Winning People Over to Your Cause – Part Three: Stay in the Conversation

Content Marketing for Nonprofits, by Kivi Leroux MillerEditor’s Note: This series explores ways to apply content marketing strategies to help lead a successful nonprofit volunteer program. Using the wealth of information in Kivi Leroux Miller’s book “Content Marketing for Nonprofits” as a jumping-off point, this four-part installment discusses how a solid content marketing strategy will pay dividends in drawing volunteers and supporters, bridging the gap between volunteers and donors, and engaging your community.

Engage more supporters by keeping your nonprofit organization in the conversation.When communicating with your volunteers and community members and applying your content marketing strategy, keeping your content relevant is crucial to your success.

And who decides relevancy? Your volunteers and supporters! They want to go to your Facebook or Twitter page and see posts that interest them and make them want to keep reading. This will make them come back for more.

While your organization’s needs should certainly be considered when applying your content marketing strategy, the needs of your volunteers and supporters should be the primary focus. As Kivi states in her book, “Always remember why people are there on the trail with you. It’s not solely for your benefit. It’s because they want to get something out of the experience, too.”

This blog post will explore the key to keeping your content relevant and becoming your volunteers and supporters’ favorite organization: staying in the conversation.

Produce Content That’s Refreshing

With social media allowing information and news to be sent and received instantaneously, it is crucial that your content is up-to-date and current. Yet coming up with new content can take time, and the demand might seem to frequently outweigh the supply. How do you satisfy a community that is constantly seeking new and fresh information?

Suppose it is the winter holidays. Your organization wants to send your fans into the break with a few “tweets”, but you’re out of news to talk about. A great method of producing content is re-purposing. Remember that tweet you sent out a few weeks ago telling volunteers how they can make an impact at a local homelessness shelter? You can re-purpose that tweet along with a few others and create a list of ways people can give back over the holidays. The old tweet is made new, and it is refreshing because it is relevant in the specific context of the winter holidays.

Tell Compelling Stories to Connect on a Human Level

Social media, email, print newsletters – whatever your medium, you want to come off as a helpful friend and a trusted expert. Telling fascinating stories will allow you to connect with your volunteers and supporters on a personal level. And this is crucial for you in becoming their favorite organization.

Telling stories might also come in the form of testimonials. What is the success of a website like Yelp? A lot of it is relying on people’s testimonials. If 100 people give a restaurant a 5 out of 5 rating, it is very likely that a new customer will decide to try that restaurant for the first time. So why not use testimonials in your content?

One approach is the volunteer success story. Invite a volunteer who had an awesome experience with your organization to talk about it for one of your blog posts. Have that person explain how they became interested in your organization and why they enjoyed their volunteer experience. Not only will that volunteer feel rewarded and likely keep volunteering, other potential volunteers will see the post and envision themselves having a similarly great experience.

Create a Network with Other Organizations to Gain Support for Your Cause

Rather than compete with other organizations in your community, partner with them to reach out to both their supporters and yours. Sharing the work of other organizations with your followers is an awesome method of conveying your own values while staying relevant.

This can be as easy as “retweeting” the tweets of other organizations. If a local nonprofit led a successful beach clean-up last weekend, even if your work might be totally unrelated to environmental awareness, a simple retweet is a great way to say to your audience, “The work these guys are doing is awesome, and we support them.”

This makes your organization feel personable and conscientious, showing that you aren’t just pigeon-holed into one area, but supportive of a number of diverse causes. People are much more likely to volunteer with your organization because they will see that there are actual people who care about multiple issues producing that online content.

We want to hear from you: how does your organization stay in the conversation?

Use This Awesome Free Graphic to Say “Thanks!” to Your Volunteers

Happy FestiVOL! As part of this week’s celebration of everything that’s fun about volunteering, here’s a super cool graphic that you can customize to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them.

Customize this cool graphic to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them for National Volunteer Week and FestiVOL!

Click here to easily customize and download the graphic, and then share it on your blog, on social media and over email, and be sure to use the hashtag #VolunteerHeroes to share inspiring stories.

Great job Nonprofit Toolkit for coming up with this graphic – we can always use more super heroes in this world! Make sure you thank the ones who are already helping your organization.

How are you celebrating National Volunteer Week? Let us know using hashtag #FestiVOL!

It’s FestiVOL Season

Volunteering is the best, right? So this year, in honor of National Volunteer Week, we’ve decided to celebrate volunteers and the difference they make by launching a spectacular week-long FestiVOL – and we want YOU to join us!

Why FestiVOL?

Join VolunteerMatch for FestiVOL, a week-long celebration of volunteering in honor of National Volunteer Week.At VolunteerMatch, we hope FestiVOL will help your organization make the most of National Volunteer Week. Whether it‘s appreciating your volunteers, strengthening existing relationships, or building new ones, VolunteerMatch will be providing tips on how you can increase engagement.

