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Communicating with volunteers: take advantage of the latest trends

Technology, and especially ICT –Information and Communications Technology- are changing the world we live in. In the last few decades, we have witnessed the fastest technological revolution ever.  How is this related to the world of international volunteering? The new channels of communication, and the technology that they require to function, represent a huge opportunity for the recruitment and the development of a strong and stable relationship with volunteers, who are already used to find, consume and interact with information in a totally new way.

The level of interconnection and connection experienced by individuals has reached new heights, and the way we relate to society, information and, generally speaking, life has drastically transformed. Before 2020, there will be globally 4,2 billion users with internet access, almost 1 billion more than today. X Generation –those who were born in this new technological era- will represent 27% of global population, while Millenials, another techy generation, heavily reliant on modern ICTs, will represent 50% of the global work force.

How do NGOs react to this great technological revolution? According to the latest “Technology Report”, published in 2018 by Nonprofit Tech for Good, having visibility online and on social media is very important for NGOs globally, especially for fundraising and recruitment purposes.  9/10 NGOs have a website, and out of these, 9/10 are mobile compatible. Moreover, 93% of the NGOs that have taken part in the survey, have a Facebook page, while the use of other social media is significantly lower (between 77 and 50% for Twitter, YouTube LinkedIn and Instagram).

However, the “Technology Report” reveals that non-governmental organizations do not take advantage of all opportunities offered by modern technologies. For example, only 63% or the respondents use emails to communicate regularly with its supporters, while only the 18% do it using an app. These data point out that NGOs are not that quick responding to technological innovation. Sure, most of them have a website, but NGOs have been having websites since the ‘90s.

Why aren’t NGOs able to take better advantage of modern trends? The use of new technologies implies high costs and a continuous training for staff in order to keep up with innovations. However, not all initiatives involve prohibitive costs and cutting-edge knowledge. It’s possible to take advantage of modern technology for our recruitment and communication strategies at almost no cost!

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What are the most significant trends that we should consider to boost recruitment?

  1. Shifting from desktop to mobile

It is particularly important to consider the “user experience” when we publish new contents on the blog, the web or the newsletter. According to the experts, there is a growing percentage of individuals who access the internet from a mobile device. Therefore our choices in terms of both format and content have to take this into account. It is better to lay the text out on one single column, instead of 2 or 3, because that makes it easier for the user to read it on a mobile phone screen. It is also very likely that the volunteer is looking for a short read, because he/she might be on the go while checking updates on his or her phone.

Don’t forget about this the next time to write your blog or a newsletter! It seems that the best results come from brief but frequent publications.

  1. The success of videos

People love videos: they can catch his or her attention without requiring the same amount of concentration as a written text would. Therefore, do not hesitate shooting videos for your next recruitment campaigns. There is no need for them to be technically  perfect: a cell phone and a microphone will be enough to grab the essence of your work and share it with potential volunteers!

Furthermore, do not underestimate the importance of having a video channel – maybe posting your videos on TV on the Road too! Users love content on-demand!

  1. Communications through apps

Apps are everyone’s favourite. The ease, the immediacy and the concentration of all information and services in one place make this kind of software the most popular when it comes to communication. However, developing an app is a pretty pricy process and nowadays there are only a few examples of successful recruitment apps from the NGO sector (of course there are a few, such as Lunaria’s)

Definitely cheaper would be to use an existing messaging app, such as Telegram or WhatsApp. Even if not very  popular among NGOs for the moment, app communication has a huge potential, especially for maintaining a good relationship with existing volunteers and supporters.

  1. Emails are back

With new social media algorithms giving an objective advantage to friends published content (and sponsored one too), sending emails is back into the game. It has been reported that almost 30% of sales, in the commercial world, happens with email marketing. Better not to miss this great communication channel: a big part of fundraising and recruitment can be done by email.

Let’s take this chance to remind everyone that, starting from the 25th  of May, there will be a new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation ) in Europe. It will be really important to adapt to the new guidelines.

  1. Users want to be part of something

The personalization of the message is one of the main aspects of modern communication. Individuals are used to be called by their name when they interact online. Furthermore, contents are presented to them on social media and newsletters according to their preferences and previous choices.

Can NGOs reach this level of technological evolution? In fact, it is not that hard as it could sound! With a first, simple level of segmentation we can do so much: separate volunteers from the general audience! Volunteers should have a special communication feed on newsletters and, maybe, social media groups. This is a tiny change that would make a huge and much appreciated difference for volunteers. If we want to go a bit further, it is also possible to segment volunteers based on: active, not active, active in the last year, people who volunteered in Africa, people who volunteered in Asia, volunteers under 30…

Remember that Mailchimp and other similar services allow you to have a very decent degree of segmentation even if you don’t purchase their pro or premium packs. Don’t miss this chance!

  1. Live content effectiveness

Finally, another important aspect of modern communication is “live” content, authentic and engaging. This is a kind of communication that gives the volunteers the chance to have a look at what happens behind the scenes, sharing a “moment” with the real “stars”: beneficiaries, staff or other volunteers.

Publishing live content is costless, you just need a mobile phone and good internet connection. Potential volunteers love getting to know the daily reality of an organization: how the day of a volunteer starts, a class, a meeting, a goodbye party… this communication style can give visibility to all of these important moments.


For more information on the topic, you can:

Watch the free webinar “Four Volunteer Technology Trends to Know

Have a look at the  “Technology Report

Read the port “10 Emerging Trends in Online Communications and Fundraising to Watch in 2018

And do not miss posts from NGO 2.0 blog

International volunteers' management & Co., Resources in English

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