How to Highlight Volunteer Stories on Your Nonprofit Blog
If you operate a nonprofit, you already have a good idea of how valuable volunteers are to your day-to-day work. Did you know they also provide huge monetary value to your organization?
According to a report by EveryAction, the estimated value of a volunteer reached an impressive $32 per hour in 2022, which reinforces the idea that volunteers are vital to nonprofits. They make it possible to carry out missions while saving valuable resources and funds.
In this article, we're diving into why volunteers are the real MVPs of nonprofit organizations, and exploring how highlighting volunteer stories on your nonprofit's website can be a powerful tool for boosting volunteer recruitment and retention efforts. It's all about making your volunteers feel appreciated and building a cozy community vibe within your nonprofit. Let's get started!
1. Select volunteers whose stories you want to share.
In the world of nonprofits, showcasing your volunteers’ stories is a powerful way to convey the impact of your organization's work. It not only humanizes your efforts but also encourages others to join your cause. To make the most of this opportunity, it's essential to carefully select the volunteers whose stories you want to share.
If the goal is to attract new volunteers, it’s important to feature a diverse selection of volunteers, not just the few dedicated ones that show up every week. By doing so, you can effectively communicate that your nonprofit welcomes and needs all types of individuals to advance its mission. Here are a few groups you want to represent when making your selections:
- Long-time Volunteers: Highlighting the dedication of long-serving volunteers can demonstrate the lasting impact that individuals can make on your nonprofit. Consider giving service badges or awards to these volunteers.
- New Volunteers: Sharing the stories of newcomers can inspire others to take their first step into volunteering, showing that your organization is welcoming to all, regardless of experience.
- Volunteers Who Also Donate: These individuals have displayed a deep commitment to your cause by supporting your organization in multiple ways. Their stories can underscore the importance of multifaceted giving.
- Volunteers Who Used to be Beneficiaries: Showcasing volunteers who were once beneficiaries of your nonprofit and have now come full circle as volunteers can illustrate the transformative power of your work. This also emphasizes a feeling of community and shows the heart of your organization.
- One-Time or Event Volunteers: Feature those who may not have a regular commitment but have made a significant impact through their participation in one-time events or activities. This lets people know that they can make a difference even if they don’t have much time to give.
- Corporate Volunteers: Highlighting volunteers from corporate partners can emphasize the value of corporate engagement and partnerships in achieving your mission.
- Youth Volunteers: The energy and enthusiasm of young volunteers can be infectious and can inspire others of their age group to get involved, especially if the photos and stories make the work look like fun.
- Retiree Volunteers: These individuals often have a wealth of skills and experience to offer and can demonstrate that volunteering is a meaningful way to spend one's retirement years.
- Families and Groups: Showcasing families or groups who volunteer together communicates the idea that volunteering can be a shared bonding experience.
To identify volunteers within these categories who have unique stories or interesting experiences, consider the following strategies:
- Get recommendations from your volunteer coordinator. Your volunteer coordinator likely has insights into the most compelling stories within your volunteer base.
- Survey your volunteers. Conduct surveys to collect anecdotes, experiences, and stories that your volunteers are willing to share.
- Invite volunteers to nominate others. Encourage your volunteers to nominate fellow volunteers or even themselves to be featured on your blog. This approach can help you uncover hidden gems in your volunteer pool. You can do this easily by adding a suggestion box at your location or adding a form to your website.
Remember that not everyone wants to be publicly celebrated or have their photos online. While featuring volunteer stories, it's crucial to obtain informed consent before you post anywhere. Some volunteers may wish to remain anonymous, while others may have specific preferences about how and where their stories are shared or any images associated with them.
If you already have a volunteer onboarding process, consider adding a consent form to the paperwork. Your team will save time writing and posting stories if volunteer sharing preferences are collected in advance and kept for easy reference. Respecting these preferences is vital for maintaining strong and trusting relationships with your volunteers.
2. Write engaging volunteer stories.
Once you've selected the volunteers whose stories you want to feature, the next step is to craft compelling narratives that will resonate with your nonprofit's blog readers. Engaging volunteer stories can inspire, educate, and motivate your audience, so it's essential to make them captivating and relatable.
Here are some practical writing tips to help you create powerful volunteer stories for your nonprofit's blog:
- Get information directly from the volunteer. To create authentic and engaging stories, it's crucial to gather information directly from the volunteer. You can do this through email questionnaires or interviews. Encourage them to share their experiences, motivations, and personal insights.
- Start with an interesting hook. Begin your volunteer story with a captivating hook that piques the reader's interest. It could be a powerful quote from the individual, a surprising fact, or a compelling anecdote related to their work.
- Highlight the volunteer’s background and journey. Provide context by introducing the volunteer's background, interests, and how they first got involved with your nonprofit. Trace their journey or narrative arc within your program, showing how they have evolved and what inspired their commitment.
