My blog today is actually for public relations and marketing staff at nonprofits, rather than those managers of volunteer programs. And my message is this: either help promote your organization’s volunteer engagement OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.
I talk to people managing their organization’s volunteer engagement activities – recruiting volunteers, supporting those volunteers, creating the majority of opportunities for those volunteers, helping other staff engage with those volunteers in their work, etc. – and among the many complaints I hear about challenges to their success is this one: the public relations and marketing staff won’t support me.
Those leading volunteer engagement at your organization need a variety of support from marketing and public relations staff:
- in using the organization’s Facebook page, blog, web site and other online activities to recruit volunteers and tout the accomplishments of such
- in reaching out to the media about what volunteers are doing
- in connecting media to those working with volunteers at the organization when the media says they want to do a story about volunteerism
- in understanding when volunteers are doing something particularly special or innovative, or staff working with such are, such that it would be worthy of external attention (or internal attention, for that matter)
- in including information about the organization’s volunteer engagement in all traditional publications, including paper newsletters and annual reports
- in talking about volunteer engagement as more than just the monetary value of volunteer hours
Yet, I hear from staff again and again that the outreach staff won’t create a link on the home page to information on volunteering (though they will regarding donating money, no problem!), that they won’t include any volunteer-related messages on Facebook, that they won’t use any photos from a recent volunteer engagement event in outreach materials, and that they will include information about volunteerism in the annual report only regarding the monetary value of the volunteer time given.
Public relations and marketing staff: if you are not going to create a detailed strategy for supporting your organization’s engagement of volunteers through all of your various outreach methods, then let the manager of that engagement do it him or herself, and stay out of the way as they execute that strategy. If you aren’t going to include information about volunteer recruitment and accomplishment in social media channels as often as you do about fundraising campaigns, then say nothing as staff in charge of managing volunteers at your organization create their own blogs, web sites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Instagram or Flickr accounts to share the information they want out.
What would be FAR better than forcing managers of volunteers to do marketing and public relations on their own? If you, public relations and marketing staff, sat down with the staff that work with volunteers at your organization and said, “How can I support you? Tell me what you’re doing. Let’s meet once a month and talk about it.” What you might find is that, instead of additional work, you get much-needed information to raise your organization’s profile online and in the media. Maybe volunteers are taking amazing photos of your organization’s work that you could use in a variety of ways. Perhaps there is a really marvelous story waiting for you to discover: maybe your organization is engaging in virtual volunteering in some really innovative ways, or is involving someone as an online volunteer who could never do so onsite. Maybe some hot current trend, like micro volunteering, is happening at your organization but you don’t even know it. Maybe volunteer engagement has helped your organization engage with communities or demographics you never would have reached otherwise. An organization that involves volunteers can be seen as more transparent and open to the community than one that doesn’t – are you leveraging that image properly in your outreach work?
No more excuses, public relations and marketing staff: support your staff that recruit and engage with volunteers – or get out of the way and let them do their own publicity themselves.
This message brought to you by: Grumpy Jayne