October 06, 2011

How to Activate Volunteers Using Social Media

Megan Scheminske/MIKE/VolunteerMatch

The Web site VolunteerMatch helped the Multicultural Integrated Kidney Education Program, in Portland, Ore., find volunteers to help prepare meals.

Social networks give nonprofits new opportunities to connect with volunteers. And a recent change by one of the world's largest social networks is making it even easier for charities to identify potential volunteers.

LinkedIn, a networking site designed to help people exchange information about their jobs and careers, recently added a new way for people to list unpaid work when they create online résumés through the site.

That move is shining a brighter spotlight on volunteering, says Robert Rosenthal, director of communications at VolunteerMatch, a Web site that connects nonprofits with volunteers

"It's amazing, today, how many ways people have of telegraphing what they care about," Mr. Rosenthal says.

In the latest episode of Social Good, Mr. Rosenthal joins Allison Fine, the host, to discuss how nonprofits can use social networks to identify and build relationships with potential volunteers. They also discuss how nonprofits can use these tools to spread the word about what they do.

Does your organization use social networks as part of its outreach to volunteers? If so, tell us what works by posting a comment below.

Allison Fine, a nonprofit leader and expert on technology and communications, discusses how charities and foundations can more effectively use social-media tools to spread their messages and raise money. Ms. Fine incorporates suggestions and questions from readers into her podcasts and invites you to e-mail her at Look for new installments on the first Thursday of every month.