It’s Not Rocket Science

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

Marketing for Volunteer ManagersMarketing isn’t rocket science if you know where to start.

I used to have a boss with a favorite expression. She liked to say “It’s not rocket science,” meaning that any time her nonprofit job required some new skill or challenge, she knew she could pull it off. She knew she was smart, and she figured there was very little under the sun that a smart person could not master with practice and persistence.

My boss’s approach worked. She took on all sorts of projects with great success, just knowing that she had the chops to do it.

Marketing is like that. It’s not rocket science. It is masterable – and it’s often an essential part of our jobs.

Do you think of yourself as a marketer? If you are responsible for engaging volunteers in your program, you most certainly are.

Last month I wrote about how there is a volunteer out there for every position – IF we know how to find them. And the finding, of course, requires that we learn how to reach the volunteers who will thrive in our programs.

If you are wondering how in the world to move beyond your program’s Volunteer page and really target your marketing efforts, start with these basics:

  1. Know your Ideal Volunteer. Get clear on who is most successful in your program – those are the volunteers you want to target.
  2. Get strategic. The pros don’t fly by the seat of their pants, they plan. You will need to learn how to develop a marketing plan and implement it.
  3. Target your message. Learn how to reach out to the volunteers you need with a message intended especially for them.

Learning how to market you program is really about getting into the head and the heart of the person you want to reach. It takes some practice and some education, and once you start seeing results, it even gets to be fun.

What’s not in your wheelhouse now may become the most interesting part of your job.

How about face to face marketing?

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.

Last Chance to Shape the 16NTC Agenda!

NTENIn today’s world, volunteer engagement and technology go hand in hand. In our recently-published book Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, we dedicated an entire section to technology shifts and their impact on the volunteer engagement space.

So wouldn’t it be great to see volunteer engagement heavily represented at the conference for leveraging technology for social good?

Yes, I’m talking about NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (16NTC), coming up this March in San Jose, CA. This conference puts its content in the hands of its community, by allowing upvoting and downvoting on session proposals before the agenda is finalized.

But here’s the thing. Voting ends on July 31st. If you haven’t already had your say, make sure to cast your votes now. Help us get volunteerism into the conversation. There’s are least 7 proposals all about volunteerism, including Leveraging Expert or Technical Volunteers, Convert Volunteers into Donors (& Vice Versa) and Here, There, and Everywhere: Distance Volunteer Training.

Remember, you don’t have to go to 16NTC to help shape the nonprofit technology conversation. Cast your votes today.

P.S. We also proposed a session on how we took full advantage of our Google AdWords Grant and were able to increase traffic to our site, decrease bounce rates, and increase conversions. Help us out by giving us an upvote on that session, too.

Don’t Keep All That Volunteer Engagement Knowledge to Yourself!

VolunteerMatch is now accepting Nonprofit Insights Webinar session proposals.

Has your organization done something out-of-the-ordinary with your volunteer program? Have you witnessed new trends or conducted research around volunteerism? Are you simply a volunteer engagement rockstar?

Don’t keep all that knowledge to yourself! VolunteerMatch is asking nonprofit professionals, academics, and/ or volunteers with something to share to submit session proposals for our Nonprofit Insights Webinar series.

Topics should relate to the webinar’s mission of building a better world through volunteerism. Some examples of overarching topics include: volunteer program manager empowerment, engaging volunteers through social media, setting up a virtual volunteer program, fundraising strategy, engaging skilled volunteers, corporate-nonprofit partnerships, etc.

By presenting at a Nonprofit Insights Webinar, you will be a voice in the community of nonprofits at VolunteerMatch – they’ll benefit from your knowledge, experience and opinions. Plus, promotional outreach to our massive networks will get your name and your topic in front of a wide audience. Finally, it will be fun, we promise!

Interested? Learn more and/ or submit a session proposal.

