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Civic Leaders, Social Media, Volunteers and the Pandemic

Civic Leaders, Social Media, Volunteers and the Pandemic

Woman with mask waving to computer screen

Social media was an imperfect tool before the pandemic. So we might not be too surprised to learn that civic organizations report mixed success as they worked through the pandemic and tried to find new ways to engage volunteers through social media. In this Research to Practice, reviewers Mark A. Hager and Rachel Nova describe what the field told us about these experiences as managers tried to stay engaged with volunteers.

To read the full article

Fri, 03/04/2022

Interesting, but not surprising, findings. Thanks for sharing. 

As noted in the Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, there never has been, and never will be, one online community or one online tool to reach everyone - just as there hasn't been anything like that offline either. We've always needed a diversity of tools to reach a diversity of people. 

Not sure, when you talked to people about Facebook, if you were talking about using the nonprofit's Facebook page, a specially-created Facebook group, or the Facebook events function to recruit and engage with volunteers. These are three very different tools and each can reach very different people. Also, recruiting volunteers is one thing - supporting and engaging with volunteers is another. I'm not sure which folks were talking about in the article. 

With my volunteer manager hat on, I have been using LinkedIn groups and geographic-focused subreddits (the subreddits for the town I'm in and those for the nearest big city) to recruit new, younger volunteers for a couple of initiatives - with great success. LinkedIn has brought me 20, 30 and 40 somethings for board roles; Reddit has brought me 20 and 30 somethings for a range of volunteering roles.  

I still use VolunteerMatch to recruit new volunteers, and consistently get young people (in their 20s and 30s) - and consistently have to take posts down in just a day or two because I get so many sign ups. This is for both online and onsite roles. 

But I don't use social media to communicate with enrolled, active volunteers when I am a volunteer manager - and neither does any of the organizations I volunteer with. And thank goodness - especially with Facebook, which doesn't allow someone to easily separate their personal and professional/public/volunteer life (so many people don't like it when they have to join a Facebook group for work or volunteering and then their colleagues start trying to friend them on Facebook as a result). 

Recently I've used Basecamp, GoogleGroups and Slack as a manager of volunteers. A group I volunteer with is using WhatsApp very heavily with current volunteers, to remind people to fill out hours, to let people know about urgent needs, to remind about events, etc. Really surprised WhatsApp, Telegram and/or Signal weren't mentioned - these are growing in popularity and are great ways to reach a diversity of volunteers (really easy for people to cut and paste messages to send to their friends and family and other networks).