Facebook groups: A great tool for volunteer managers
Social media and Web 2.0 tools can be a great way for volunteer managers to build a sense of community amongst their volunteers, support collaboration and teamwork amongst the ranks, share program updates, and disseminate resources.
Both novice and experienced volunteer managers know that volunteer recruitment can be very difficult – so it is critical that existing volunteers are retained as a vital investment of the organization. Research indicates that nearly 1/3 of volunteers won’t continue their service because they have experienced poor management practices. According to Rick Lynch, belonging to a supportive community is key when considering what keeps volunteers engaged. Much of what volunteer managers understand as best practice doesn’t necessarily take into account the changing culture that makes face-to-face support difficult for both administrators and volunteers. While inperson approaches are still important, social media like Facebook can be an effective way of providing an environment for volunteers to interact with one another and staff that operates independently of time or location. Volunteer managers can use the group to remind everyone of upcoming events, notify them in case of changing timelines and to provide ongoing encouragement.
According to Pew Internet, about 67 percent of adults now belong to a social network – the most active of that group being adults 18-40 years old. Facebook is still the most popular social networking site – 92 percent of online adults use Facebook. Michigan State University Extension suggests creating a Facebook group for volunteers in a program. Facebook provides instructions on their site for setting up a group. The volunteer manager, or an experienced middle manager volunteer can play a critical moderator role. It is important that groups are monitored regularly and content is updated frequently. Remember, people go to your group to find information. If they find information that is not current or that no one responds to their requests, they are unlikely to continue to view the Facebook group as valuable. A team approach to monitoring your organization’s social media outlets can work well to make sure that someone is responsible for making time each day to update content and engage participants in conversation.
Groups on Facebook can be made available to participants at several levels including open, closed and secret. As the name indicates, secret groups are not visible in searches and participants must be invited by the group administrator for access; content is not visible to the public. Open groups allow anyone to join and membership and content are both visible to the public. Closed groups require an invitation to join and the content is only visible to those who are members. However, unlike secret groups, users can search for a closed group and request an invitation. Depending on a volunteer manager’s goals, different kinds of Facebook groups might be valuable. For instance, an open group might be a great place for all volunteers in a large program to talk about their experiences and share pictures of their recent activities. On the other hand, a closed group might be valuable for volunteers whose role requires more intensive support – the group could function like an online support group and the volunteer administrator could offer resources and keep tabs on the conversation to know when more internvention is necessary. For more suggestions on using Facebook groups, visit the Strengthening Nonprofits website.