- Use quotes. Quotes from the volunteer can add authenticity and emotional depth to the story. Use their own words to convey their passion, experiences, and motivations.
- Celebrate the impact. Make sure to clearly state the impact that the volunteer has had on your nonprofit's work. Describe the specific projects or tasks they've been involved in and the outcomes of their contributions. Use concrete examples and statistics, if available, to quantify the impact.
- Use descriptive language. Paint a vivid picture with descriptive language. Help the reader visualize the volunteer's experiences, the people they've helped, and the emotions they've encountered along the way. Engage the senses to create a more immersive reading experience.
- Edit and proofread. Before publishing volunteer stories (or any content on your website), thorough editing and proofreading are essential. Make sure the narrative flows smoothly, is free of grammatical errors, and maintains a consistent tone. An error-free story reflects positively on your nonprofit's professionalism and attention to detail.
Incorporating these writing tips will help you create volunteer stories that not only inform your readers but also resonate with their emotions and values. Remember, the more engaging and relatable the stories, the more likely they are to inspire others to volunteer and support your organization.
3. Incorporate high-quality visuals.
High-quality visuals take your volunteer stories beyond being just informative by making them highly engaging and shareable. Visual content has the power to convey emotions, capture attention, and leave a lasting impression on your readers. It’s easier than you might think to lean into this design best practice and add visual interest to your stories.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Enhance Engagement and Shareability
Your visuals should catch your readers’ attention and hold onto it. Here are some different types of visuals that can enhance your volunteer stories’ engagement and shareability:
- Candid Photos: Candid photos of volunteers in action can provide a genuine and relatable look at their experiences. These shots capture the authenticity and dedication of your volunteers, helping readers connect on a personal level.
- Volunteer Portraits/Headshots: Including headshots or portraits of your volunteers alongside their stories adds a personal touch. It humanizes the narrative, allowing readers to put a face to the name and establish a deeper connection.
- Video Interviews: Video interviews provide an immersive experience, allowing volunteers to share their stories in their own words and convey their passion through body language and tone of voice.
- Infographics and Data Visualization: For conveying statistics, impact metrics, or program outcomes, infographics and data visualizations are incredibly effective. They make complex information more digestible and visually appealing.
- Photo Galleries: Create photo galleries to showcase a series of images, documenting a volunteer's journey or a specific event. This format can add depth and context to the story.
Optimize Visual Placement
The placement of visual elements within your blog posts can significantly affect readability and engagement. Here are some tips to follow:
- Above the Fold: Start your blog post with an engaging visual, such as a captivating candid photo or an eye-catching portrait. This visual should immediately draw readers in and set the tone for the narrative.
- Interweave Visuals with the Story: Incorporate visuals at relevant points in the narrative to enhance the reader's understanding and emotional connection. For instance, insert a photo of the volunteer working on a project while describing their contributions.
- Video Integration: If you have videos to include, consider embedding them within the text when the video supports or elaborates on the story. If the video is the main story, make sure to include a description and accessible transcript.
- Numbers and Data Visualization: Highlight important statistics and impact numbers strategically within the text by using features within your website builder like number counter widgets, larger text, bright colors, and other graphic elements. These help to illustrate key points and break up content for easier consumption.
- Photo Galleries: When using photo galleries, create a visual journey within your blog post. Include a brief caption for each photo to provide context and guide the reader through the story's progression.
Incorporating these high-quality visuals and placing them effectively in your volunteer stories not only enhances the visual appeal but also complements the narrative, making it more captivating and shareable. Visuals can be the driving force behind your storytelling, making your nonprofit's website a dynamic and engaging platform for connecting with your audience and conveying the impact of your volunteers' efforts.
4. Add calls-to-action.
Volunteer stories celebrate the work that volunteers have already done and present a unique opportunity to recruit more supporters for your program. Calls-to-action (CTAs) are the key to accomplishing this dual purpose, helping you engage your readers and guide them toward taking meaningful actions that support your nonprofit's mission.
Writing Effective CTAs
A CTA is a prompt or instruction designed to encourage readers to take a specific action. In the context of volunteer stories on your blog, CTAs serve as invitations for your readers to get involved, either by volunteering, donating, or learning more about your organization. Here's what goes into an effective CTA:
- Compelling and Concise Wording: Your CTA should use clear, concise language that communicates exactly what you are asking people to do. It should convey a sense of urgency and emphasize the benefits of taking action. For instance, "Become a Volunteer and Save a Life Today" is more impactful than just saying "Get involved."
- Strong Visual Design: A visually striking CTA can draw immediate attention. Use contrasting colors and an eye-catching design to make your CTA stand out on the page. It should be visually distinct from the surrounding content.