Part of our goal for FestiVOL is to help more nonprofit organizations – like yours – find the right volunteers. So each day we will release three “nuggets” just for you: One piece of inspiration, one piece of knowledge, and one action. We hope you’ll share these with your volunteers and community members, learn from them, and encourage everyone to get more involved.

What about ways that you can make an impact volunteering? FestiVOL will also provide resources to encourage your own participation in the community. Often times, simply sharing what causes you are passionate about can inspire others to make a difference, as well.

Join FestiVOL!

FestiVOL will run from April 6-12. You can see all the nuggets as we release them on the FestiVOL landing page.

You and your nonprofit can join FestiVOL by following on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with the hashtag #FestiVOL. We hope FestiVOL gives you the energy, passion and ideas to make our communities stronger and our world happier all year long!

How will YOU celebrate volunteering during FestiVOL?

Gorgeous FestiVOL graphic designed by Katy Roby.

Winning People Over to Your Cause – Part Two: Get Everyone On Board

Content Marketing for Nonprofits, by Kivi Leroux MillerEditor’s Note: This series explores ways to apply content marketing strategies to help lead a successful nonprofit volunteer program. Using the wealth of information in Kivi Leroux Miller’s book “Content Marketing for Nonprofits” as a jumping-off point, this four-part installment discusses how a solid content marketing strategy will pay dividends in drawing volunteers and supporters, bridging the gap between volunteers and donors, and engaging your community.

Winning People Over to Your Cause: Get People On BoardYou are the in charge of running your nonprofit’s volunteer program. You are ready to implement the two-way conversations, targeted engagement, and multi-channel communication we discussed in the first blog post of this series.

But in order for your program to truly welcome change and successfully apply new content marketing strategies for volunteer engagement, you need to make sure that the other departments and everyone else in your organization are on the same page.

Using the example of a Communications Director, Kivi explains that it is a misconception that other departments are not part of communications and marketing. The fact is that everyone plays a role, and marketing is more successful and done better in a team rather than alone.

Similarly, by getting your colleagues aligned with your volunteer program goals, you will strengthen the internal structure of your organization, which will result in more volunteers and supporters for your cause. This blog post is aimed at strategies you can employ to get everyone on board with your volunteer engagement goals.

Solve Your Organizational Jigsaw Puzzle

Coordinating your nonprofit’s volunteer engagement requires you to be an all-star. You have to constantly communicate with members of your community and other organizations, lead your volunteers, attract new ones, and make sure you are meeting the goals that your organization hopes to accomplish. A solid organizational device like a timeline will allow you to navigate through all of these tasks with efficiency.

One strategy Kivi encourages her readers to try is an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar consists of the different events and deadlines you must meet over the course of a given period. It pushes you to stay focused on your goals and prioritize the tasks that you have to complete at a certain time. With handy online sharing tools like Google Docs and Calendars, you can get other departments to work around your schedule and fit in new assignments on your editorial calendar.

You might want to create multiple editorial calendars, including one specifically for communicating with your volunteers. This will allow both you and your volunteers to get a clear picture of what you hope to accomplish over the next few months or year. Furthermore, you can make sure that you do not have a surplus of volunteers working on an assignment one day and a lack of volunteers on another day.

Get Other Staff Members Involved in Your Volunteer Engagement

It’s easy for us to get caught up in our own work. Each day holds a multitude of tasks that need to be completed, and there simply doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do them all. It might even feel like the work of other departments isn’t relevant to the mountain of assignments on your desk – and vice versa.

That mindset must be changed, because everyone in your organization plays a role in determining the success of your volunteer program. In fact, engaging volunteers should be the goal of someone on the tech side of operations just as much as the person in charge of running the volunteer program. So how do you get those other departments and staff involved?

One method is to simply invite them to participate in your activities. This past MLK Day of Service, a group of New Sector fellows volunteered their time to explore innovative options for VolunteerMatch to approach volunteer engagement in 2014. VolunteerMatch staff from different departments participated in the event, and the group was divided into four discussion groups: big picture engagement, global outreach, marketing and communications, and technology.

This event invited the fellows to examine different areas of the organization and suggest new approaches. Perhaps even more importantly, the staff gained a reinforced understanding of how volunteer engagement is the thread that ties the different ends of VolunteerMatch together.

By getting everyone on board with your volunteer program goals, your organization will develop a clearer understanding of its overall goals and driving purpose. As a result, your staff will feel unified and on the same page, and you will feel much more organized and prepared.

Be Constructively Self-Critical

As your organization gets stronger internally, it is important to keep asking yourself questions to adapt and make further improvements:

  • What does your organization most need volunteers, supporters, and community members to actually do, and how soon do you need these things accomplished? Being able to clearly communicate to your volunteers what you need them to do will make sure they make the greatest impact possible.
  • What are the most pressing needs for your volunteer program? If you are lacking volunteers, then perhaps allocating more time for outreach via social media should take precedence on your editorial calendar.
  • How is your staff representing your organization’s image? While social media can be a useful tool for communicating with a vast number of people, it also means that your staff have to present themselves professionally. Drafting basic tweets or Facebook posts for your staff to cut and paste is a great way for them to be involved while keeping up-to-date with your volunteer program.

