A dream marriage for volunteer managers – and all in one app

What happens when a forum meets up with a messaging app?  You get a clever platform for fostering communication.

Do you ever wish communication with your volunteers was simpler? Or that your volunteers could talk to one another between shifts or events? I wouldn’t normally recommend that volunteers slack, but this is one situation where I might.

Slack is the name of an online communication tool that allows groups of people to send messages to one another. It can be used on a computer or on mobile with apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. If you and your volunteers are comfortable using messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts, you’ll get the hang of Slack in no time.

That’s because, at its core, Slack is a messaging app. You decide who gets invited to your Slack team and then you can send and receive messages to those individuals or groups. Messages get posted to channels, which you can organize by topic. You can tag individuals so they see that you’ve mentioned them. You can also upload files such as Google or Word documents and images. The basic level of Slack is free and chock full of features. Nonprofit pricing is available if you need more than the basics.

Here are a few reasons you might want to try Slack with your volunteers:

  • Volunteers and/or paid staff work remotely
  • Volunteers work on different days and don’t get to interact in-person
  • You’re working with a team of volunteers and email back-and-forth can get complicated
  • You want to offer a way for volunteers to connect and build communityhttps://volunteerengagement.slack.com/apps/A0HFW7MR6-simple-poll

Apps and integrations are also available for Slack. One of my favorite apps is called Simple Poll, which allows for the creation of polls within Slack. For example, you can ask, “What would you prefer for our upcoming training: coffee, tea, or something else?” Volunteers can vote on the poll and give you quick feedback.

Like any introduction of new technology, you’ll want to be intentional and thoughtful with the rollout. Slack Guides offer a plethora of information for onboarding and training, including an email template to use for introducing Slack to your team. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re keeping an eye on the channels to stoke conversations and monitor for misuse of the platform. You should make it clear that the volunteer code of conduct extends to Slack, for example.

In a nutshell, Slack is an easy-to-use communication platform that allows for community-building between volunteers as well. If you’re looking for a new way to connect and share information with volunteers, I recommend giving Slack a try.

Try Out Slack with Liza

If you’re interested in experimenting with Slack, sign up to join the Volunteer Engagement Community. This is something I originally created to play with Slack features. Over time it has turned into a place where leaders of volunteers can connect and practice using Slack.  Join me and try out Slack for yourself!


Liza J. Dyer, CVA, has been working and volunteering in the nonprofit and public sectors for more than 15 years. She is currently a Program Coordinator in Volunteer Services at Multnomah County Library, a public library system in Portland, Oregon which engages over 2,000 community members as library volunteers each year. She is proud to be an AmeriCorps alum and Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA). Find her on Twitter: @lizaface.

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