Engaging Volunteers in Your Marketing Efforts: An Important Strategy

By Jill Friedman Fixler and Beth Steinhorn, JFFixler & Associates

JFFixler & Associates

This is a guest post from two of our favorite clients: Jill Friedman Fixler and Beth Steinhorn of JFFixler & Associates. Jill is the President and Founder and Beth, a Senior Strategist, coordinates the marketing at this consulting firm that specializes in transforming organizations through innovative volunteer strategies. The firm works with some of the biggest names in the sector, including Canadian Cancer Society, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Hostelling International – USA, California State Libraries, and many more. Since April is National Volunteer Month, and these two are the go-to experts on the subject, we asked them to write about how to engage volunteers in your marketing efforts.

In a time when economic reports continue to bring challenging news to nonprofits, it’s rare to read about a resource that’s growing – but volunteers are a growing resource that can help your organization fulfill its strategic priorities. You can harness the abundant skills and interests of your volunteers and apply them towards your organization’s priorities, including marketing and communications.

Here are a few examples of how volunteers, cultivated strategically, can help your organization fulfill its marketing objectives:

Developing an Effective Marketing Plan

Engage marketing professionals as pro bono consultants to advise your marketing team on effective tactics. They can consult on the development of a realistic marketing plan, share trends to inform how you prioritize your efforts, and leverage their existing relationships with local media to get coverage of your organization. Many corporations are seeking ways to shift their philanthropic efforts from cash to in-kind, pro bono contributions. Contact local companies to see if they will “loan” their marketing professionals to your organization and connect with local volunteer centers and online volunteer matching organizations, such as VolunteerMatch.org.

Keeping your Website Dynamic and Updated

Keeping your website dynamic and up-to-date is a challenge for many organizations – but it is critical to maintaining a meaningful dialogue with your constituents. Who amongst your existing volunteer corps is proficient in online technologies? Who is a good writer? They can be tapped to partner with staff to enhance your web presence. A technologically savvy volunteer can become your “Calendar Guru,” keeping your online calendar updated and posting new, relevant events on your calendar as well as other community calendars. Volunteers who are good writers can write guest blogs, sharing their stories and interviewing others to diversify the “face” of your organization, while also sharing important news with your followers. Don’t have a Twitter account yet for your nonprofit? Consider cultivating a “Twitter Tutor” to help staff set up the account, research and select the organizations and individuals to follow, and help staff and other volunteers determine how and when to tweet and post links.

Promoting Your Programs and Other Volunteer Opportunities

It’s easy to get caught up in technology as the marketing world continues to change at lightning speed. However, it’s important to remember that technology is most effective when it is used as a tool to extend the ever-powerful “word of mouth.” Whether marketing programs, cultivating new donors, or engaging volunteers, word of mouth reigns supreme. The vast majority of your volunteers are online. How can they use their profound networks to share the work of your organization and engage their friends (real or virtual!) with you? Provide your volunteers with carefully crafted messages about upcoming programs for them to easily post on their Facebook status; ensure they list their volunteer work with a link to your website on their LinkedIn profiles; and ask that they forward your volunteer opportunities to friends and colleagues who may have the skills you are seeking in new volunteers.

Engaging volunteers to enhance your marketing efforts is a powerful strategy. Developing project-specific opportunities for people to share their experience as marketing directors, PR specialists, writers, or graphic designers will attract new volunteers to the organization while also helping you fulfill your strategic objectives. Meanwhile, engaging your existing volunteers in your marketing efforts is also critical. They know your organization and can tell your story in ways that staff can’t. Having them share why they feel connected to your mission and how your organization helps make the world a better place is compelling and powerful and will strengthen your presence now and in the future.

For additional ideas about how volunteers can help with your website, see Talance’s earlier posting, 21 Ways Volunteers Can Help with Your Website.

About the Authors

Jill Friedman Fixler is a thought leader on building organizational capacity through re-inventing, re-engineering, and re-vitalizing volunteer engagement. As Founder and President of JFFixler & Associates, Jill combines her skills as a consultant, trainer, facilitator, public speaker, and coach to share new volunteer engagement strategies with organizations throughout North America.

Beth Steinhorn is a Senior Strategist with JFFixler & Associates and has over two decades of experience in nonprofit organizations, including museums, education agencies, and faith-based organizations.