What strategies does your organization use to get everyone internally working together on volunteer engagement?

Winning People Over to Your Cause – Part One: Welcome Change

Content Marketing for Nonprofits, by Kivi Leroux MillerEditor’s Note: This series explores ways to apply content marketing strategies to help lead a successful nonprofit volunteer program. Using the wealth of information in Kivi Leroux Miller’s book “Content Marketing for Nonprofits” as a jumping-off point, this four-part installment discusses how a solid content marketing strategy will pay dividends in drawing volunteers and supporters, bridging the gap between volunteers and donors, and engaging your community.

Welcome change to enable the success of your employee volunteer program.What is content marketing in the first place? Here is Kivi’s definition: “Content marketing for nonprofits is creating and sharing relevant and valuable content that attracts, motivates, engages, and inspires your participants, supporters, and influencers to help you achieve your mission.” Your content marketing strategy, then, is your blueprint to success.

It might be cliché to say “there is always room for improvement,” but it is well-used for a reason – and it is more relevant than ever when designing a content marketing strategy. The most important thing that will allow a nonprofit to benefit from Kivi’s book is keeping an open mind to new ideas and methods of engagement, because her book is full of them.

Journeying through Content Marketing for Nonprofits is similar to the backpacking analogy Kivi uses throughout her book: there are so many concepts and strategies that will cross your path, that making sense of them requires you to be well-prepared. And the best way to be prepared for this long trek is to welcome change. It’s rarely easy, but it’s necessary.

Here are a few ways you can begin to think about new methods of engaging your volunteers and community:

Have Two-Way Conversations

The phrase “target audience” might come to mind when you are thinking about your content marketing strategy. Yet it is one of the first terms Kivi asks us to rethink in her book. In communicating with your volunteers and community, start seeing your engagement as a dialogue: you aren’t talking to them, you are talking WITH them.

This concept is especially important to keep in mind when using social media platforms. As Kivi notes, one of the biggest opportunities that social media presents to nonprofits is that anyone can be a spokesperson for your organization. This means that as people speak out publicly about your organization, any opinion about you can be floating around on the internet, outside of your control.

However, what you can control is how you prepare for those comments and speak to those people. By inviting feedback that applauds or constructively criticizes, by having a conversation, you will begin to adapt to the needs of your volunteers and community. Your content will become relevant to them as you gain a reputation for keeping an open ear to your community’s needs, and you will ultimately win people over to your cause.

Let’s take an example: Suppose you are an environmental organization, and you are seeking volunteers to spend a day educating elementary school students on water conservancy. Your Facebook page can be a great way to convert community members into volunteers, and a simple post can often do the trick.

The post might include things like: a statistic on how much water is wasted in the United States annually; a question that invites conversation and hints at the post’s main goal, such as, “Why do YOU think it’s important that kids are educated on water conservation?”; an invitation for community members to volunteer their time and share their knowledge; a photo of someone presenting to a elementary school classroom; and a link to a page on your website where people can sign up to volunteer.

Notice how most of these elements invite interaction from and with the community. (These are also great things to include in a listing on VolunteerMatch, too!)

Engage Different Types of Volunteers

While you are removing “target audience” from your vocabulary, focusing on specific groups or types of volunteers is still a useful tool. The with whom people you engage come in all different shapes and sizes: they vary in age, are of different backgrounds, and bring unique skill sets. Your job is to sift through your pool of volunteers and individually assign them tasks that they find relevant and can flourish in.

This is one strategy we apply on VolunteerMatch.org, where volunteer opportunities are placed into unique categories. For example, a family interested in volunteering at an animal hospital with their children can refine their search by clicking the cause “Animals,” then finding an opportunity listed as “Good for kids.” By engaging different types of volunteers and placing them into specific roles that best fit them, you will find that your volunteers’ outputs will be greater because they are truly interested in their work.

Another great way to get the most out of what your volunteers have to offer is to give them greater responsibility, namely through titles or positions of leadership. A younger volunteer who is particularly skilled in social media will be more encouraged if you give her the unique title of “Social Media Specialist.” A volunteer with lots of experience with your organization might be promoted to a “Team Leader” position, guiding and showing the ropes to newer volunteers.

Letting your volunteers know that you appreciate them for who they are will foster a relationship built on giving, and will get people in your community and potential volunteers excited about supporting your cause.

Communicate Across Multiple Channels

It is likely that digital technology is one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of recent changes in nonprofit communications. And it can certainly seem daunting, even scary with the instantaneous flow of information and the rapid shifts in our modes of communicating.

Rather than look at these changes with fear, see them as expanding the ways in which you can connect with your volunteers and community. More outlets might mean more work, but it also means more people who see your accomplishments, hear about your cause, and recognize your organization’s name.

We want to hear your stories: How has welcoming change allowed your organization to better engage volunteers?