How to use digital to inspire young professionals and student volunteers

Oxhub Feature

Oxford Hub is an ambitious, youthful organisation bringing the community together to create real social change in Oxford. Many of our volunteer projects tackling real need in Oxford are specifically aimed at students and young professionals, which means we have needed to constantly innovate new methods of engaging both of these younger demographics in tandem.


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. And the great news is that at the Oxford Hub we have been testing out various energy-conveying tactics across all our digital platforms for others 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.


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