During a season most often associated with companionship and abundance, many well-intentioned individuals want to share with those who need a bit extra. But for many programs, volunteer engagement drops in the new year, and filling shifts seems trickier.
So, how do you turn those once-a-year volunteers into long-term participants?
We’ll explore how to reconnect with your volunteers and keep them coming back in these 6 steps:
- Follow-Up in the New Year
- Create an Engaging Email Campaign
- Ask Over Text
- Leverage Your Social Media Channels
- Understand Volunteer Motivation
- Keep Retention at the Forefront Year Round
Let’s jump right into these 6 helpful strategies!
1. Follow-Up in the New Year
Just because a volunteer only participates over the holidays doesn’t mean they’re not interested in your organization during the rest of the year.
The key to keeping your volunteers engaged after the holidays is to maintain communication. While you should give your volunteers some breathing room after a big holiday push, you certainly don’t want to forget about them in January!
Here are a few ways to follow up with your volunteers in the new year:
- Mail handwritten thank you notes
- Wish your supporters a “happy new year of volunteering”
- Share your volunteers’ impact and seasonal program outcomes via email
- Feature your volunteer program annual report on your website and share it on your social media channels
- Show your appreciation with thoughtful volunteer gifts
2. Create an Engaging Email Campaign
One effective way to reintroduce your organization to your seasonal volunteers is to create an email sequence.
The idea for the email campaign is to send a series of curated messages to your seasonal support aimed at maintaining communication and asking them to volunteer again.
Your email sequence for re-engaging holiday supporters in the new year may look something like this:
- Email 1 - Thank holiday volunteers for their participation and share your program’s collective impact. Then, briefly remind volunteers that you need their support throughout the year.
- Email 2 - Announce exciting upcoming events, programs, and initiatives over the next few months. Encourage readers to browse your volunteer opportunities page.
- Email 3 - Send a list of upcoming volunteer opportunities. Include a compelling call to action asking volunteers to register.
You don’t want to bombard your supporters with too many emails at once. Instead, leave enough time—at least a week or two—between each email.
Of course, having the right tools is paramount to creating effective campaigns that inspire lasting engagement. Leverage your email marketing tool, like CRM or volunteer management software to:
- Organize your contacts
- Understand volunteer participation and filter episodic and seasonal participants
- Efficiently create personalized email campaigns
Example Email Template
Use this email template to kick off your email marketing campaign to seasonal volunteers.
Hi [Volunteer’s Name],
You’ve shared your time and talents with us this holiday season, and we’re so grateful for your contributions to [Organization’s Name] and our vision of [Organization’s Initiative]. I’m reaching out to share upcoming volunteer opportunities I thought you’d be interested in.
Volunteers like you are how [organization’s name] is able to make a difference in the lives of those we serve.
Here are several upcoming opportunities that align with your interests and skills. Take a look, and let me know what questions you have.[Opportunity #1- share the name of the program and link to sign up]
[Opportunity #2- share the name of the program and link to sign up]
[Opportunity #3- share the name of the program and link to sign up]
Are you interested in scheduling a different volunteer opportunity? Here’s a list of exciting volunteer opportunities [link to your volunteer opportunities page]. We’ve made it easy for you to select days, times, and opportunities that work best for you.
Thanks again for supporting [Organization’s Name]. I’d love to see you again at one of our programs. Let’s be a part of the good in our community together!
3. Ask Over Text
You probably keep in touch with your volunteers via email, but have you tried text messaging?
Text messaging is becoming an increasingly popular communication tool among social impact organizations. What’s more, many volunteer programs are finding success in retaining volunteers year-round by communicating over text.
You can incorporate text messaging into your volunteer communications plan in two steps:
- Get Your Tools in Place
- Create a Crisp CTA
Let’s break these steps down further:
Get Your Tools in Place
Text messaging is only effective if you have an efficient process in place. And efficient communication starts at volunteer registration.
When you register your holiday volunteers (and every volunteer) you’ll want to make sure you collect their contact information, including their phone numbers.
Next, you’ll need a tool for sending text messages en masse—imagine sending individual text messages to all your holiday supporters!
Instead, with the right communication tool, sending texts is easy! Volunteer management software will enable you to keep volunteers’ information in a secure database and send text messages to all your seasonal volunteers in just a few clicks.
Create a Crisp CTA
Once you have the right tool, you’re ready to send your message.
Short, snappy calls to action work best when it comes to texting your supporters (no one wants to read big blocks of text on their smartphones).
A successful call to action provokes a sense of urgency. Typically, you’ll want to ask readers to take the action immediately. Let your audience know what you want them to do and when you want them to do it (in a sentence or two).
Here are some examples of text messages that are bound to inspire your volunteers:
- We need you all year round. Check out these upcoming opportunities.
- Loved volunteering with us? Keep making a difference by signing up today.
- Let’s continue to create change. Sign up here.
- The work doesn’t stop here. View our volunteer needs today.
- Let’s keep this going. Volunteer here.
- Change is a process. Register to volunteer again!
Don’t forget to include links that lead to your website and registration page!
4. Leverage Your Social Media Channels
Let your supporters know you’re creating change every day by developing a social media strategy. Post welcoming invites for volunteers on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. You’ll also need to maintain a social media presence throughout the year by posting a variety of engaging content.
Use our nonprofit social media guide to craft a winning strategy.
5. Understand Volunteer Motivation
Volunteerism increases by 50% between the months of November and December.
But what keeps volunteers motivated year-round?
To keep your holiday volunteers coming back, you’ll need to understand the factors that motivate volunteers beyond the holidays.
Most volunteers are motivated by these evidence-based factors. When these motivating factors are acknowledged and supported, volunteers are more likely to stick around:
- Values - Volunteers want to serve others in a meaningful way and express their altruistic values.
- Social - Volunteers want to be a part of a community and develop social relationships.
- Career - Volunteers want to engage in networking opportunities, develop skills, or add experience to their resumes.
- Understanding - Volunteers want to gain knowledge or insight on a particular cause.
- Personal Development - Volunteers want to develop or enhance a skill set or grow personally.
Consider these core volunteer motivations to create informed opportunities that keep your volunteers motivated beyond the holiday season.
Now let’s put this into practice; to appeal to your socially motivated volunteers, for example, encourage them to bring their friends and make it easy for teams to get involved. Offer plenty of leadership and networking opportunities and demonstrate that you’re invested in your volunteers’ futures.
Learn more about fostering happy, motivated volunteers all year.
6. Keep Retention at the Forefront Year Round
It’s the holidays at your organization: the event calendar is full and volunteer leaders like you are working tirelessly to manage the influx of participation. In other words, there’s a lot to be done in a little time. As a result, many volunteer programs fill their seasonal volunteer roles ad-hoc with little focus on retention.
However, directing efforts toward volunteer retention can actually improve a program’s return on investment. Formulate a winning retention strategy with these tips:
- Create a Streamlined Experience - Volunteer satisfaction is one of the most significant factors in motivating volunteers to return. If you want your volunteers to come back, you need to make getting involved simple and painless. A volunteer management system can streamline the volunteer journey, from sign-up to logging hours, so it’s easy for volunteers to get involved again and again.
- Match Volunteers' Interests - When you match a volunteer to an activity they’re passionate about, they’re more likely to volunteer again. A volunteer management system allows you to capture volunteers’ interests and skills and automatically recommends matching opportunities.
- Say Thank You Often - Continue to thank your volunteers throughout the year—not just after the holiday season. Volunteers will feel like your organization is made of people who care about the community you share.
The key to retaining volunteers throughout the year is consistent communication using a variety of time-tested channels.