I recently read a wonderful article in the September 15th, 2011 Spin Sucks newsletter written by Amber Avines, a communications consultant specializing in engagement and change management and an avid blogger herself who shares insights on a number of business topics.
Her article challenged the corporate community to look to their own employees for opportunities to share and promote the brand to all the stakeholders. As I read her advice, it struck me that the voluntary sector could seize this idea of brand ambassadors and take it further than our corporate counterparts could ever hope to.
Consider for a moment the powerful voice that is waiting to be unleashed — the passionate and committed voice of the volunteers who feel so strongly about your organization or your cause that they give of their time freely!
If your non-profit organization is looking for ways to attract more funders or generate greater exposure in the community or feel like you need more support in communicating your organization’s goals and objectives, look no further than your pool of volunteers to give you that critical advantage!
Why not empower your volunteers with knowledge about your organization’s goals, objectives and new initiatives and help them understand why they are important? Invite them to share the message within their own communities. Non-profit organizations can make use of their very own volunteers as a powerful means to accomplishing their Public Relations goals and objectives.
I have revised some of the suggestions Ms. Avines offered in her ‘7 Ways to Create Employee Brand Ambassadors’ article to make them more specific to the needs and resources of Volunteer Managers and non-profit organizations. Here are some of those tips and ideas to help you engage your current volunteers and turn them into passionate brand advocates for your non-profit organization.
- Volunteers are your greatest assets. Volunteers work their hardest and care the most when your non-profit organization appreciates and respects all their many contributions. As a Volunteer Manager, be accessible, visible, and approachable. Your volunteers will go above and beyond for an organization that considers them part of the team and treats them with respect.
- Don’t keep them in the dark. Schedule meetings where volunteers hear from others in your non-profit who can explain any new initiatives, priorities, and explain the strategy behind them. Always allow volunteers to ask questions. If you have internal communications tools for staff, you may want to consider ways to make certain information available to your volunteers to help encourage better engagement.
- Host a social media 101 class. Review your social media presence with volunteers, share your goals, and encourage participation. For the newbies, show them how to like your Facebook page, follow and share your tweets, subscribe to your YouTube channel. For the intermediate, tell them how to embed your company videos or use geo-location to raise awareness. For the advanced, work with them to showcase their professional contributions to the company through guest blogging, podcast interviews, or Twitter chats. If you are lucky enough to have some tech savvy, or really connected volunteers, encourage them to provide thoughts, new ideas or feedback and suggest new opportunities that you may not have considered.
- Treat volunteer bloggers like media. Have exciting company news? Why not give the story to your volunteers who have blogs instead of just the traditional media! Your info will reach a new audience, and you reinforce your volunteer’s investment and commitment to the success of the organization!
- Transform volunteers into superstars. When you create content to share think about including your volunteers in a meaningful way. Making a video about how your organization serves community? Use one of your volunteers engaged in their volunteer role to demonstrate that in the piece! Discussing corporate culture on your blog? Profile how a new volunteer is working hand in hand with staff and the result is stronger service delivery to the individuals you serve. Don’t be afraid to ask your volunteer to participate in your promotional efforts—and be sure they know how to share those videos and blog posts on their own social media pages.
- Encourage community involvement. Help volunteers get the organization’s name out there by caring about what they care about. Sponsor an volunteer team for a charity walk-a-thon, and give them company t-shirts to wear! One of your volunteers volunteering for a special event? Provide a branded freebie for the gift bag!
- Reward sharing. People are motivated by praise and prizes. Be sure to acknowledge the volunteers who actively, and sincerely, promote the organization. Gift cards, a reserved parking spot, knickknacks, or recognition in a blog post or newsletter are just a few ways to make your volunteers feel special.
Remember, volunteers who feel valued and appreciated will want to talk about the wonderful place where they work. Create a positive culture for your volunteers and they will become your most enthusiastic cheerleaders!
~Karen Franco, Communications Director