Two Ways to Better Promote Volunteer Opportunities
During a website revamp in 2020, the American Society of Microbiology redesigned how it promoted and presented its volunteer opportunities. By taking a thoughtful approach that pulled everything into one webpage, ASM not only made the application process easier for members but also better showcased its volunteer opportunities.
In 2020, the American Society for Microbiology overhauled its website. One of the major changes ASM made was how it promoted volunteer opportunities.
“Before the revamp, ASM asked members to sign up to a global ‘willing to volunteer’ list and follow-up was difficult to align with opportunities,” said Dina Lewis, CAE, founder of Distilled Logic, who worked with the association on the revamp.
Previously, opportunities were promoted on an ad-hoc basis through email or newsletter channels and website descriptions lacked clear definitions of responsibilities and eligibility criteria. In its redesign, ASM created a standardized content template to keep the information uniform and informative to potential applicants.
Ashley Hagen, scientific and digital editor at ASM, manages a group of the association’s volunteer authors. Though she was not present for the redesign, she found that the new look has enhanced communication between potential contributors and ASM.
“I think it’s improved the number of submissions and the interest that we are receiving for that open call,” she said.
By focusing on user experience and clarity, ASM is now able to promote volunteer opportunities in a way that is effective and convenient for both members and staff.
Ease of Use
In reworking the volunteer opportunities, ASM grouped all its offerings into one section of the website and developed a standardized content template to keep the information uniform and informative to applicants.
“Since all our volunteer opportunities are located in one place, it’s easy for people to know where to go, and they don’t need to spend valuable bandwidth trying to find important information, especially if you have a lot of active members using the site,” Hagen said.
Lewis also recommends ensuring that the volunteer application process is as brief as possible and only includes questions that absolutely require answers.
“Standardize how you describe and publish the what, when, and where information,” she said. “Be sure to describe the value: how they will benefit from the opportunity.”
ASM’s volunteer opportunities are grouped into six categories: guide the organization, shape the science, build community, advocate, train and mentor, and communicate science.
According to Lewis, ASM chose those names to not only group the opportunities into easily understandable categories but also to highlight active verbs like “guide,” “build,” or “train” as a navigation element to entice members to get more details.
ASM also lists both open and closed positions and indicates the difference between permanently closed positions and those that operate on an annual basis.
To ensure opportunities stay current, different ASM staff update the status of volunteer positions on the backend of the website. According to Hagen, these content owners already have familiarity with the positions from shepherding parts of the application process, so they know the right times to make necessary changes.
“There’s quite a bit of turnover for our volunteer opportunities, so when they open and close, we wanted to have a method to navigate each phase,” Hagen said. “Making these updates is crucial, especially for annual positions like governance or calls for editors.”
Clarity and Thoughtfulness
Not only is it important to standardize the way the information is described and published, it’s also critical to indicate the value to members and how they benefit from the opportunities.
According to Lewis, the goal is to reduce or remove any barriers for volunteers to engage with the organization. Including a call to action, aggregating the information in one place, and organizing everything in a way that is easy to navigate with a consistent template for each opportunity can help make the difference.
“You don’t want volunteer positions to stay open for months because members don’t know where to find them,” Hagen said. “That’s why you need to approach this process thoughtfully. I think it’s our responsibility as the institution to clearly communicate available opportunities and to make the process as easy as possible, so people are ready and interested in getting involved.”