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How to Use Activity Data to Identify Your Association's Next Volunteers

Written by Julie Dietz on August 10, 2016 at 8:30 AM

4 ways you can use activity data from your online community to identify expert volunteers.

$23.56 per hour.

According to nonprofit management and advocacy organization, Independent Sector, that's the estimated worth of a job.

But what job? A paralegal? A dental hygienist? A mechanic?

All those careers pay close to $23/hr, but none are the job that I'm referring to.

What's your guess?

The answer: a volunteer.

The value of work done by someone who is paid nothing at all is actually estimated to be over $23/hr.

In 2014, that added up to about $184 billion worth of volunteer work. And, since association often have a strong volunteer presence, your organization likely contributed to that. Associations often rely on volunteers for industry experience, administrative and event help, and many other daily, weekly, or yearly tasks.

However, finding and recruiting the best volunteers on a consistent basis can be difficult. Association professionals spend countless hours each year determining who's interested in volunteering and who has the skills you need.

Ten years ago, those questions would have been difficult to answer without directly asking your members. Today, it's as simple as going online and taking advantage of the activity data on your website, in social networking, and your member community.

Online activity data includes everything from user logins and visited pages to blog and forum posts. You can use your activity data to find members who are both interested in volunteering and have the abilities you're looking for - no direct questions needed.

4 Tips for Using Activity Data to Find Expert Volunteers for Your Association

Your private member community and association management software is automatically collecting valuable data on your members. Use these four tips to find the activity data that will help you identify top volunteers.

Tip #1) Review Demographic and Professional Information

Often included in member profiles in your private online community, demographic and professional information provides insight into what skills your members have. If they have the skills you need, you may have just identified your ideal volunteer.

If members have built their personal brand using your association's website or private member community, there are likely other places with information on their skills as well. Information from outside social networks that's displayed in your online community and shared blog posts are two examples.

Use these sources of professional information to look for members with the specific skills you need. You can assume that a member whose profile job title reads "IT Director" is a technology wiz with great computer skills, for example. When you need someone to help with your technology systems, that member may be the perfect candidate. Reach out to see if they'd be willing to share their expertise with you.

Tips #2) Browse Posts and Publications

The material that your members post is another way to identify people with the skills you need. Look for file uploads, published blogs, and experts who answer forum questions with knowledgeable information.

Based on a member's posts and the content they contain, you can find experienced professionals for your next volunteer project. These members are often invaluable for creating content, doing interviews, and lending their expertise to event planning or business management tasks.

Tip #3) Evaluate Activity Surrounding Volunteer Resources

Skills aren't the only thing you need to worry about when identifying volunteers. You also need to know who's interested, and that's where your volunteer resources can help. Your online community or membership management software should be able to tell you who is accessing your volunteer resources, and how frequently.

Start by looking at popular search terms, including who searched for "volunteer opportunities." Then look at who visited your volunteer information pages and downloaded your volunteer guidelines documents. These members are already interested enough in volunteering to seek out more information on their own, so they're great candidates if you need more help.

Tip #4) Analyze Activity Level

The members who are most likely to volunteer won't always visit your volunteer resources. Sometimes they're simply very active members who are engaged with their peers and your association.

Overall activity and engagement levels can help you find these members. Review data on how many times members have logged in, how frequently they post in forums, comment on blogs, and follow other members. Those who perform these activities often are highly engaged, interested in your mission and other members, and more likely to accept a volunteer opportunity.

When you identify these members, try to provide volunteer jobs in areas where your members are already active. For instance, members who are very active in your online member community's discussion forums could be volunteer forum moderators. Members who post helpful articles might be excellent volunteer bloggers. By finding the opportunities that fit your members' current activities best, you increase the likelihood that they'll say "yes" to your volunteer request.

Bonus Tip: Determine Areas of Interest

To make your volunteer search more effective, consider your members' interests as well. What facets of your association and its mission are your members interested in? Those are the areas they'll be most likely to volunteer in. To get information on member interests, use a combination of all your member data:

Each of these data sources give you insight into what your members are interested in. Maybe one member has read 10 blogs on proposed legislation that affects your industry. That member may be enthusiastic about helping you promote (or defeat) that legislation. A member who consistently registers for events is likely interested in live meetings. They might want to help you plan or run your conference.

Association Volunteer Management Takeaway

Activity data can help you identify volunteers based on expertise, readiness to volunteer, and interest. It can help you find the right members for your volunteer opportunities, as well as those who are most interested in volunteering.

To keep your volunteer program running smoothly, make sure to use your activity data not only to identify volunteers, but also to give them the right opportunities. Focus on areas your volunteers are passionate about. The most interested, passionate members will likely be your best volunteers.

Use your community to increase volunteerism and member engagement.

Topics: Volunteer Management, Associations, Member Engagement, Online Community

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