Since social media burst onto the scene, it has become ingrained in the way that the non-profit sector engages with its shareholders and the public. Some local non-profit organizations made the connection that social media was so good at engaging the public, it should be just as good at engaging volunteers. For the animal rescue organizations Oops-a-Dazy and Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS), Facebook Groups have become integral to their volunteer engagement.
AARCS and Oops-a-Dazy started using Facebook Groups differently. Oops-a-Dazy adopted Facebook Groups to help keep in touch with their volunteers first, and then started a public Facebook page.
“Our core group of volunteers found we were all starting to use Facebook more and more and stumbled upon groups as a way to communicate. It seemed to really suit our needs at the time,” says Christine Campbell, chairperson and a volunteer manager at Oops-a-Dazy.
With Oops-a-Dazy being a grassroots organization without a traditional brick-and-mortar location, managing volunteers has gotten a lot easier for Campbell. Facebook Groups have helped her build an online space for the volunteers to meet.
“Facebook Groups allow our volunteers to stay in touch, keep abreast of the things everyone else is doing, share in successes and gather feedback. Overall, I have found Facebook Groups to be one of the most important tools in our arsenal,” Campbell says. “This keeps volunteers engaged, and also lets us get to know each other.”
AARCS started engaging people with Facebook in 2010. A little over a year ago they started three Facebook Groups to engage their different volunteer groups and have seen nothing but positive results.
“Facebook Groups have definitely helped the director coordinators. From a coordinator perspective it has cut down the amount of emails going back and forth,” says AARCS volunteer manager Rachel Howard. With 800 volunteers (not all of whom are in the Facebook Groups) you can imagine how many emails AARCS staffers get a day.
“For example, when an animal foster goes on vacation and needs someone to watch the animals in their care, they can simply post it on the group page and have people respond almost instantly. Of course AARCS needs to ‘ok’ everything, but it has made things easier,” explains Howard.
That instantaneous connection has also really helped with volunteer engagement at Oops-a-Dazy.
“Our volunteers often take initiative to answer each other’s questions on Facebook, and often much quicker than we would be able to through email,” explains Campbell. “So it is quicker, but still allows us to see what information is being given so we can confirm that it is correct.”
Both AARCS and Oops-a-Dazy have found that volunteer engagement has increased because of the community that Facebook Groups foster amongst volunteers themselves.
“If there is a difficult dog in the shelter, they can post to the group and ask each other for advice. Volunteers feel more connected to each other and to the volunteer coordinators themselves,” says Howard. “It’s really fun when volunteers have been communicating through the group and then meet at the shelter. They get so excited.”
The Oops-a-Dazy volunteer groups have built such a strong community that it even extends beyond Oops-a-Dazy business. “One of our foster homes recently had a horrific flood in the house,” says Campbell. “She posted her misfortune in our group, and since then has had crews of Oops-a-Dazy volunteers out there cleaning, ripping down drywall, and repairing. It was pretty inspiring.”
At AARCS, Howard has found another helpful use for Facebook Groups. “Recognition is another great part of the group pages. I can give a shout-out for a job well-done to a volunteer on the group page. It is public, but not so much so that a volunteer would be embarrassed to receive it.”
While neither AARCS, nor Oops-a-Dazy have tracked specific outcomes or satisfaction in relation to the Facebook Groups, both Howard and Campbell feel that they have significantly helped with volunteer engagement and possibly even retention.
“Our volunteer retention has greatly increased over the past year and a half. I’m not sure I could quantify how much social media has impacted that, but seeing our posts every day certainly keeps us top of mind,” says Campbell.