Volunteer communicationsIf you send volunteer communications emails on a regular basis, you may find that your writing becomes stale and rote over time. It happens, even to pro copywriters. Sometimes it helps to get “outside the box” and rethink your communications, because if they are boring to you, they are likely boring your volunteers.

Your writing can reinforce human-to-human relationships and can have a powerful effect on volunteer motivation. Try these tips to refresh your volunteer communications and check to see they resonate with your audience.

Tips for More Human Volunteer Communications

1) Use a compelling email subject that describes a benefit – Generic subject lines like “Update from XYZ Nonprofit” can feel boring or like spam and are likely to get deleted. Describe what’s in it for the volunteer who’s reading it. For example, “Our Volunteers Share Their Top 5 Tips With You.” Try co-schedule’s Headline Analyzer to check how well you’re doing with your headlines.

2) Try to write naturally and conversationally – The email is coming from you, even if it is automated, so write to volunteers as a human being, not a robot. It’s OK to convey emotions. To make it even more personal, include an image of your handwritten signature at the bottom of each email. If some volunteers respond to your emails, you know you’re on the right track.

3) Reference volunteers’ “pro-social” behavior – Reinforce the norms you are striving for by sharing messages that reflect your expectations. For example, “95% of people who request a volunteer application complete it within one week” or “the average volunteer donated 6 hours last month, helping us reach our goal of serving 45 youth.”

4) When possible, include photos of your volunteer fans — Social cues are even more powerful when they are demonstrated through photos. A picture is truly worth a thousand words, and photos will increase the perceived truthfulness of your messages.

5) Be sensitive to the timing of other digital communications — If there are e-blasts that go out to your audience on certain days (e.g., e-newsletters on Wednesday), don’t schedule your drip emails to go out on those days. Wait to send donor solicitations until after a welcome is over.

6) Track your open rates – You need to know what’s working for your specific audience. If you use a bulk email system and are wondering what a passable open rate might be, check out MailChimp’s stats on average open and click rates by industry. For non-profits, the open rate is about 24.9%. That means about one in four people will open your email.

7) “Listen” to your audience  – Include helpful information in your emails by providing tips that help alleviate some of the common problems experienced by your volunteers or community members. Also, if you hear complaints about getting too many emails or see rising unsubscribe rates, you may need to space out or consolidate your email campaign.