Archive for July, 2009

Young People are Volunteering

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

teen-volunteers on volunteer screening blogA report by the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Volunteering in America shows that about a million more people volunteered in 2008 than in the previous year.

What accounts for the surge in volunteering? Teens and young adults! The study shows that young people are increasingly interested in serving their communities and making a difference. Of the one million new volunteers, 441,000—almost half—were between the ages of 16 and 24. This age group makes up 21.9 percent of all volunteers, with a total of 8.24 million young people volunteering in 2008.

Teens and young adults are increasingly interested in assisting others. Among first-year college students, nearly 70 percent (the highest rate since 1970) believe it is essential or very important to help other people in need. President Barack Obama’s call to volunteerism, as well as an increase in service requirements in US middle and high schools, may have contributed to the uptick.

If your nonprofit organization (NPO) needs additional volunteers, consider reaching out to the teen and young adult group. They are likely more aware of volunteer opportunities and needs as growing numbers of their peers communicate their involvement.

And if you already enjoy the help of young people in your NPO, ask them to reach out to their friends. The Volunteering in America study shows that people who do not currently volunteer are more likely to do so if asked by a trusted friend.

You will enjoy a much greater rate of success promoting your cause to this age group if you utilize the same social networking communities that they do—such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s easy to create a fan page on Facebook and set up a Twitter account. With a small time investment, you can communicate with thousands of potential volunteers at once, while they learn more about your cause and your need for volunteers.

The rate of volunteerism in America has not declined, despite the challenging economy. Now is a great time to recruit new volunteers—and teens and young adults are a great group to target!

Remember that thorough volunteer screening will help you recruit and retain the best volunteers for your organization.

Fundraising 101: Tell a Single Story

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

poverty on volunteer screening blogIdeas and suggestions around fundraising abound—if non profit managers had a dollar for each one, they probably wouldn’t need to fund raise! But if you’re like us, you agree that there is no such thing as too many good ideas. So here’s another one: when asking donors for money, tell a single story.

In his book, “The Life You Can Save,” Peter Singer of Princeton University gives examples of human beings going to great effort to save the lives of others—one-on-one. But in the larger picture, millions die from starvation, disease, and malnutrition—when the rest of us have the resources to save them.

The example points to how human nature works at its basic level. When we’re presented with the choice to rescue a single person who is right in front of us, most would do the right thing and help. When the need becomes too big, or faceless—as in the problems of lack of clean water, medicine, and food among poor populations on the other side of the globe—we tend to think we can’t do anything about it.

Telling the single story is a powerful tool for non profit organization (NPO) marketers and managers. How are you approaching your fundraising efforts? Are you presenting a problem that seems just too big to solve to your prospective donors?

Try featuring a single effort, challenge, group, or person when communicating your NPO’s funding needs. Tell a success story—how your organization improved the life of one person, or one dog, or one neighborhood. Tell a story about what happens to a single bird in the forest when its habitat is destroyed. Focus on the people in one family who lost a treasured home in a tornado.

Remember how human nature seems to work: while individuals are willing to save the person who’s drowning right in front of them, they are apparently unwilling to donate money to save one who’s dying half a world away.

The Value of Branding for Non Profits

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

branding image on volunteerscreeningblog.comA recent report examined the brand value of non profit organizations in the United States. It was the first to rank charities by a combination of revenue, brand awareness, and potential for growth, rather than just financial performance.

The report was compiled by Cone, a branding agency, together with Intangible Business, a valuation consultancy, to help NPOs understand how their branding efforts are related to raising funds.  According to the report, non profit brands must be protected and evolved in order to generate the most revenue.

So, who came out on top? YMCA of the USA, with a brand value of $6.4 billion. Here are the top ten Nonprofit Power Brands:

1. YMCA of the USA

2. The Salvation Army

3. United Way of America

4. American Red Cross

5. Goodwill Industries International

6. Catholic Charities

7. Habitat for Humanity International

8. American Cancer Society

9. The Arc of the United States

10. Boys & Girls Clubs of America

What does branding mean to your organization? Often, nonprofits have a purpose, mission, and vision that are clear to everyone within the organization, but fall flat in its communications.  Do you have a difficult time explaining what it is your organization does or whom it serves?  Does everyone associated with your NPO tell a different story?  Have you had difficulty communicating a consistent message? If so, you have a branding problem.

