Using Social Networks To Recruit, Retain, And Engage Volunteers, Part 2: Facebook

December 31, 1969

Welcome the second of our five-part series on recruiting, retaining, and engaging volunteers through social networking!

In last week’s article, I introduced you to the difference between networking as an individual and networking as a business. In today’s post, we’ll go over networking through Facebook from the latter perspective. Stay tuned throughout this month for our follow-up posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest!

Why this network is importantVolunteer Global Facebook page

Facebook is one of the most popular websites in the world. Not in the U.S., not the U.K.—the world. My Dutch fiance’s 80+ grandfather has a Facebook account. My 8-year-old American cousin has a Facebook account. Everybody’s on it, and it’s unbelievably useful for recruiting, retaining, and engaging your volunteers.

You need it to recruit new volunteers—by having your current fans share and comment on your posts, you’ll increase visibility and gain more like-minded fans that may become future volunteers.

Facebook is an incredible tool to keep your current volunteers engaged—post their photos from the field, give updates about your projects worldwide, and let them know the impact of their work.

And finally—what I believe is the most overlooked aspect of volunteer support—you can absolutely use Facebook to retain and engage your alumni! Volunteer alumni arguably are your largest support base, and yet volunteers around the world express time and again their concerns that they feel cast off after their work is done.

As mentioned in the first part of this series, I saw this firsthand in my previous job at one of the largest volunteer agencies in the world. My particular office worked with returned volunteer support, and of an agency with more than 800 employees at headquarters, our staff took up only 15 of those positions and less than 1% of the agency’s budget. The focus was on recruitment, not retention and alumni involvement.

And it’s one reason I decided to work full-time on Volunteer Global—because volunteers aren’t just a revolving door of well-intentioned help. Get them involved after service, let them know just how important they are to your mission, and your company will grow exponentially.

Best practices
Don’t post too much and too often

Your volunteers, friends, and networks will at best let their eyes slide off the page when you post too much, and at worst they’ll unlike your page because they think it’s too spammy.

Don’t post too little and too late

Not posting enough, on the other hand, doesn’t help your cause either. Whether it’s to get volunteers involved with your group, to fundraise for your projects, or to build a support network—your page will be forgotten, turn stagnant, and your volunteers and networks won’t engage with you the way you’ll want them to.

Don’t post only about yourself

Think of it this way—when you have a friend that only talks about himself, you get annoyed pretty quickly. You want to have a conversation, not a “me-me-me” update. Facebook works the same way!

A great way to find engaging, interesting content to add daily from your page is to find news articles, events, or announcements from other sources that relate to the spirit of your page. If you want to recruit and retain volunteers, then find articles that talk about how to choose a great program, top 10 volunteer destinations worldwide, or even holidays and celebrations from your host country.

Ask questions or do something different to help your volunteers interact with you and with one another

In addition to posting announcements and articles, ask your fans questions, start a photo contest, or even post a giveaway! Informative articles are great, but even news agencies post polls and contests from time to time—and their job is to get the news out there.Internet cafe - Using social networks to engage volunteers - Volunteer Global

Pay attention to Insights

Brittany Edwardes is a star. Have I told you that? Part of her job as a Volunteer Global team member is to write Facebook reports every month, with information on what we posted, what was popular (in all the ways it can be, either by virality, by comments, by reach, and so on), and how to change our strategies.

By paying attention to the built-in Facebook Insights—and understanding what they are—our page went from a stagnant article dump to a robust, engaging one that’s grown by hundreds of members in the past few months. Of course we’re not to 1,000 or 10,000 yet, but that’s not the point. The point is, we’re paying attention to what our fans like and what they want to know, and not “How to get a million followers in one week.”

And for the love of pete, don’t repost the “Oh my word, Facebook is only showing our posts to 15% of our fans!” thing. It’s always done that—you just didn’t know it because those insights weren’t there. And hey, 15% isn’t a terrible thing! Your email blasts won’t be read 100% of the time, your flyers won’t catch the attention of everyone that passes by, and your phone calls won’t always be met with a happy voice on the other end of the line. Facebook is no different; keep with your mission and get your message out to the 15% that will see the post, and the friends of friends that’ll see it if you learn to post fantastic content!


The goal for you today is to understand that Facebook—while an impersonal site in many ways—provides much more personal approach to engaging with your community and networks than you might think. Give your volunteers a reason to like your page and a reason for them to tell their friends to like it too.

Now, how have you used Facebook to engage your volunteers and friends? Post your best practices and ideas below!

Photo courtesy of Jared Tarbell, Creative Commons.