The Volunteer as Brand Ambassador

Guest post by Tracy Kosolcharoen, Eventbrite

Eventbrite provides tips, tools and discounts to help nonprofits engage volunteers in fundraising around #GivingTuesday.As #GivingTuesday quickly approaches, many nonprofits have a single point of focus: fundraising. Nearly one third of nonprofit events on Eventbrite occur in the last quarter of the year. And during this busy time, organizers are constantly asking themselves, “How can I ensure my fundraiser is a smashing success without breaking my bank?”

Eventbrite has created an initiative, Give More Together, to help answer this very question. We’re waiving our service fees for nonprofit events occurring from December 1-6, 2014, and are excited to help you sell more tickets and collect donations when you sign up.

Another way to save money as you raise funds is through your volunteers. The truth is, volunteers can significantly impact the way attendees think of your organization. Oftentimes, guests cannot distinguish between a volunteer and a staff member, so the interactions they have will be directly associated with your brand.

This gives you the opportunity to turn every touch point – from parking to cleanup – into a positive reinforcement of your brand. By elevating the importance of your volunteers, you’ll also create a more meaningful experience for them, ultimately increasing their commitment to your cause.

Here are 3 easy steps to help you turn your volunteers into brand ambassadors:

1. Provide pre-event coaching

First, share the basics. Instill a love for your cause by explaining just how impactful your work is. Be sure to cover:

  • Your organization’s work, values and mission.
  • The purpose of this event, and how it fits in with the broader mission.
  • A general idea of why attendees are coming to the event.
  • Key leaders in the organization that will be at the event: founder, board members, etc.
  • The attendee profile and demographics so volunteers know what to expect. If you have VIP attendees, you may even want to show volunteers their photos and provide a brief background on each one, so volunteers are able to recognize guests that might need extra attention.

Then, set clear expectations:

Share your ground rules for dress code, your policy on eating, particularly if there’s food at the event, and general customer service guidelines, such as making eye contact and smiling. These pointers take only a few minutes to discuss and go a long way.

Also share your contact information or even create a chat group (Group Me, Line, and WhatsApp offer free solutions) so that volunteers can easily stay in touch and raise issues to you during the event.

2. Encourage greater involvement

Beyond assigned roles, each and every volunteer has a different vantage point on the live pulse of your event. Encourage them to use encounters with guests as an opportunity to gather feedback, with questions such as:

  • How is the event so far?
  • Anything more we can do to help you?

Have them compile feedback during their free moments, or after the shift. Encourage proactive service. If someone looks lost, volunteers can offer to assist or answer questions.

During the giving season and especially on #GivingTuesday, fundraising social media activity will be high. Your volunteers can serve as additional firepower behind your social media efforts, ensuring your event has a presence during this busy time. Encourage volunteers to share your posts and tweets with their networks.

If you have a dedicated person managing social media, you might also consider electing a few social media-savvy volunteers to tweet and post during the event itself. We say this with caution since social media can be hard to control, so if you are encouraging activity you will also want to ensure someone is able to react to any unexpected incidents.

Another option to solidify volunteers’ importance is by recognizing them in a printed program or online.

3. Thank your brand ambassadors

Share the results of their “ambassadorship.” From positive tweets about the event, to posting their volunteer photos to Facebook, remind them how valuable their support was to your guest experience.

Post-event, evaluate which brand ambassadors were most dedicated and helpful to your cause. You may want to reach out and thank them individually, or encourage them to take on volunteer leadership roles in the future.

Planning a charitable event? In addition to Give More Together, Eventbrite also offers ongoing discounts for nonprofits at https://www.eventbrite.com/npo/.

Tracy Kosolcharoen is a marketing manager at Eventbrite, where she works to help deliver more value to nonprofit event organizers through initiatives such as Give More Together for #GivingTuesday. She has also spent years managing marketing programs at American Express and OpenTable.

From Technophobe to True Believer…My Journey to Using Technology to Bridge Inequality Gaps

Guest post by Denise Howell, VolunteerMatch CFO

This post is part of Blog Action Day 2014.