Branding is more than a logo and a tagline—although both are very important to every organization!  Branding is the message, the promise, the core of your organization. The brand establishes your NPO as a worthy and valuable institution that donors can feel good about supporting—and volunteers want to work for. And it must be conveyed consistently in every touch point with your service population, community, staff, volunteers, and supporters.

Check out the websites of the top 10 Nonprofits and see for yourself how important a consistent brand effort is to each of them. Then think about your NPO’s brand message—or lack of one—so you can start improving it. You might even improve your bottom line, too!

Remember that thorough volunteer screening will help you recruit and retain the best volunteers for your organization.

Volunteers are Not Free! They Cost Money

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

dollar-sign on volunteer screening blog

It might seem that volunteers are just like free employees. Volunteers don’t get paid, they don’t get health insurance, and you don’t pay taxes or workers compensation for volunteers. They don’t cost your nonprofit organization anything because they’re not on the payroll, right?

Well, not completely right. True, volunteers are unpaid. But good volunteer management means acknowledging that volunteers are not completely free to your organization—so treat them accordingly.

Volunteers are an investment: Recognize that recruiting, screening, training, and retaining volunteers takes time and resources.

Volunteers are an asset: Your volunteers save your organization’s needed funds by performing work you would otherwise be obligated to pay for.

Volunteers are needed elsewhere. If your volunteers feel underused or underappreciated, there are plenty of organizations they can give their time and talent to.

Volunteers must be supervised. Your organization may need to designate a full- or part-time employee to just this area—incurring all the costs of salary and benefits, recruiting, screening, hiring and training that person.

Volunteers must be appreciated. Showing thanks can take many forms: small gifts, plaques or certificates, free tickets to events, or even free meals. There are costs associated with all of these items.

Volunteers incur expenses, too. Travel, parking, auto reimbursement and other expenses must be taken into consideration when looking at overall volunteer costs.

So don’t make the mistake of seeing volunteers as having zero impact on your bottom line. They are immensely valuable assets that do cost your nonprofit organization time and money. Treat them right, and your investment will be repaid many times over!

Building an Email List for Your Nonprofit Organization

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

@sign image on volunteer screening blogIn our last post, we discussed the merits of starting a blog for your nonprofit organization (NPO). Blogs are a great way to keep in touch with and engage your supporters. You can also gain permission to update them on your NPO through email blasts and newsletters.

In this age of digital communication, it’s vital that you regularly engage the people interested in your organization. But you can’t do it without a healthy mailing list. How can you expand a wimpy mailing list to make your efforts pay off?

Make the ask: Provide a sign-up sheet at business events, health fairs, farmers markets, and community events so interested attendees can provide their email address. Make it clear that they are agreeing to receive news from your NPO. You could even provide a small incentive, like a bumper sticker or key chain with your organization’s logo, to everyone who signs up.

Utilize your website: Along with a form for in-person events, your website should have a newsletter sign-up form on every page. Make it easy for supporters to find it, and they’ll fill it out. Be sure to make it a quick and easy process. Test it often to make sure the form functions properly.

Leverage fundraising events: When people sign up online or purchase tickets for fundraising events, capture their email address at the same time—and let them know they’ll be receiving occasional correspondence.

Don’t miss opportunities in your office: Allow people to sign up for your newsletter at your reception desk.newsletter

Speaking events: If a member of your NPO’s board of directors or management team is speaking to a group, provide a sign-in or guest book to capture the names and email addresses of interested attendees.

Ensure privacy: Include language such as “Your privacy is important to us. We will never sell or disclose the information you provide us with.” This helps you overcome a great hurdle to obtaining email addresses. People want that assurance.

Finally, ask your newsletter recipients to pass it along to their friends and families who might be interested in your organization. You’ll find many signups will occur as a result of receiving the recommendation of a trusted friend or colleague.