Using Digital to Inspire Young Professionals & Student Volunteers

Tactics from my time with Oxford Hub.

Ab Brightman
3 min readAug 31, 2018

In the six years that I’ve been recruiting and engaging volunteers from student and young professional demographics, I’ve consistently realised that digital’s most important feature is its’ energy. A sense of energy from a cause or a charity powers volunteer recruitment welcomes new volunteers in and creates a feeling of community; which aids retention.

In the two years I spent at Oxford Hub (an ambitious, youthful organisation bringing the community together to create real social change in Oxford) I tested out various energy-conveying tactics across all our digital platforms, and here are a few of the most impactful for you to learn from.

Harness the Power of Instagram Stories

With social media it is always smart to head to where the attention is already at, and right now there is a lot of young adult attention given to Instagram, and especially to the Stories feature. At the Oxford Hub we post multiple Stories almost daily, which highlights our energy, as Stories can be a quick selfie video explaining or showing what staff and volunteers are up to that day, an enthusiastic call to action, or a sequence of raw videos and photos covering an event we are running.

Content for Instagram Stories works best when it appears spontaneous rather than staged, which makes it easy and fun for staff/comms volunteers to produce. To your audience, your staff and core volunteers can become characters whose daily activities become exciting to catch up with each day.

After just a few weeks of this new Stories strategy, we had increased our Instagram following by over a third, and now our engagement has more than doubled. We’ve also had many comments from students that our Instagram game was killing it!

Drive Tantilising Immediacy through Email Marketing

It’s no secret that regular marketing emails are a great way to engage both current and potential volunteers. At Oxford Hub, we discovered that we had particular success in using our mailing list to drive forward a sense of immediacy by ensuring separate shorter emails were sent on the day of important volunteer sign-up deadlines, or for events we were running that evening or the next day, focussing solely on calls to action for those.

Generally, students and young professionals don’t yet have families or lives based out of town, so are responsive to suggestions of evening spontaneity! Or helpfully remember that they’ve been putting-off signing-up to our programme until we make it clear the time to do so is almost over. These emails have been very easy for us to schedule in advance and, at a recent event, at least 30% of the attendees cited a same-day email as how they heard about it.

Put the Social into Social Media

So often it is tempting to only use social media to churn out our own messages and content much like traditional media, and sit back waiting for the likes — but this forgets what sets social media apart; the ability to easily connect with other groups and people. It is really worth investing a few minutes every day to sit on your various channels and, in addition to replying to people who have directly interacted with you, add honest thoughts and comments to other posts.

In the long-term, this helps to tell people that your charity is welcoming and engaging in the most literal sense of the word, but at Oxford Hub, by commenting on people visiting locations nearby our office (found through searching Instagram’s tagged locations) we were able to directly recruit volunteers, and drive business to our social enterprise restaurant, the Turl Street Kitchen, too.

So — what are you waiting for? Get out there, get testing and let me know how your own tactics work out!

Think that your organisation could benefit from my ideas? Find out how we could work together here!

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This article was originally published on the JustGiving Blog. Big thanks to Nikki from Platypus Digital.