Who’s Got the Story to Engage Volunteers?

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

Don’t worry if a volunteer speaker bows out of your info session.  You have another great story close at hand.

Surprise story maroon - Twenty HatsDoesn’t the role of information session facilitator feel more like a talent scout sometimes? I am thinking of all the sessions that I have organized over the years to engage volunteers, lining up current volunteers to share their stories and inspire others. I spent a lot of time calling around to find someone who had the time to join us for a session.

That cast of characters was always changing, depending on who was available that day to share their story. I used to worry a lot about what would happen if a speaker was a no show or cancelled at the last minute.

Then I realized that there was one story that was always available, equally powerful, and often overlooked. My own story.

Your story is just as powerful.

Facilitating an information session is about more than keeping the session on track. It’s also about opening up and sharing your emotional connection to the cause.

If you have volunteered with your program, that’s a great bonus. I started off as a CASA volunteer and talked about my experience whenever I stood before a group for Fairfax CASA.

But you can move your audience without the personal volunteer connection by sharing what you find most exciting/rewarding/touching about your organization.

  • When I worked for a mental health nonprofit, I told audiences I had not realized how much courage it took to live with mental illness, and how much I admired the counselors for the sensitive manner they used with the clients.
  • When I worked for a food allergy support organization, I talked about how eye-opening it was to see what families faced when a child had a serious food allergy, and how empowered the parents became with support from my program.

You get the point. You want to establish an honest and heart-centered connection with your audience.

Here are the three questions that will help you share an inspiring personal story:

  1. What do you find most moving about your program and its mission?
  2. What has changed for you as a result of working here?
  3. If you were to leave tomorrow, what would you always remember with pride?

It can feel awkward to step out of the organizer role and into the role of speaker – and it takes some practice to share a message with comfort and confidence. Just remember that your audience is looking to you to lead them through the session. What better way to set the tone than with your own authentic point of view?

If you want to refine your in-person powers of persuasion, email me for a copy of my Elevator Pitch Planner. I will send you a step-by-step guide to crafting a great volunteer recruitment elevator pitch – and add you to my mailing list for more practical skill-builders.

Volunteers Are Your Advocates: 4 Tips to Ensure They Share Your Story Well

Guest post by Nisha Kotecha

Encourage volunteers to share your story.You spend time attracting great volunteers for your nonprofit. And they do a great job! But are you missing an opportunity by not encouraging your volunteers to share your nonprofit’s story, and share it well?

Nonprofit organizations do not have endless amounts of time and money to spend on marketing and PR, so it can be difficult to get your story heard in a busy world. Your volunteers sharing your stories is a low-cost, easy way to raise awareness of your work.

These 4 tips will ensure your volunteers are your number one advocates:

1. Make sure your volunteers know key facts and figures about your organization.

It’s important that your volunteers understand the problem your non-profit is solving, how long you have been doing so, how many members of staff and volunteers you have, your annual income / turnover, and how much of an impact you are having. Your volunteers might get asked any of these questions by their friends and family – potential donors and supporters of your organization – so it’s important they know the answers.

2. Have happy volunteers.

Make your volunteers HAPPY!Your volunteers should be your number one advocates, not your number one critics. The last thing you want is for your volunteers to be going home ranting about their day with your nonprofit organization. A happy work environment, good training and support, and good communication will lead to happy volunteers, and happy volunteers will lead to people hearing only good things about you and your work.

3. Encourage your volunteers.

Your volunteers all have personal networks who might be interested in the work you do. By asking and encouraging your volunteers to share their volunteering story via their social media accounts you will be able to reach a large number of people with very little effort. Plus, because the story is coming from someone they know, people are more likely to pay close attention to what they are saying. Your volunteers might not know that you would like them to share their story, so it is important you ask and encourage them to do so.

4. Give them the recognition they deserve.

How to Appreciate Your VolunteersYour volunteers are not supporting your organization to get something back, but they will be thrilled if they do. Winning an award, or even being nominated for one, can show your appreciation. Letting your volunteers know that you appreciate their support and dedication on a regular basis will lead to happy volunteers (point #2).

Are your volunteers your number one advocates? How do you make sure they share your story well? Let us know in the comment below.

Nisha Kotecha is the Founder of Good News Shared, a website showcasing the impact and achievements of non-profit organizations around the world. Nisha also hosts the Good News Shared podcast where she interviews volunteers to highlight stories that deserve to be heard.