- Strategic Placement: The placement of your CTA within your blog posts is crucial. Generally, it's a good practice to include CTAs both as a text link within the body of the volunteer story and as a highlighted section at the end of the post. Additionally, you can add a CTA in the sidebar or as a pop-up that appears when readers scroll down.
- Link to Specific Landing Pages: The CTA should link to carefully chosen landing pages that correspond to the action you want readers to take. For example, if you're encouraging volunteer sign-ups, link to your volunteer registration form. If you're seeking donations, link to your donation page. Make sure that these landing pages are user-friendly, mobile responsive, and optimized for conversion.
Optimizing Your Volunteer Program-Related Landing Pages
Since you’re now thinking about your landing pages, you should work on making them effective. Optimizing your volunteer program-related landing pages will ensure that actions are carried out after you’ve done the hard work of getting visitors to the page. Consider the following tips:
- Write clear and compelling headlines. Ensure that your landing page headlines communicate the purpose and value of the page. For example, if it's a volunteer sign-up page, the headline could be "Join Our Volunteer Team and Be a Changemaker!"
- Include simple, user-friendly forms. Make the registration or donation process as simple as possible. Minimize the number of required fields on your forms to reduce friction.
- Use plenty of visuals and testimonials. Use visuals and volunteer testimonials on your landing pages to reinforce the positive experience and impact of volunteering.
- Create thank-you pages. After someone completes the action (volunteer sign-up, donation, etc.), direct them to a thank-you page that expresses gratitude and provides additional information or next steps, such as sharing the volunteer story they just read.
By strategically placing effective CTAs throughout your blog posts and linking them to well-optimized landing pages, you can harness the full potential of your volunteer stories to not only celebrate your volunteers but also convert readers into engaged volunteers, donors, and supporters.
5. Use your volunteer stories to promote your volunteer program.
While featuring volunteer stories on your nonprofit's blog is an excellent start, it's equally important to make sure that these inspiring narratives reach a broader audience. This can be achieved through various channels, which will increase your nonprofit's visibility and promote your volunteer program. Here's how you can do this through key channels:
- Email and Email Newsletters
- Incorporate volunteer story blog posts in your organization's regular email newsletters. Create a section dedicated to these stories, including a teaser or excerpt with a link to the full blog post.
- Consider creating targeted segmented email campaigns based on your audience's interests. For example, if you have volunteers who are primarily interested in fundraising, send them stories of volunteers who have excelled in that area.
- Social Media
- Share your volunteer stories across various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Craft engaging posts that include a summary, captivating image or video, and link to the full story on your blog.
- Sprinkle your posts with relevant hashtags to increase visibility. Use a mix of both general nonprofit-related hashtags and those specific to your cause or volunteer program.
- Encourage your followers to share these stories on their social media profiles, extending your reach to their networks. You can also create shareable graphics or quotes from the stories to make it easier for supporters to share.
- Volunteer Communications
- Personally reach out to your volunteers, either via email or phone, and share the volunteer stories with them. Ask for their feedback and encourage them to become ambassadors for your nonprofit by sharing these stories within their communities.
- Just as you include volunteer stories in your general newsletters, consider sending a separate newsletter exclusively to your volunteers, celebrating their contributions and featuring their stories.
- Host volunteer recognition events where you highlight these stories and publicly thank your volunteers for their dedication. This creates a sense of appreciation and encourages word-of-mouth promotion.
- Ask Volunteers to Share
- Encourage your volunteers to share the volunteer stories with their networks. Provide them with easy-to-share links and suggest some compelling captions to accompany their social media posts.
- If your volunteers are part of specific volunteer networks or forums, ask them to share the stories within those communities, where like-minded individuals may be more inclined to engage and get involved.
By effectively utilizing these channels and encouraging your volunteers to be advocates for your nonprofit, you can expand the reach of your volunteer stories, ultimately promoting your volunteer program to a wider audience.
Volunteer stories are not merely narratives; they are the lifeblood of your nonprofit's mission. They humanize your organization's work, celebrate the dedication of your volunteers, and provide a valuable resource for attracting new volunteers and supporters.
By selecting a diverse range of volunteers, crafting compelling narratives, incorporating high-quality visuals, and strategically utilizing calls to action, you can effectively highlight the vital role volunteers play in your organization.
Furthermore, by sharing the stories and asking your supporters to do the same, you can amplify the reach and impact of your volunteer program.
So, start sharing those inspiring tales, and watch as your nonprofit's mission gains the momentum it deserves, one volunteer story at a time.
About the Author:
With 15 years’ experience, Ira is an expert in nonprofit online communications and online fundraising. His work has resulted in increased funds and resounding supporter engagement for hundreds of organizations.
Ira oversees our project management team and works with clients to provide our clients with the best possible final product. He also manages all of our strategic engagements and helps guide nonprofits to determine their long-term strategy goals for online communications.