In 2022-23, 17 heritage organisations were funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative to deliver digital volunteering projects. Some organisations recruited volunteers to work remotely on digital activity, doing everything from online transcription to geotagging.
Organisations used online advertising tools Meta (serving platforms including Facebook and Instagram) and Google Ads (serving its Google search platform, YouTube and Gmail) to recruit remote volunteers. They employed these tools alongside more traditional digital marketing methods such as newsletters to email lists and social media.
Primary motivations for advertising through Meta and Google Ads included:
- Reaching a larger pool of prospective applicants.
The reach of both tools is billions of users. They are a vast international volunteer marketplace, and significantly larger than existing organisational or sector networks.
- Targeting specific types of applicants.
Google Ads and Meta are powerful tools that enable advertisers to specify the types of user your advert will reach. For example, particular age demographics; volunteers with exact skills and interests; volunteers living in priority geographical areas.
- Project efficiency.
These tools are designed to be simple to use and monitor, saving projects time, energy and budget.
- Internal stakeholders
Staff who worked with these tools included marketing teams, project officers/managers.
There are a number of step-by-step guides available through Google Ads and Meta to support organisations to create an advertising campaign:
The cost of using each platform is dependent upon the aims and budget of the organisation. Both platforms are designed to be flexible, easy to use and support organisations to tightly control what they are prepared to spend.
Currently, the platforms function slightly differently with regards how you can allocate a budget.
Meta Ads lets you set daily budgets (an average amount you are willing to spend every day over the entire ad campaign) or lifetime budgets (budget for the full campaign), whereas Google Ads campaigns only use daily budgets—except for video campaigns.
Organisations ‘pay-per-click’, meaning each time an advert is clicked by a user it subtracts an amount from the available budget.
1. Define the aim/s of your recruitment campaign
Set a goal for the numbers of remote volunteers you seek to recruit. Agree where appropriate the types of volunteer you wish to prioritise. These would ordinarily relate to the core aims of your project. For example, do you want to engage those with specialist skills or subject knowledge? Those with no previous heritage experience? Young women? Coastal communities of the UK?
2. Research both platforms and their functionality
Understand the targeting options (e.g. geography, age, keywords that align with hobbies and interests) available through Google Ads and Meta. You may prefer to use one, or both.
3. Agree the budget
Before setting daily limits on expenditure for each platform you should finalise your overall internal project budget. The more ambitious the campaign, the bigger the budget.
4. Set up the campaign
Following the step-by-step guides (see ‘Digital technology and costs’ above) create your campaign. This should not be overly time-consuming. If this is your first campaign, create a daily limit for the initial week of your campaign to ensure you can review performance and tailor the campaign appropriately.
5. Monitor and respond
Both platforms provide easy-to-use analytics tools to track impact. Good practice suggests you should monitor how successfully your first week generated clicks and ultimately interest in signing up to volunteer. If your first week was unsuccessful, consider adjusting the keywords within each platform to enable you to reach different users. Continue this iterative process ideally until the recruitment goal is achieved or the budget is spent.
Meta can better match you with individuals whose traits and interests align with heritage volunteering opportunities
Google Ads and Meta offer lots of the same capabilities but there are specific differences in the functionality they offer.
Feedback from Digital Volunteering projects was that Meta (specifically Instagram) was generally more effective in delivering targeted engagement with those interested in heritage volunteering. It was deemed more able to match specific volunteering opportunities with behaviours, interests and hobbies of individuals. For example, campaigns effectively recruited using keywords including local history, landscapes, volunteering, gardening, maritime history, horticulture, creative writing.
Compelling images and succinct messaging is key
There are countless articles advising on how to design the right advert on Google and Meta through the right images and calls to action. Heritage organisations should consider how they creatively use images of their assets (collections, venues, events) to create the right adverts. What was deemed effective from Digital Volunteering projects was messaging that conveyed a sense of novelty and uniqueness to the opportunity (eg. uncovering hidden history of XXXX, digitise historical objects lost in a shipwreck). More generic or overly specific messaging will be ignored in a sea of advertising space.
Be informative, responsive and personal
Unlike digital volunteer recruits who sign up for the opportunity through your mailing list or social media, digital volunteers arriving through a click on Meta or Google Ads may have limited to zero knowledge of your organisation. Ensure that the registration process directs users to a well designed landing page that supports them to find out more about the opportunity quickly, what the likely time frame will be before a member of staff contacts them – and ideally when a member of the team will reach out to new recruits within a few days. If you leave them confused or waiting, they’ll disengage fast.
Poorly targeted adverts won’t work
Be mindful that launching an advert in Google or Meta is an ongoing process of review and adaptation. You need to check in to your reporting tools to see which keywords/targeting methods have not been successful, and which were more effective. At key stages (for example, weekly) be ready to adjust your targeting with different keywords, or more flexible geographic restrictions.
Some level of digital expertise will help
While Google and Meta advertising tools are designed to be accessible to all levels of users, projects who delivered campaigns with the support of experienced digital marketing professionals more confidently set up and evolved their campaigns. There are a range of networks including Arts Marketing Association to provide contacts and support if required.
Allocate budget to digital advertising
The potential reach and targeting capabilities of these tools cannot be understated. The heritage sector does not provide a free alternative to a digital volunteer marketplace. The majority of Digital Volunteer projects had not allocated a digital advertising budget at the outset. If you have an ambitious goal to engage larger numbers of targeted volunteers, you should budget accordingly and include it funding bids.
- How the events of the past year gave a museum the opportunity to improve their digital foundations
- Google Ads website
- Meta Ads website
- Understand the basics of Google Ads billing and payments
- How Meta charges for ads
- Facebook Advertising Tips for Museum (MuseumNext)
Please attribute as: "Using Google Ads and Meta advertising to recruit remote volunteers (2024) by John Coburn supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0