Bay Area: Want to Star in a VolunteerMatch Video?

Star in VolunteerMatch's new videoDo you know a volunteer who fits these three criteria?

  • Volunteers somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area,
  • Has a compelling and/ or heartwarming volunteer story, and
  • Found their volunteer opportunity through VolunteerMatch.

If so, we want to film them!

Julia, our awesomely creative Creative Services Manager, is in the process of creating a 1-2 minute, easily-sharable video. If your volunteer is selected, Julia will come to your nonprofit this May or June to capture their story through interviews and volunteering footage.

If you’re wondering why we’re only looking for San Francisco Bay Area organizations, it’s not because we love the rest of the country any less… we promise! It’s because VolunteerMatch is headquartered in San Francisco, so we’re starting local. But don’t worry! We have plans in store to include the rest of the country soon.

So Bay Area, what do you think? Want your nonprofit to star in a video and help VolunteerMatch? Send us an email.

Did You Make an Awesome Video? Submit It to the DoGooder Video Awards

Submit your nonprofit video to the 2014 DoGooder Video Awards.I challenge you to find one person who doesn’t love watching videos. And what’s better than videos? Entertaining, inspiring videos about making the world a better place.

That’s just what the 2014 DoGooder Video Awards is asking for: Your submissions of the best videos highlighting the impact being made by nonprofit organizations. The Awards are presented by See3 Communications, YouTube, the Nonprofit Technology Network, The National Youth Media Network and National Alliance for Media and Culture, and sponsored by Cisco.

You can click here to learn more about contest rules and the guidelines, but some of the great prizes include a $3,000 cash prize from Nickelodeon, two festival passes for 2014 AFI DOCS film festival, and free registration to the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference.

Do you have a great nonprofit video? Submit it to the 2014 DoGooder Video Awards.

You can submit your videos until February 15th via the contest website in the following categories:

  • The ImpactX Award: honoring those videos that have demonstrated impact for their causes.
  • The Best Nonprofit Video Award: honoring nonprofit organizations using video to make change.
  • The Funny for Good Award: Recognizing effective use of comedy to make people laugh and take action.
  • The Most Inspiring Youth Media Award: For youth who best communicated their thoughts on pressing social issues in a way that inspired others.

Members of the YouTube community will have the opportunity to vote for the best among the finalists from February 28th through March 10th.

Exciting stuff! And you know what’s great about nonprofit videos? They are a great way to engage talented and creative skilled volunteers!

Check out the 2014 DoGooder Video Awards, and if you submit an entry, share it with us below!

Bay Area Native Takes On VolunteerMatch

Nicole Villanueva, Communications & Social Media Intern

Hello VolunteerMatch Family! I’m Nicole Villanueva and I will be one of the new Communications & Social Media interns contributing my voice to VolunteerMatch for the next coming months. I will be working with the Communications department to refine online communications to help volunteers, nonprofits, and corporations connect good people with good causes. I’m very excited to work with, and learn from, the largest volunteer engagement network.

I grew up in the East Bay and working in San Francisco has always been a dream of mine. I attended University of California, San Diego where I played lacrosse (GO TRITONS!) and received my bachelor’s degree in communication.

I fell in love with marketing and communications during my senior year of high school when I participated, and won, in DECA (Distinguished Educational Clubs of America), a business club in which members compete against each other in several different categories. I found that the subject sparked a passion in me and I discovered what I wanted to pursue as a career.

Volunteering has always been a part of my life and it has impacted my worldview. I have found that among all the bad things in the world, even just a small act of kindness can have a ripple effect and touch the lives of many. I’ve been able to help out in many different ways from volunteering in a community garden to building a house in Tijuana, Mexico for a family in need.

It is important to me that I am involved in an organization where my skills contribute to something bigger than the company or myself. The Communications & Social Media internship at VolunteerMatch has given me the perfect opportunity to do so.

I’ve always found that communicating an idea is the key to unlocking its power. You can have the most innovative idea in the world but it’s worth close to nothing if you can’t communicate it effectively.

I would like to contribute my communication skills and knowledge of social media platforms to help nonprofits, volunteers and corporations reach their goals towards making the world a better place. I am looking forward to my time at VolunteerMatch to hone and apply my skills I learned in and out of the classroom while helping the greater good become even greater.