How to use Instagram to recruit volunteers

In this post, we explain how you can use Instagram to recruit volunteers

How to use Instagram to recruit volunteers

A well thought-out strategy and attention can bring non-profits a lot

As I wrote recently, charities and volunteer centres know very well that they can use social media to increase their brand awareness and recruit new volunteers. However, many non-profits do not know how to do this. The percentage of charities worldwide that have a well thought out social media strategy remains at 32 percent.

It is not an unwillingness, but often a lack of time, money and manpower. Also, non-profits do not always know in which social medium they can best invest. The target group that can be reached on Facebook is often not on Instagram - and vice versa.

Annabel Koops, project secretary at Buurtbuik, recognises this problem. Buurtbuik is active in Amsterdam and Utrecht and fights against food waste, by preparing healthy meals for neighbourhood inhabitants from surplus food from the catering industry and supermarkets.

"We have been using Instagram for about two years now. The past six months we have been doing it a little more streamlined, but we do not yet have as clear a strategy as we would like. For now, we are most active on Facebook. After our site, that is where most new volunteers come from.

Koops does expect that in the future more volunteers will be recruited via Instagram. The platform is also becoming more popular internationally among non-profits. This is partly because the users of Instagram are young, and not without means. According to research, a quarter of American users earn more than 75,000 dollars a year and three-quarters take action regularly after seeing an advertisement on the platform.

Practical tips

A presence on Instagram can therefore bring many benefits to charities. But how do you use Instagram effectively to attract new volunteers? In this article, we share practical tips for developing a well thought-out strategy for the platform.

Before we do that, it is important to point out that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to success on Instagram. Every organisation is different, and Instagram provides the space to show personality and atmosphere like no other. Users want to see the organisation's core values reflected on the platform. Also, not every non-profit has the same objective when it comes to using Instagram. In this article, however, we focus on a strategy that makes it easier to attract new volunteers.

1. Plan your content

By far, most Instagram users share something on the platform the moment they have a nice snapshot. Nice for loyal followers, but that is not the way to grow an account. There has to be a certain amount of planning behind it. Take a look at the app's statistics (in the top right menu, then 'statistics') to see which days of the week your followers are most active. Based on that, you can choose to post on Wednesdays and Saturdays, for example. Make sure you have enough content to actually post twice a week. Plan a photo shoot once a month, for example, at a volunteer activity or at a location that can be associated with the organisation. Decide in advance what/who you want to portray and for what purpose. It is easy to make several series of photos with the same theme ('our volunteers are creative in the kitchen' or 'these are local residents who often join us for meals') and to alternate them.

2. Create a consistent atmosphere and use colour

Followers who don't know your organisation will fall for a feed that looks slick. Good quality photos that all have the same vibe pique users' interest - they can see that you always come up with good posts and are therefore curious to see what else is coming. That's what generates followers. So make sure you take good photos (or have one taken by a professional or a talented volunteer) and let the atmosphere be your guide. In other words: choose the atmosphere you want to portray on the account once and then choose three colours that match that atmosphere and the corporate identity of the organisation. Then only take photos that reflect that atmosphere and the chosen colours. Advanced Instagram users can choose to use presets in the external programme Adobe Lightroom to create the same atmosphere in the photos.

3. Make use of storytelling

Instagram is basically a new-fangled photo book. And photo books are full of stories. Of course, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, but don't underestimate the importance of text on Instagram. A good caption can teach followers what the organisation really stands for and can greatly increase the number of likes and reactions to a photo. It is even better if photo and text reinforce each other. To do this, use the stories that are already circulating in the organisation: those of volunteers and the people you do it for. Portray them and let them tell you why they are committed to the organisation or why they are so happy that the organisation is there for them. The more personal the stories, the more powerful the message.

4. Don't forget the #hashtags

Hashtags can be used to increase the reach of an account on Instagram. Users who do not follow your organisation, but do follow a certain hashtag, can thus still see photos from the account. And hopefully, those posts will be so catchy that they will decide to follow your organisation. To find good hashtags, check out what hashtags other charities or highly active volunteers in the same sector are using. Since you want to attract volunteers, it is best to choose Dutch language hashtags. It may also be worthwhile to come up with your own hashtag in a brainstorming session. Make sure it is unique, so users can click on it and get a nice overview of all the posts the organisation has made. At Deedmob, for example, we use our own unique hashtag #deedperks.

5. Build engagement

As we mentioned above, storytelling - a good symbiosis of image and text - can significantly increase the number of likes and comments under a photo. And there is more you can do to increase engagement with followers. A question in the text can help ("What do you think of this?" or "What good cause are you involved in?"). The most important thing, however, is to actively like and respond to other people's posts. Followers know they have your attention and that they are appreciated. They will be more inclined to visit and perhaps even to become a volunteer. Users who are not yet following your account may become interested in you - who knows, they may start following you after a nice or substantive comment under their photo and that may lead to more. In fact, it's like in real life: if you pay attention to someone else, they will probably pay attention to you.

Showing the broader picture

We hope that these tips will help you boost your organisation's Instagram account and attract new volunteers. At Buurtbuik, there is certainly the ambition to make something beautiful out of the account.

"We want to bring more structure," says Annabel Koops. "And we want to show the broader picture. We now mainly post photos and videos of the meals and of groups of volunteers, but there is more to share. Like how the food is made, who the volunteers are and who the people are who come to eat."

"Usually volunteers come to us because they have heard from other people how nice it is," she continued. "Pictures of volunteers on Instagram, with their own story and motivation attached, could be a good alternative to word-of-mouth advertising."