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.

Meet Trudy

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

Volunteer PersonaThat’s Trudy, on the left. She is 51 years old, lives in Fairfax VA with her software exec husband, Lance, and her youngest daughter, Angie.

Angie is headed off to college in the fall, and Trudy is trying to figure out what to do when she becomes an empty nester. She used to be a school teacher before raising her daughter – she loves children – but she has not worked in many years. She is wondering if there is a way she can volunteer that involves children and will challenge her – she wants to do more than read to children or tutor them.

Why am I telling you about Trudy? Because she’s not real.

Trudy is a persona that I created while at Fairfax CASA to represent my ideal volunteer. For years, she gave me guidance on how to craft my messaging and direct my marketing. It’s Trudy who kept me focused on inspiring prospective volunteers who were a lot like her.

Old practice, new application
Creating personas is nothing new. Like so many of my favorite practices, the idea comes from the advertising world, where campaigns are carefully targeted to the ideal client. It’s a concept that translates beautifully to the nonprofit world. I have seen the practice used by volunteer managers and development directors. It helps in crafting everything from volunteer opportunities to newsletters to direct mail appeals.

Using personas gets you clear on just who you are trying to reach and how to reach them. Trudy reminded me to post my notices where a boomers might be looking, in newspapers as much as online, and to include words like “challenging” and “child-focused” in my promotional copy.

Feeling creative?
If you are ready to try your hand at creating a persona, make sure to include these essentials:

  • Know your demographics. Get clear on what your successful volunteers look like in terms of age, gender, profession, relationship-status, etc.
  • Build on the demographics with clues to your persona’s emotional world. What brings her to your program? What need is she trying to fill? What gives her satisfaction? The more you flesh out this piece, the easier it gets to write for your target audience.
  • Find a photo to bring your persona to life.

Keep her close by
Keep your persona tacked on your office bulletin board. Take a good look at her every day. And when you sit down to write something about your program, ask yourself a question much like mine, “What would Trudy like to hear about?”

Want to see the complete Trudy persona and use it as a template? Email me and request a copy.

Save Time and Build Better Relationships with VolunteerMatch Premium

Celebrate with VolunteerMatch Premium!At VolunteerMatch, we love living out our mission of connecting good people and good causes. And we love that we can do this at no cost to the inspiring people and causes doing amazing work in their communities.

We do this because we believe that everyone should have the chance to make a difference.

However, for organizations that rely heavily on volunteers, we have another option that makes finding new volunteers even easier.

VolunteerMatch Premium lets nonprofits do some pretty cool things with their VolunteerMatch account. Want to craft a personalized greeting VolunteerMatch Premium vs. Basicto potential volunteers when they first connect with you? You can do that. Want to quickly repost that volunteer opportunity from last month that’s still relevant? You can do that. How about exporting a list of the volunteers who have reached out to you? Yep, you can do that too.

That’s just the beginning. Learn more about the various ways we support nonprofits, including our premium service. And if you choose to, head over to your VolunteerMatch account to sign up.

For less than ten dollars a month, your nonprofit can build strong relationships with volunteers from the start, and spend less time managing prospective volunteers. And I’m sure you have many ways to spend a little extra time.

Need a Hand? VolunteerMatch Can Help!

If you need a hand with volunteer engagement, VolunteerMatch can help.At VolunteerMatch, our mission is to strengthen communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect (emphasis on the “easier”).

We try to keep it as simple as possible for you to post your open volunteer opportunities on the site and attract great volunteers, but if you run into bumps along the way or want to boost your recruitment efforts, we can help! Here’s how…

Having trouble with your VolunteerMatch account?

There are a couple of places to go if you have a question or issue with your account. First, our treasure trove of support information, answers, and tips for users. To get to this magical place, just click ‘SUPPORT’ in the top right corner of any page on our site. You’ll find detailed info about things like registering your organization, accessing or updating your account, posting and managing opportunities, and much more. Just sign in to your nonprofit account to view these articles!

VolunteerMatch Help Center screenshot

We also have a bunch of quick and easy video tutorials that will walk you through how to do things on your account. These can help you with tasks like gaining administrator access to your organization’s existing account, managing your opportunity contacts, or adding photos to your listings.

Looking for ways to attract more volunteers or strengthen your program?

Look no further! We offer FREE live webinars throughout the year presented by our resident volunteer management guru along with other seasoned professionals from the field. Learn about best practices on important topics like screening volunteers, planning for the future, and using social media to engage volunteers.

We’ve also curated a list of useful resources from around the web that you can find on our Learning Center and blog.

Still haven’t found what you need?

You can always contact us! Click ‘SUPPORT’ at the top of any page on VolunteerMatch.org, then click ‘Submit a Request’. This allows you to send us a message with details about your question, and even links, attachments or screenshots to help us understand the issue you’re having. Your request will be read by human eyes at our office in San Francisco, and we’ll do our best to get you the help you need.

Another great way to reach us is on Twitter. If you’re a big tweeter and have a question that can be posed in 140 characters or less, then this is the resource for you. We monitor incoming tweets all day and love providing fast, succinct help whenever possible.

We hope you’ll take advantage of some of these tools, and if there’s anything else you think might help you engage volunteers and better support your community, we’d love to hear about it.

Make New Friends and Give Back in Austin, TX

If you haven’t heard of the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) hosted by NTEN, then you should check it out and register. A couple thousand nonprofit professionals coming together to discuss how to make the most of technology? Yes, please!

Join VolunteerMatch at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference Day of Service.

VolunteerMatch is proud to be sponsoring the Day of Service at this year’s NTC. Throughout the conference, there will be volunteer opportunities for you to share your skills with Austin, TX area nonprofits. And this year, we’ve expanded the Days of Service program at the 15NTC to include virtual volunteering opportunities, so you can give back before the conference, too!

A Call for Projects

Are you an Austin-based organization that could use some help either in person between March 3-6, 2015, or virtually in advance of the conference? We would love to hear from you! Please add your organization’s volunteer opportunity to our “Days of Service” project. All you need to do is the following:

  • Create an account – be sure to register as a nonprofit looking for volunteers.
  • Suggest an opportunity – use the ‘Add a Project’ form to share your organization’s volunteer opportunity with the NTC Community.

Please note that you can post multiple opportunities from the same organization. Kindly include a link with the project suggestion and include contact information for the person leading the volunteer opportunity. That will help us and attendees better connect with you.

In order to make these opportunities as rewarding as possible for both the organization and the 15NTC attendees, we ask that projects consider the following guidelines:

  • The volunteer time commitment between March 3-6 needs to be limited to no more than 2 hours per day and must be suitable for groups of 2 or more.
  • In-person volunteer opportunities must be easily accessible from the Austin Conference Center on foot, public transit, or using a transport mode that the organization can provide to/from the Convention Center.
  • Virtual opportunities are also welcome, with specifics on how volunteers will connect with the organization (e.g., Skype, Google Hangout, listserv).
  • Virtual opportunities can begin ahead of the conference.

So spread the word to any Austin-based nonprofits you know! And if you’re a 15NTC attendee looking to volunteer while in Austin, you can sign up for an opportunity here.

We hope to see you (volunteering!) at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference!