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7 min read

Why Volunteers Aren’t Engaging With Your Site: 4 Reasons

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The internet is huge. By design, it offers every distraction, entertainment, and educational tidbit your potential volunteer could possibly want. Even if they start out looking for a rewarding volunteer opportunity, all it takes is one cute kitten video to throw them off the search for an organization like yours.

This is why it’s so important to make it as easy as possible for your volunteers to find you. You need to put your program’s information right in front of them at every opportunity. Then, you need volunteers to apply, get involved, and keep coming back. The best tool you have for communicating this is a well-designed nonprofit website. In this modern internet world, your website is your flagship.

But, you say, “We already have information about our volunteer program on our website, and it’s not working.”

In most cases, this is due to one (or more) of these three reasons that we’ll cover in this post. The great news is that all three of these reasons are pretty easy to fix. With a little creativity and a lot of preparation, you can have those volunteers enraptured in no time.

Reason #1: Prospective volunteers are having a hard time finding your site.

One of the best things you can do to make your site more visible to volunteers (and potential donors) is to pay attention to SEO. There are tons of little things you can do to optimize your website for search engines. According to Cornershop Creative’s guide to SEO for nonprofits, the best way to start is by providing lots of high-quality, helpful content that is tightly focused on your topic and of interest to potential volunteers.

If your site is built on WordPress, there are plugins that can help you with some of the more technical aspects of SEO like metadata, schema, and even internal linking opportunities. The more you focus on your audience and work to optimize your content, the more likely it is that your volunteers will naturally find you quickly online.

Another way to be more visible online is to start a Google Ads campaign. As a nonprofit, you may even be eligible for a Google Ad Grant that awards your organization $10,000 a month in free advertising.

Posting your volunteer opportunities on referral sites, such as VolunteerMatch, Idealist and your area volunteer center, can create additional awareness about your volunteer program's offering and drive volunteers to your site and/or application form. Marketing your volunteer program across multiple, online channels is an effective strategy for increasing website traffic from your targeted audience - volunteers!

Of course, even great SEO and well-written ads may not be able to compete with that kitten video.


Enter email and social media! By sending out regular updates and invitations, you can put your volunteer needs right in front of your intended audience. This is a great way to pull in past volunteers or supporters who may have never thought of volunteering in addition to their regular donations. Just make sure to read reasons 2 and 3 below first to make sure you can keep those potential volunteers engaged after you hook their attention.

Reason #2: Your site doesn’t offer valuable information or tools for your volunteers.

Most volunteering—and searching for volunteer opportunities—is done during leisure time. The last thing your potential volunteers want is to work for the information. You need to provide the tools and information that make volunteering as easy as possible.

This includes providing all of the practical things volunteers might need to get started, such as:

  • Volunteer application form
  • Non-confidential policies and agreements
  • Non-confidential training materials
  • Volunteer opportunities listing

It might seem like a lot to keep track of, so consider using a volunteer management software (VMS) solution to streamline the process. Most likely you already have all of these materials available in some form because you need them to run your volunteer program. By providing all non-confidential materials on your public website, prospective and current volunteers have easy access to them, and you save your volunteers the extra effort of contacting you or searching to find them. And, let's not forget the time-saving benefits you also receive by allowing your volunteers to self-serve on any confidential materials within their volunteer portal after they log in.

Volunteer Impact on Laptop

While you’re thinking of volunteer resources, you also need to consider ways to take the anxiety out of volunteering. Put yourself in the place of a potential volunteer. What would you want to know before signing up for an opportunity? What about helpful information to know before you show up on the first day?

Create comprehensive job descriptions to answer these questions and you will be much more likely to get people off the fence and in the door, while being more qualified for the volunteer role too! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • What does the volunteer opportunity involve?
  • Are there any special skills needed?
  • Is there a training that they’ll need to complete first?
  • Will there be staff or more experienced volunteers around to support them and answer questions?
  • What should volunteers wear?
  • Where do they need to park? Is it free or do they need to plan to pay for parking?
  • Will they be working inside or outside?
  • What should they do when they arrive? Who do they report to and where is that person in the building?

By building up your volunteer management system with helpful details and resources for your volunteers to access, you take any worries out of volunteering.

Reason #3: Information about your volunteer program is buried on your website

Take a look at the home of your website. Does the word “Volunteer” appear on it at all? Is it a visible part of the navigation menu, or at least under a navigation drop down that would intuitively include a link to volunteer engagement information, such as “Get Involved” or "How to Help?” A great usability test you can easily run is to sit with a friend or family member unfamiliar with your website. Starting on your home page, ask them to find information about volunteering. How long does it take them? How many times do they have to try a new page in their search?

Reason #4: Your volunteers don’t see their contributions being celebrated.

People need to feel appreciated. Volunteer recognition and retention go hand-in-hand. If they feel like their contributions don’t matter, they are less likely to return because they will seek out more rewarding opportunities.

The best way to retain volunteers and attract new ones is to publicly celebrate your volunteers right on your website and in your VMS.

There are lots of easy ways to do this, and most of them are just as fun for you as they are for volunteers:

  • Create a photo gallery of volunteers at work, or include the photos all over your website. This also helps with reason #2, above, because it shows people what they can expect when volunteering.
  • Create appreciation videos for your volunteers and share them on the website, through email, and on social media.
  • Add a section to your blog or newsletter to spotlight specific volunteers. You could also post about volunteer opportunities that you currently need help filling, including testimonials and photos from current volunteers doing the work.
  • Write thank-you notes. According to Fundraising Letters, a simple thank-you note is an easy and personal way to show your appreciation for volunteers. They can help your volunteers feel a strong personal connection to your organization and build a relationship with your team.
  • Keep up regular communication with your volunteers, celebrating their contributions and letting them know the impact they’re having towards your organization’s operations and mission.
  • Give out volunteer awards. They don’t have to be expensive plaques or trophies (unless your budget allows for that). It’s the thought that counts here, so a simple certificate or donated gift card for long-term volunteers will go a long way toward letting them know you appreciate them. You could even make a video or take pictures of the presentation to add to the volunteer appreciation content on your site!

You know how valuable volunteers are to your organization (or you probably wouldn’t be reading this). By using your website to make volunteering an easy and rewarding experience, you can increase your volunteer power substantially. The best part is that all three of the suggestions above can work together and build over time to continuously increase your volunteer engagement. All that’s left to do is get started!

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