the rent you pay for living on this earth.
- 13Get involved to get things solved.
- 14Volunteering: not a choice, but a responsibility.
- 15It's your community. Volunteer.
- 16Volunteers get paid in six figures: S M I L E S
- 17Volunteers do the work to make it work.
- 18Make the world a better place, one volunteer at a time.
- 19Every person has something to give. What are you giving?
- 20No job is too big or small, volunteering helps us all.
- 21Whose life have you changed today?
- 22A lake is changed by one drop at a time.
BONUS: How to Keep Your Community Engaged Once You Have Community Involvement
Once you get your posse of volunteers, the hard work (for you) begins: keeping them involved.
Here's a fact:
People actually love to volunteer. Moreover, most human beings instinctively want to help.
So they sign up as a volunteer. They're excited. Enthused. They come in hard and strong.
And then stop.
Why does this happen?
Well, we've already reviewed why people don't volunteer, but here are some reasons they don't stay engaged.
7 ways to keep your volunteers active
1. Have volunteer appreciation lunches or breakfasts as often as possible
You can easily get a local restaurant to donate food. They want to do community involvement, too.
Not only that:
Many local establishments and restaurants will even let you have your event there, especially if you schedule it after peak hours.
2. Do a volunteer of the month program
And make a REALLY big deal out of it. Make it complete with a framed certificate, signed by you and maybe the mayor. Parking space. Gift card.
3. Ask them to do specific, actionable tasks
What is your volunteer's unique gift? That's what they need to be doing.
If your volunteer is tech savvy, don't ask them to "help with tech issues."
Instead, ask them to run malware and antivirus scans on the computers every month.
Does your volunteer like to bake cupcakes? Don't ask them to "bake when we need it." Ask them for three dozen cupcakes for your volunteer appreciation event.
Be very specific with regards to what you want them to do for community involvement.
4. Communicate frequently
You need to be sending out monthly email updates.
It can be a newsletter, event notice, "volunteer of the month" announcement...whatever.
5. Inspire them with the cause, not your nonprofit
Volunteers don't sign up to help your organization. They sign up to help people or to help their community.
Keep this in mind in ALL of your communication with them, including:
They probably don't care as much about your organization as you think they do.
They care about making a difference.
6. Highlight successes
At your volunteer events or in your emails (actually, both), communicate specifically the difference they've made.
7. Have a solid training program
You need to have a training event at least once a month.
It doesn't have to be extremely long. However, it should be comprehensive and thorough.
Moreover, keep it structured. Serve snacks and have a presentation ready, along with a couple of handouts.
And in the end...community Involvement Will Make or Break You
I promise you this:
Without community involvement, your nonprofit probably won't make it.
Therefore, it's crucial to get your community involved at every level.
Businesses, organizations, churches, school groups, and individuals all need to be involved.
You created your nonprofit to serve your community, and community involvement will serve it.
Are you involved in any non-profits? What is your favorite cause? Tell us all about it in the comments!