The best nonprofit websites serve many different purposes. For example, they act as a source of information about an organization’s mission, vision, and values. They help organizations promote upcoming events and campaigns and host easy-to-use online donation forms. They’re a hub for nonprofit updates and important resources like financial information and annual reports.
Additionally, nonprofit websites can be a tool for volunteer engagement. That’s right—whether you’re looking to recruit new volunteers or retain your current volunteers, your website can help!
However, it’s not enough to post some general information about your volunteer program somewhere on your site and call it good. In order to truly optimize your website for volunteer engagement, you need to step into your volunteers’ shoes and leverage website design best practices that will not only draw your volunteers’ attention to your online resources but keep them coming back for more.
That’s where this quick guide comes in. We’ll cover four strategies you can leverage to make your website a valuable resource for volunteers old and new. Let’s dive in.
1. Make it easy to find information about your volunteer program.
If you don’t have one already, create a central “Volunteer” page on your website that can serve as the HQ for all the information and resources you want to share about your program. Your page should be highly-visible, linked in your main menu where website visitors can easily find and click on it.
Within your “Volunteer” page, you should provide the following information and tools:
- Goals of your volunteer program: Near the top of the page, explain the purpose and goals of your volunteer program. Make sure you relate these back to your larger mission and vision. This will illustrate to visitors how your volunteer program directly impacts your cause.
- An easy-to-use registration form: Provide a registration form so interested individuals can sign up for your volunteer program. The form should be short and easy to fill out, while still helping you capture all of the information you need to thoroughly vet applicants. (More on registration forms in the next section!)
- Details on any special requirements or eligibility information: Depending on the nature of your organization, you may have special requirements for your volunteers. For example, if you work in your town’s school system, volunteers might need to be fingerprinted before working with students. Or, if your nonprofit runs a swim camp at the local recreation center, you may require all volunteers to be CPR certified. Ensure these requirements are clear so that volunteers know what you’re looking for right from the get-go.
- A thorough list of volunteer opportunities: This list should be updated often and list the different roles you’re looking to fill, along with job descriptions that detail the requirements of the role, including qualifications, duties, and the time commitment needed. Make sure to include a variety of options, from ongoing opportunities to one-time micro-volunteering opportunities. This will help ensure you offer volunteering options that fit a range of interests and schedules.
- Contact information: If anyone has questions about your volunteer program or a specific opportunity or requirement, they should know where to contact your volunteer coordinator. Provide a phone number or email address they can use, or offer an easy-to-use contact form.
- Information on volunteer grants: According to Double the Donation, some companies give monetary grants to nonprofits where their employees regularly volunteer. This means volunteer grants are an easy way for your volunteers to make even more of an impact on your organization without spending a dime! So make sure they know about these opportunities and encourage them to see if their employer offers them.
In addition to offering these important resources, ensure your “Volunteer” page is branded to match the rest of your website. This will help your organization appear professional and consistent, and your volunteers will know from visual cues that your program is connected to your organization’s larger mission.
2. Streamline the volunteer registration process.
Registering for your program is the first step an individual takes to becoming a dedicated volunteer for your cause. It’s imperative that you make the registration process a positive experience in order to set the right tone for a long relationship with your new volunteer!
Plus, a clunky or lengthy process might leave a website visitor discouraged, and they might give up on volunteering with your organization altogether. So, what can you do to streamline your volunteer registration process?
Here are some tips:
- Pay attention to your registration form. Your form should be short and easy to fill out. Only ask for essential information, like the potential volunteer’s name and contact information, as well as the roles they’re interested in. If you do want to capture more information, like where the individual heard about your organization or what their communication preferences are, make sure to mark those questions as optional.
- Clear instructions. Guide your potential volunteers through the registration process with clear instructions. One of the best ways to do so is to label registration form fields so that individuals know what to type into the form. You should also make volunteers aware of any special requirements for your volunteer program, like getting a background check, and explain the process for meeting those requirements.
- Automate confirmation and follow-up. Individuals who are eager to start volunteering with your organization will want assurance that you’ve received their registration information. Set up your process so that after an individual submits their registration form, they receive a confirmation on the screen or via email that you’ve received their registration, as well as any next steps to be aware of.