How technology inspires giving and addresses inequality.I remember listening to Mari Kuraishi, President of Global Giving, at the Independent Sector a few years ago. She spoke about how we can find the greatest richness in our careers when we aren’t looking or have not factored it into our life plans.

I think back now to her message she shared, and how true it has been for me. I would never have expected, almost 4 years ago, to embark on a very different frontier in nonprofit work. I am not a technology person. I appreciate all that it has to offer, but it has generally stopped there. I have tended to focus on the downside of technology – folks seemingly disconnected from others by tuning into their music, iPad, smart phone etc. no matter where the setting. Technology can make our lives easier in certain respects, but can also cut us off, if we’re not careful, by limiting our focus and experiences.

My start in the nonprofit sector began when I was in banking. I worked with a board to address the lack of opportunity for very talented individuals with disabilities in engaging n meaningful job opportunities. It grew from there.

I’ve spent a good number of years in social services and foundation grantmaking, both highly complex structurally, and from that work, I thought I had seen everything about nonprofits and their significant work toward addressing inequality, including homelessness and low income housing, food insecurity, education, child development, immigration assistance, employment assistance, healthcare, literacy, and environmental sustainability. This is the work and the passion that drives all of us in the nonprofit sector every day: addressing inequality, imbalance, needs not yet addressed or addressed inadequately, lifting each other up when we need help.

So what compelled me to join an organization with technology at its core? I had certainly heard of VolunteerMatch, but I didn’t fully “get it.” When an opportunity to work here presented itself, I was intrigued. I came to my work here believing that I had seen all aspects of philanthropy. But this work has completely changed my world view and showed me a powerful aspect of philanthropy I had never seen.

Nonprofits with technology at their operational cores have created such a powerful contribution to societal needs. VolunteerMatch, DonorsChoose.org, Global Giving, and Kiva, to name some of the best and most successful, have broken the barriers for all of us to be a part of the solution toward creating a world where inequality can be eliminated. So, Ms. Kuraishi was right. It has been a very rich and rewarding journey. Not just for me, but for the millions of lives we have touched.

What is really at the essence of how we go about achieving success toward alleviating inequality in its many forms? It’s largely through giving – philanthropic support. Giving of ourselves and our time is one of the most powerful ways that we can work toward addressing social needs.

Remember that line Oprah Winfrey always used in her editorials? It was “what I know for sure.” Well, what I know for sure is that people love to give. During these past several years, I’ve come to know how technology can create opportunities for us to give in more ways than I ever thought possible. Before joining VolunteerMatch, I viewed philanthropy as immune to technology – social media, websites, all of it. I thought giving was too personal and that people need to be close to, and actually see the programs they are giving to before offering support. But technology, surprisingly, brings us closer to people and issues which may be hundreds or thousands of miles away from where we live, but still close to us – because we care and we know now more than ever that something that happens far away can affect us in our own communities, too.

Technology-based nonprofits such as ours at VolunteerMatch make the giving so easy. I’ve learned that giving doesn’t have to be all-consuming. Knowing that the time and money we give can be very manageable and affordable is even more empowering.

VolunteerMatch has tracked millions of connections, hours and impact of individuals and groups giving incrementally to successfully address so many challenges. VolunteerMatch has also reconnected me with to the truer, broader meaning of philanthropy. I, like many of us, have previously associated philanthropy as inaccessible and intimidating for all but affluent individuals. But philanthropy includes giving of ourselves and our time, knowledge and experience too. Both financial and nonfinancial giving are critically important and valuable.

Volunteering can be quick, or recurring and long term. Whatever we do, it is making a difference and it is good enough to give what you can. And nonprofits can find the best volunteers and engage in our educational resources. It is a welcoming experience – even for a technophobe! I have learned that technology can be just the opposite of what I initially experienced.

My faith in technology has been transformed through our work, as well as the work of some of our amazing peer organizations. Each organization is literally connecting millions of people locally and throughout the world, meeting needs and bridging inequality with the use of technology. And even better, these organizations allow all of us to participate with small investments of money and time. The results are tangible.

Our mission here at VolunteerMatch is to make it easier for good people and good causes to connect. I’m very proud of our success at achieving that mission, and it is visible to me every day. Everyone visiting our office is greeted with the giant live map in our lobby with our real-time tracking of people making connections to volunteer all across America.

