Connecting with volunteers on Facebook

Many volunteer managers are accustomed to connecting with their volunteers through traditional means. However, Facebook can often be an overlooked resource for staying connected to volunteers.

Every day, more and more adults sign-up for a social network. In fact, Pew Internet reports that nearly 67 percent of adults now belong to a social network – the most active of that group being adults 18- to 40-years-old. On the same note, a 2012 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project indicated that nearly half of American adults own a smartphone, which is a cellular phone capable of accessing the internet and running mobile applications. Similarly, nearly 20 percent of American adults now own a tablet computer, like an Apple or Android device. The great thing about social media, smartphones, and tablet devices is that they are portable and can be accessed from anywhere.

What’s more interesting is that social media users are more likely to be active in voluntary groups. According to a 2012 report by Pew Internet, 75 percent of adults are engaged in volunteer work. Those individuals that identify as being active in online social networks are more likely to be a part of volunteer groups, compared to those who do not use the internet – 56 percent of non-internet users belong to groups while 82 percent of group participants belong to social networks. Nonetheless, many volunteer managers have been hesitant to get on board with social networking as a means of engaging their volunteers. This article explores how volunteer managers can use Facebook to connect with existing volunteers. Facebook is still the most popular social networking site – 92 percent of online adults use Facebook. Future articles will dive deeper into this subject and also explore ways to connect with potential volunteers by using social media for recruitment.

Michigan State University Extension recommends knowing about the different tools available for use through Facebook that pertain to programs and those who run or support those programs. First, there are three different tools that are widely used on Facebook – profiles, pages, and groups. Personal profiles are meant to be used by individuals for personal use and offer a variety of ways to share pictures, information, and other media with those who you are friends with or connected with on Facebook. Pages allow entities such as public figures and organizations to broadcast information to their fans and are like a webpage that happens to be housed within Facebook. Groups are meant to foster group discussion around a particular topic area. Groups are meant for smaller populations of people that all share a common interest or activity. Programs should not be creating personal profiles on Facebook. Personal profiles are for people, not organizations or businesses. Facebook will delete a personal profile that is created for an organization or business because this practice violates their policies. The decision on which is best for your program is up to you, but make sure you consider that each tool has a different intention: A good rule of thumb is that fan pages are for people who know the organization, groups are for people in the organization who know each other.

Check out future articles to know how to use specific features of Facebook to support your volunteer programming!

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