One of the best things you can do to keep your registration process smooth is to regularly revisit your registration form. According to Cornershop Creative’s guide to nonprofit website maintenance, one of the biggest issues nonprofit websites face is when elements like registration forms break without your knowledge. This can impede website visitors from getting involved in your volunteer program, so make sure to check your form on a regular basis!
3. Create volunteer-only resources.
Depending on the structure and size of your volunteer program, it may be beneficial to create volunteer-only resources on your website that are accessible to individuals through a volunteer portal. Volunteer-only resources can help communicate that you’re invested in your volunteers’ success and that you see them as part of your nonprofit’s team.
Plus, the right resources can set up your volunteers to perform in their roles to the best of their abilities, reducing your team’s time spent onboarding and scheduling volunteers.
Here are some resources you might choose to offer:
- Volunteer handbook: A volunteer handbook sets forth the policies and procedures that guide your volunteer program and can be a good reference for your volunteers to have access to. It might include volunteer expectations, a code of conduct, and safety guidelines, as well as information about registration, training, scheduling, and recognition.
- Training materials: While it will be important to host some virtual or in-person training sessions with new volunteers, you can also put training materials on your website, like short readings, videos, and podcasts. Plus, your volunteers can turn to these materials if they ever need a refresher on the duties they’ve been trained in previously.
- Scheduling tool: Instead of manually scheduling your volunteers, you can set up a scheduling tool to do it for you. Have volunteers self-select the days and times that they’re available to fill their roles. This will help your volunteers find opportunities that work for them and help you stay organized.
- Forums: One of the greatest benefits of joining a volunteer program is getting to know other individuals who are passionate about the same cause. Empower your volunteers to get to know each other by offering forums in the volunteer-only section of your website. Keep the forums active by posting fun get-to-know-you questions and actively responding to posts.
- Directory: Depending on the nature of your volunteer program, it may be nice for volunteers to have access to each other’s contact information. Provide a short, easy-to-use directory with volunteers’ names, email addresses, and phone numbers. Make sure to ask permission before including an individual’s information in the directory.
Volunteer-only resources add an element of exclusivity to your program and help you create a strong community of volunteers. You can supplement the resources on your website by creating other community hubs, like a private Facebook group. This gives your organization multiple touchpoints with its volunteers and can help to strengthen your connections with them!
4. Use visuals and storytelling to showcase your volunteer program’s impact.
Another great way to engage your community with your volunteer program is to share the impact your volunteers have on your cause. This illustrates to everyone involved in your work that you’re making progress on your mission and that your volunteers are important to that progress.
Start by leveraging striking visuals. For example, you might share candid photos or videos of your volunteers at work, whether they’re helping you cook a Thanksgiving meal for unhoused individuals or manning water stations at your fun run. Or maybe your organization works to restore historical homes in your local area. You could share before and after photos of a house you’ve completed work on to visually demonstrate progress for your cause.
Additionally, you can communicate metrics and statistics about your volunteer program’s impact through infographics. Putting numbers into a visual format makes them more digestible and can help important patterns and trends stand out.
You can also use thoughtful storytelling on your website to share how your volunteers have made a difference for your cause. For example, in your blog posts, you could share individual volunteer spotlights. This is a great way to show your volunteers that they’re appreciated by your nonprofit and to illustrate the impact that one individual can make on your cause.
Encourage your volunteers and others to share your impact stories by adding social sharing tools to your website. This way, when website visitors see an image or read a story that resonates with them, they can easily share it with their personal network. This will help drive more awareness for your cause and recruit more volunteers to your program!
If you’re looking for a way to more effectively engage your nonprofit’s volunteers, optimizing your website is a great option to start with. As you incorporate these four tips into your optimization plan, remember to think like your volunteers and consider your website from their perspective!
To take your website optimization efforts to the next level, consider working with a nonprofit web design agency that can help you fine-tune the look and functionality of your website so that it’s a great resource for your volunteers and the rest of your community. You’ve got this!
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.