In our office, we walk the talk, too. We volunteer together and we have amazing volunteers come to us with so much talent to share. We have had many come through our office, and I still see their faces and remember their projects. I am richer for knowing them, even if only briefly.

When I stop to think about the world without our technology-powered nonprofits, I am blown away by what a difference technology can make in addressing the inequalities that exist in our world. We can each do something. I work for an organization that makes that possible, and I am truly fortunate for the experience.

I welcome all of you to explore how technology-driven nonprofits can help you bridge the inequality gap to make your work, and your lives, rich and full. We can be a powerful partner to you in your great work. You, like me, will be transformed by the difference we can make.

Expert Snapshots for October

Expert SnapshotsAt VolunteerMatch we learn so much from other experts in the field of volunteer engagement and management, and we want to help you stay up to date on the latest news and trends. Here’s just a snapshot to get you started…

What All Nonprofits Should Know About Corporate Philanthropy

The relationship between nonprofits and companies is changing – we can all feel it. And so nonprofits now need to change the way they look at the support they can receive from companies. By doing so, nonprofits can build robust, mutually beneficial relationships with companies. This TechSoup article provides some first steps for doing just that. (Want to learn more about building strong relationships with companies? Check out this free webinar.)

30 People. 1 Question.

We can’t help it, we just love this simple, inspiring video from Greenslopes Private Hospital. Hearing about the connection and impact made directly from volunteers is more effective than the most expensive ad campaign. How can you easily and effectively showcase your volunteers and their dedication?

The First Ever Volunteer Impact Report

Check out this clean, easy-to-read, chart-heavy report we produced in partnership with volunteer technology review firm Software Advice that presents the metrics, indicators and data collection methods nonprofits use to measure volunteers’ impact on their organizations’ outcomes. In other words, check out this report to see how what YOU do compares to what everyone ELSE does to track volunteer impact at your organizations…

DonorsChoose.org Talks Flash-Funding, Secret to Successful Corporate Partnerships

On this episode of CauseTalk radio, Missy Sherburne of DonorsChoose.org talks about the organization’s fundraising success with flash-funding, crowdfunding and corporate partnerships. Listen in to learn about how your organization could be successful with these increasingly popular engagement strategies, too.

The Nonprofit Welcome Wagon: How to Engage Newcomers and Build a Strong Community – Through Volunteering

Guest post by Dylan Manderlink

Dylan volunteering at an animal shelter in her new home.

Dylan volunteering at an animal shelter in her new home.

Upon moving to rural Arkansas from Boston, I had anticipated the reality of how different my new life would be down south. From the great distance between towns, expansive farmland, to the welcoming and warm southern accents, I expected my adjustment to take some time and happen gradually.

Although that’s not completely untrue, through the volunteer opportunities I have taken advantage of and the connections I’ve made to local nonprofits since being here, I feel as if my acclimation was smoother, quicker, and more fruitful than I had originally thought. From volunteering at a local animal shelter once a week, to joining a women’s rights and empowerment organization once a month, I involved myself, my passions, and my talents with the community I now live in. And in return, I have felt welcomed, familiarized, and positively acknowledged in a town that I now call home, despite only having lived here for two months.

Because of the initiative local nonprofit workers have made to involve me, get to know me on both a personal and professional level, and accommodate my unique background, passion, and skills, I have felt a sense of inclusivity and comfort that I didn’t expect within the first two months of living in a new part of the country.

A Pattern of Inclusion is Established

Looking back at my four years of college, I remember searching for nonprofits to get involved with, regular volunteer opportunities to take on, and local events to attend to better understand the new community and major city I was about to live in for four years. In just my first semester alone, I was connecting with passionate nonprofit professionals who deeply cared about the wellbeing of their city and its residents: civilians of Boston who lived in the community for years and years, students from different local colleges and universities, and community members who were experiencing the unfortunate realities of many social injustices.

Through these personal connections, I felt a deeper sense of purpose in my community and a strong feeling of gratitude towards the city and its unique people. Through my nonprofit and community service involvement, I was able to examine my community in a unique, personalized, and impactful way. I felt like I had been an active part in creating community ties and building a sense of unity among the people I was meeting.

