Note: This is a guest post written by Sherry Lynn Fazio and Siobhan Tiernan, both of Jersey Cares. I met Sherry at the NYC Social Media for Nonprofits conference, where we serendipitously sat next to each other. She told me about how Jersey Cares had realized the power of Twitter for recruiting almost 1,000 volunteers to the Day of Service 2011, and felt passionately that any organization could do the same.
How can Twitter work for you? Do you need more volunteers? Jersey Cares recruited over 1,000 new volunteers using Twitter in just one month. Last year, Jersey Cares doubled our volunteer participation in MLK Day of Service with the extraordinary work of our AmeriCorps members. Four AmeriCorps members were each assigned a geographic area in New Jersey to fill specific projects. Many of these projects were occurring in cities designated as new service areas for the Jersey Cares volunteer pool. While the task may have seemed daunting, our determined AmeriCorps members were given marching orders and had contagious energy to divide and conquer. They used the following formula to make our goal a reality –
1.) Create lists. The list feature in twitter enables you to separate out who you’re following and divided by the 21 counties in New Jersey.
2.) Add to your lists. Who is your target audience? For our Americorps members, they found the twitter handles of the following to recruit new groups of volunteers:
o Local newspapers
o Town & city websites
o Bars and restaurants
o Local colleges and universities (including athletic teams, Greek organizations and service clubs)
o Family groups and activity organizations
o Churches & temples (JCC, Archdioceses, religious youth groups, Jesuit Volunteer Corps)
o Secular service clubs (Boys & Girls Scout Troops, Kiwanis Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Key Clubs, Junior Leagues, Women Associations)
o Athletic associations (bowling & soccer leagues, running clubs, football leagues)
o Chambers of Commerce
o Fire & police departments
o 55+ communities
o MeetUp.com or other singles networks
o Elected Officials (mayors, assemblymen, congressmen, state senators)
o Educational centers (Princeton Review, Kaplan, Huntington)
o Vocational Schools (cosmetology, massage therapy, auto repair)
o High Schools (Circle K, Key Club, Rotary, Learning/Community service departments)
o Universities & County colleges (specific departments to target service learning, Greek life and alumni organizations, athletic teams)
o AmeriCorps chapters (AmeriCorps alums, Teach for America)
3.) Create targeted tweets. Once the lists had been made, our AmeriCorps volunteers were able to spring into “tweeting” action and started to craft targeted tweets towards these specific groups. Maybe the local high school service club is still in need of service hours? Maybe the bowling league is interested in an alternative to their Saturday morning practice? Maybe people in Morristown are looking specifically for projects in their area? Our AmeriCorps members focused on the group’s interests and shaped their message to match those of the group. This is a sample tweet that we sent out:
4.) Include links. Using Bitly.com, they created shortened links to take readers back to the Jersey Cares website to make sure interested volunteers could learn more about the organization and register for projects. Websites like bitly.com also enable you to track how many people are clicking on your links if you use an account to create your shortened links.
5.) Share photos. Sharing a photo of previous volunteer projects to demonstrate how fun volunteering can be helpful to show people what their day could look like giving back.
6.) Schedule tweets. It’s very helpful to schedule your tweets throughout the day to make sure you aren’t bombarding followers and keep variety throughout the days when you can’t be in front of a computer. We schedule all of our tweets through HootSuite.com (a website used to streamline an organization’s social media usage) which helped make sure our Twitter followers weren’t inundated with our tweets during a certain period of time.
As we inched closer and closer to MLK Day of Service, our registration continued to steadily increase – particularly in our new service areas that had been a focus for our AmeriCorps members’ tweeting. When MLK Day of Service finally arrived, Jersey Cares had a record turnout of over 2,000 volunteers – over 1,000 of which were new volunteers to the organization!
When our AmeriCorps members embarked on this volunteer recruitment adventure, we had no idea how successful Twitter would be in allowing Jersey Cares to connect with new groups, individuals, and other organizations to increase the community’s awareness of not only our MLK Day of Service, but of our organization as a whole. Before MLK Day 2011, we had around 800 Twitter followers, and we now have over 1,600 Twitter followers.
Twitter has helped revolutionize our means of external communication through an easy, informal way of getting the word out about the great volunteer opportunities that we make possible in New Jersey. We continue to use Twitter in a number of ways, including promoting other annual events, collection drives, specific volunteer projects on our monthly calendar, or other programs. Additionally, we use Twitter to highlight specific projects we are managing for corporate sponsors (e.g. a tweets such as @nbacares #volunteers are busy painting new murals with @JerseyCares in #JerseyCity) to provide them with a marketing opportunity around their corporate philanthropy and volunteer engagement.
Sherry Lynn Fazio, Senior Director of External Affairs, Jersey Cares. Sherry has been with Jersey Cares for the past five years and has her Masters in Applied Social & Community Psychology. She manages all aspects of the agency’s fundraising, events and communications and is a member of the HandsOn Network’s Leadership Faculty.
Siobhan Tiernan is the Director of Corporate Service, Jersey Cares. has been with Jersey Cares for the past two years leading the Corporate Service team. She is an Ambassador for the Newark Regional Business Partnership and through her position at Jersey Cares spearheaded the formation of a Corporate Volunteer Council for the state of New Jersey.