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Your Lapsed Volunteers: Here’s How to Get Them Back

A lot of organizations are having similar issues: many volunteers who were once consistent still haven’t returned to programming since March 2020. Organizations like yours can benefit from thinking about your volunteer re-engagement strategy. You may need to remind your lapsed supporters that you’re still out there and need their help! We’re here to help you inspire your volunteers to take action, even if it has been awhile. Let’s explore some strategies for re-engaging your volunteers with your cause.

Read how Willamalane Parks and Recreation District engaged their volunteers during COVID-19.

Article Contents:

  1. Re-establish Regular Communication
  2. Refresh Your Website
  3. Plan a Welcome Back Event

Re-establish Regular Communication

Some of your volunteers will be ready to participate in your in-person opportunities while others may need some time and reassurance. So, your first step for drawing your lapsed volunteers back in is to reestablish regular communication once again, while being sensitive to their various sentiments.

Volunteers are more likely to re-engage with your organization when they feel: 

  1. Excited about new opportunities
  2. Informed about major changes to programming
  3. Prepared for getting involved again

Send an Email Blast

One of the best ways to re-engage lapsed volunteers is to reach out via email, especially with changing regulations. We don’t recommend you overwhelm your volunteers with all this information in one email. Instead, consider composing an email drip campaign or regular newsletter. We have created a recommended email sequence to inspire re-engagement efforts:

Email 1: “Welcome Back!”

We recommend you start with an introductory (or re-introductory) email when resuming programming. Welcome your volunteers again and thank them for their continued support.

Let them know that you’re back up and running and you need their help. Bear in mind that some of your volunteers may not be ready to commit to regular in-person opportunities. Help your volunteers feel safe by communicating your newly implemented safety measures and infrastructure.

Overall, we recommend that you keep the tone of your first email outreach both gentle and reassuring.

Email 2: “Check Out Our Exciting Volunteer Opportunities!”

Once you have re-welcomed your volunteers, highlight brand new opportunities in an email and direct volunteers to your opportunities page on your website. Do you plan to update your activities? If so, let your volunteers know! 

For your in-person opportunities, we recommend you include a link to information about your organization’s updated social distancing policies. End your email with a call to action, inspiring volunteers to visit your opportunities page and sign-up (don’t forget the link!).

Email 3: “Here’s How We’re Moving Forward”

Finally, we recommend you communicate major program updates and changes, such as:

  • Program mission – some organizations may have shifted programming and/or their mission in response to COVID-19, during recovery, or may shift moving forward to address the changing needs of their communities
  • Communication methods, contact information, and emergency phone numbers

The pandemic has had a profound effect on the way many community-based organizations operate. By acknowledging these changes, you can help your volunteers feel involved in the direction of your program. Your communication with your volunteers should be reassuring in tone, and we recommend you end these emails with an acknowledgment of your community’s continued support.

Send a Text

Text messaging is an inexpensive way to reach your volunteers with a bit more urgency. Keep your texts short and enthusiastic in tone, and include a call-to-action. Here are some examples of texts to re-engage your volunteers:

  • “We’ve missed you! When you’re ready, check out our volunteer opportunities. From all your friends at [organization name].”
  • “Hey there! We’re back up and running and eager to make a difference! Sign up to volunteer here [insert website link]. ”
  • “Just a quick note to let you know that we can’t wait to see you again!

Promote Your Program on Social Media

Social media is a powerful engagement tool, and there’s no better time to compose a re-engagement strategy than now. Need some content inspiration? Try these posts: 

  • Announce your return to business as usual
  • Feature new opportunities or initiatives 
  • Highlight your virtual volunteer superstars
  • Thank your supporters 
  • Let your community know you’re thinking about them
  • Post pictures of happy volunteers participating in your opportunities (don’t be afraid to draw from pre-pandemic photos)

It’s important to stick with it and keep posting quality material. Your fans and followers are more likely to notice the organizations with an active online presence. Don’t worry, we have resources available to help you craft a social media strategy:

Social Media Resources for Volunteer Coordinators

Non-profit Social Media Strategy: How to Implement a plan and measure success

Crafting a Non-profit Social Media Strategy


Refresh Your Website

You likely made changes to your website over the last year and a half. So, in order to re-engage your lapsed volunteers, you’ll want to get your site up to speed. Here are some ways to refresh your volunteer site:

Update Your Opportunities Page

You can take the following actions to refresh your web presence and welcome volunteers back.

  • Review what opportunities are currently posted on your website. Are there paused volunteer opportunities that are now coming back? 
  • Go ahead and make certain you’re reflecting current and upcoming programming, events, and available volunteer shifts accurately
  • Update your site with your NEW programming, such as  virtual volunteer opportunities that have become ongoing
  • Edit virtual opportunities. Decide which virtual opportunities still address needs in your community.

Update Your Site’s Images

You’ll want to make sure your images look fresh and inviting. Consider spotlighting new opportunities at the top of your website. Or, create a blog post or photo featuring a “thank you” to your community for their support and acknowledging the changes your organization has made during the COVID-19 recovery phase. 

You’ll want your site to look reinvigorated so lapsed volunteers feel your refreshed energy inviting them back into your mission.


Plan Something Special 

Give volunteers and donors a special reason to get involved again. Consider planning a new initiative:a virtual volunteer fair, an online appreciation event for your volunteers to look forward 

to, or a virtual Q&A for returning volunteers. Don’t forget to promote your event or initiative on social media and in an email blast to your volunteers. Host a Virtual Volunteer Event

Why not go big with a virtual event? 

Use online video tools, from Zoom to Facebook’s Live Streaming to create virtual events to keep volunteers involved. Here are some ideas to get you started::

  • Host a virtual volunteer fair to introduce new opportunities, programs, and partner agencies. Invite community partners and programs to share what they’re doing to help the community. You may choose to pre-record these videos and post them on your site. Don’t forget to promote your virtual volunteer fair online and on social media!
  • Facilitate a roundtable discussion or question and answer session using Zoom or Skype to re-engage your most dedicated volunteers from pre-March 2020. This is also a great way to gather feedback from your past supporters to help shape future programming. 
  • Go LIVE on your organization’s Facebook page or Instagram account with weekly updates to programming

Check out our guide to Virtual Volunteerism

Get Creative with Your Opportunities

Create a volunteerism campaign using your volunteer management software to get lapsed volunteers excited about taking part in your program once again! Here are some ways you can boost engagement: 

  • Encourage volunteers to log their hours and highlight your most active volunteers on your website
  • Tell your story: Who’s helping and how are they making a real difference? 
  • Highlight your most important opportunities across social channels and on your website

However you choose to involve your volunteers, your volunteer management software should make it easy to manage events and automate volunteer engagement.

Here’s 5 Essential features to look for when choosing a volunteer management software that supports your strategies for re-engaging volunteers.

With the right tools and consistent, clear communication, you’ll be on track to get your loyal volunteers back to programming.

Additional Resources

Marketing Your Volunteer Opportunities: How to Convert Prospects into Engaged Volunteers [Plus Free Email Templates]

6 Email Marketing Volunteer Engagement Tips

Volunteer Recruitment + Retention: How to get (and keep!) the volunteers you need

How to choose a volunteer management software free demo
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