3 Good People, 3 Good Causes, 3 Perfect Matches

VolunteerMatch's Video looks at how 3 different volunteers are making a differenceA senior trying yoga for the first time. A bobcat that can’t go back into the wild being cared for. A brother and sister strengthening their English skills after school. 

These vastly different activities have one thing in common. They’re made possible by the passion of volunteers. 

At VolunteerMatch, we make it easy for good people and good causes to connect. With our network of 100,000+ organizations, it’s no surprise that VolunteerMatch has connected close to 10 million volunteers with causes that light them up.

However, since these initial connections happen online, we don’t always get to see firsthand the impact of these numerous connections – the impact on the volunteers themselves, the organizations they volunteer with, and the communities they serve.

That’s why we went out into our own community to see what volunteers who found their connections through VolunteerMatch were up to.

The results are truly moving.

In this short video, you’ll meet Louise, Sandra and Hannah, three volunteers making a big difference, each in their own unique way. We hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed creating it!

3 Good People, 3 Good Causes, 3 Perfect Matches:

4 Ways to Build an Ineffective, Disengaged Nonprofit Board

Your board of directors. They are responsible for the governance of your organization. They are also volunteers.

It’s an unfortunate truth that many nonprofit organizations struggle to effectively attract and engage board members. And for good reason – it’s not an easy task!

But before you start asking, “Why are there no good board members out there?!” take a look internally. Are you making these all-too-common mistakes with your board?

Disengaged Board Member

1. Be Vague About the Commitment Level

I once knew someone named Don. Don’s good friend was starting a nonprofit whose mission was to bring more culture and art into their small community. Don’s friend said, “Don’t worry – it won’t be much work. I just need bodies.” Don didn’t have much of an interest in the topic, but he wanted to be a good friend. So, despite being busy raising his two daughters and working full time, Don said yes.

You can probably guess how this ends: It actually was a lot of work, and Don didn’t have the time or the interest. He left the board a year later with both his and his friend’s time wasted.

For some organizations, the only requirement for being on the board is writing a big check once a year. But is this the norm? No. Most nonprofits are small, volunteer-run groups who benefit by having active and engaged board members. If you think, “I just need to get someone in the door, and then I’ll get them interested,” then think again.

2. Don’t Ask for Monetary or Fundraising Support

“She already does so much for us. We can’t ask her for money, too.”

I heard this once at a nonprofit I was working with. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s time to revisit your outlook on your supporters. In fact, people who donate time to your organization are much more likely to donate money, too, when compared with those who do not volunteer for you. Why? Because when you’re as invested in an organization’s success as you should be when you’re a board member, you’ll likely do what’s in your means to help the organization succeed – including a monetary donation. And often, the only barrier between a donation and no donation is the courage to ask for one.

3. Keep All the Responsibility to Yourself

It’s no secret: People want to feel useful. Spending hours at a board meeting and not feeling like you’re personally accomplishing anything is a sure-fire recipe for disengagement. I know I would rather spend 3 hours working on a project that matters than 1 hour simply nodding my head and participating in a few votes.

It’s okay to give up the reigns to your board members here and there. You might be surprised at how a disengaged board member does a 180 when given a little responsibility using the unique skills they bring to the table.

4. Choose Board Members Who Don’t Reflect the Community You Serve

Diversity is always the ideal – not just on a board, but in virtually any setting. A variety of opinions coming from a range of worldviews is key to progress. But when you’re striving for diversity, ask yourself one critical question: “Does anyone on our board actually share experiences, values, and interests with the community we’re serving?”

Imagine how much more effective a hunger-fighting organization could be if someone on the board actually experienced what it’s like to go hungry? You’ll get insights you simply can’t get through research.

One way to increase diversity on your board is to reach outside of your networks. Post your board openings on with the cause tag “Board Development.” Remember to be as descriptive as possible about the commitment level and the type of board member you’re seeking.

Do you have advice to share on creating an effective and engaged board of directors? Share them in the comments below, or tweet to us @VolunteerMatch.

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360