Moving to Arkansas has really been no different in that sense, which proves to me that the spirit of volunteerism, community change, and social impact run strong in the nonprofit sector, no matter where you are.

A New Home

Upon transitioning from Boston to Arkansas, I was unsure what the nonprofit landscape would look like down south and what volunteer opportunities I would be able to take part in. At first, it was challenging to remove my urban lens when looking for nonprofit opportunities. Coming from a city, I had never partnered with organizations from rural communities, nor had I connected with professionals whose nonprofits weren’t based in or focused on a specific urban area.

But within days of reaching out to local nonprofits in Arkansas, I was receiving positive, eager, and personal responses. The nonprofit professionals I connected with expressed such thanks for me reaching out and were committed to involving me in the organization right away.

Dylan meets fellow volunteers at a women's rights and empowerment organization in her new hometown.

Dylan meets fellow volunteers at a women’s rights and empowerment organization in her new hometown.

Two weeks ago I attended my first meeting with the women’s rights and empowerment organization I have recently become a member of. Despite not having met any of the women prior, and really only having a brief but very warm email exchange with the director of the group, the moment I entered the meeting as a non-Arkansas native and brand new community member, I was greeted with heartfelt appreciation, warmth, and genuine compassion.

I felt immediately at home amongst such passionate, hard-working, and big-hearted activists. The women made such a genuine effort to get to know me, where I’m from originally, the college I attended, what I studied, and above all – what brought me to Arkansas and how they can help connect me more to the community through service and advocacy. I spent the whole morning creating meaningful connections and sharing vibrant stories about justice and equality with women whom I would have never met otherwise, and I feel very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and befriend activists in my new community.

Through my very recent experiences of being thoughtfully welcomed and eagerly incorporated into my Arkansas community’s nonprofit landscape, the transition from the northeast to deep south that was once full of uncertainty is now more comfortable, warm, and fruitful than I could have ever imagined.

A Call to Nonprofits

I am full of immense gratitude for the inclusive and encouraging experiences these nonprofits have provided for me since being here, and I would prompt nonprofits around the country to focus on volunteer outreach to those community members who are brand new and may be feeling a little out of place. The compassion of nonprofit professionals can bridge the gap from unfamiliar to at home for a new community member in such a unique, meaningful, and passionate way.

I encourage nonprofits to search for outlets in their community where they can connect with and motivate new residents. It is important to encourage and support alternative perspectives when focusing on volunteerism and social/environmental justice work, so welcoming new viewpoints from nonnative voices to your community will be undoubtedly advantageous in enriching and diversifying the cause your organization is fighting for.

How does your nonprofit welcome newcomers to your community? Tell us about it below!

Dylan Manderlink is a recent graduate of Emerson College in Boston, Mass., who with a self-designed major, Investigative Theatre for Social Change. She is now a Teach for America corps member, teaching high school in rural Arkansas. She is passionate about working in the nonprofit sector and providing educational opportunities for students to creatively inform themselves and others about social justice, community change and human rights.

Nonprofit Insights: Making It Last with For-Profit Companies

The Nonprofit Insights webinar series brings major thought leaders and experts to you for thought-provoking presentations on a variety of issues related to technology and engaging your community members for social good.

Join the webinar about corporate nonprofit relationships with VolunteerMatch and Bruce Burtch.The world of corporate-nonprofit partnerships is shifting – in a major way. The simple partnerships that used to characterize how nonprofits and for-profits worked together have become complicated, integrated relationships.

Making It Last with For-Profit Companies

Register for this free event.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VolunteerMatch and #vmlearn.

If you want to increase your organization’s fundraising, brand awareness, volunteer involvement and build highly-effective partnerships with for-profit organizations, join VolunteerMatch for a webinar with Bruce Burtch, a leading expert in the field of cross-sector partnerships and cause marketing. Bruce will walk us through the sea change occurring in the nonprofit/for-profit relationship, and share strategies for attracting and securing partnerships with companies that can create long-term benefits beyond simple funding.

No matter what your experience working with companies, join us to gain an updated perspective on how nonprofits can build strong, lasting relationships with companies.

Register for this free Nonprofit Insights webinar now.