Reaching Your Volunteers
It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and I am super excited to be talking with Heather Ramirez today! We’re going to discuss volunteer engagement next generation, via social media. This includes volunteers recruitment, appreciation and ‘just in time’ learning online. #NVW2019
Links for Heather’s resources and platforms are at the end of the blog post. Podcast, Vlog & Blog/Transcript below.
12 Starter Tips
- Opportunity to reach a diverse audience
- Meet your volunteers where they spend time (online)
- Get Creative!
- Learn as you go
- You can start with a phone
- Great way to retain volunteers
- Fantastic way to recruit new volunteers
- Efficient and effective way to educate on the go
- Opportunity to collaborate with partner agencies
- A fun way to get staff and volunteers involved
- Step forward, grow your courage & stretch your comfort zone. You Can Do This!
- You can learn as you go, and make changes along the way
12 Discussion Points for Decision Makers
- Consider Your Policies & Procedures
- Protect privacy, confidentiality & safety [Permission forms/wavers]
- Don’t film street names, house numbers etc. (non-identifying information)
- Don’t say client’s last names, and maybe not volunteer last names either
- Great opportunity to spread the organization’s mission & values!
- Add to a job description and value the impact this time is well spent
- Makes your advertising and promotion budget go a lot farther
- Innovative recruitment & retention of volunteers & stakeholders
- Effective quality improvement addition to education plan
- Time versus impact, a short video every week can reach as many people as a volunteer fair
- This is a learning curve for everyone, but demonstrates a vision forward organization
- Monitor comments, don’t necessarily delete constructive feedback, opportunity for transparent and professional responses
Volunteer Engagement Next Generation
Patricia Regier: Heather, thank you so much for joining me today! I am really excited to be talking to you about this topic! Regier Educational Services is all about inspiring people to Intentionally Lead, Live & Learn. Can you share a little bit about yourself and what you’re all about?
Heather Ramirez: Yes, sure. So first of all, thank you, Patricia, for having me on your Leaders Inspired channel. I am a content creator, online branding coach, and digital literacy advocate. In 2016, I quit my 10 year career in marketing to basically start a movement called Sharespark Media, which is a movement to educate and empower people to utilize digital media to achieve meaningful goals. I wanted to create, for anybody who wanted to learn, a resource, and a movement that would help people use digital media tools and platforms positively and productively to achieve meaningful goals. Whether it’s to do small business marketing, nonprofit volunteer stuff, applying for a job, applying for college, sharing your story, whatever it may be.
Heather Ramirez: I’ve been documenting my journey ever since 2016, so you can find my entire entrepreneur journey on YouTube. Now, I primarily just help other people share their story, through like a multitude of avenues.
Patricia Regier: That is fantastic! I’m so glad that we met through an online course creation mastermind! You created the Zero to YouTube Hero course, which is awesome. I appreciate how much knowledge you have about online marketing, and how approachable you are. You recently offered the #10DAYTACKLE vlog challenge, that I participated in. It was a fantastic learning journey, which sparked some creative insights and ideas. I was thinking about the next generation of volunteers, and you also have some background working with the non-profit sector. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
Heather Ramirez: Yes, sure. I have been an avid volunteer since forever. I don’t remember how I got involved, but I’ve been volunteering since I was a kid. When I got to college, it just was natural that I was involved in a bunch of nonprofits, and volunteer organizations. I took leadership in several different student organizations, and that’s how my career got involved in nonprofit work started. I actually helped to start a nonprofit with a couple college buddies of mine, therefore learning all about business plans and marketing experience for nonprofits, in addition to my education.
Patricia Regier: That is awesome.
Heather Ramirez: Yes. I definitely believe that if you’re watching (or reading or listening to) this, and you’re in a nonprofit, I know what it feels like … Everyone’s a marketer in the organization, and I know what it feels like to wear 10,000 hats, but I do want to give you hope because it is easier than it ever has been to leverage these tools and promote your mission, get people to support you etc., which is what we’re going to dive into.
Patricia Regier: Yes, absolutely. The last 20 years (before I left my job to jump into an entrepreneur life), I worked in the nonprofit sector in a variety of roles, including volunteer coordination and leadership roles. I have also had a lifetime of being a volunteer. It’s exciting that there is this National Volunteer Appreciation Week because so many people do give time and talents working in the not-for-profit industry. As you mentioned, employees wear many hats, and find free avenues to get the message out, whether promoting a free service or volunteer recruitment. Free is best when it comes to working with a budget. Having all these online options at our fingertips, I think is something that a lot of not-for-profits need to explore a little bit more, for recruitment, saying thank you or sharing a journey and a story.
Patricia Regier: When I talk about ‘just in time’ learning, I think a lot of volunteers aren’t necessarily going to always have the time or want to come into the office for training. There is an orientation, but learning beyond that. They don’t necessarily have the time to come in for a new policy review or trainings, so I think YouTube and Instagram … In particular are great tools to utilize. YouTube is a great way of giving bite sized pieces of learning out to the volunteers as a way to support them and say thank you. Do you have some thoughts about that?
Heather Ramirez: Yes, definitely. You know, it’s unfortunate that often marketing, especially social media marketing, is like the last thing on the priority list. I understand from my experience working in nonprofit, why this happens, however I want to challenge you to try to prioritize it. I know it’s so easy to feel, that a video post, may not immediately or directly obtain more donations or volunteers… #but because no one else is doing it and that’s where all the attention is, I promise that it can really make a positive impact on your organization. Social media, and in particular video can move your revenue needle. It could really make leaps and bounds in terms of progress for your nonprofit organization, and training volunteers is so easy on different platforms. Literally you push a button and go live with just a three to four minute live stream talking about whatever, about what people need to know for the upcoming event etc. It’s easier now, more than ever.
Heather Ramirez: So, I hope people are taking advantage of social media, but also, especially when it comes to thanking volunteers. I mean, one of the nonprofits that I worked for was called The Volunteer Center, and our mission was to recruit people to volunteer. That was literally our mission, and we partnered with hundreds of nonprofits in our area to create volunteering opportunities for both adults and youth. Celebrating people who have given their time, which I think is the most precious resource, you can do everything from giving a ‘shout-out’, and all of a sudden they’re on Facebook or Instagram, they see that they’re tagged in a video or post, and that you have all taken the time to showcase how they’ve made an impact on your organization. It really shows other people who are not related to your non-profit, that your organization is for the community, by the community, and who doesn’t want to be a part of that?
Heather Ramirez: When you thank volunteers, you’re also showing potential prospective volunteers how they can get involved. It doesn’t have to be directly showcasing the work with clients. Anything telling the story in a visual way, with movement, even stapling papers in the office, can showcase that everything contributes. Demonstrating in a diversity of ways can show how people can get involved. Variety of people, ages and backgrounds, can tell the story of your work. People will then think “Hey, you know what? I actually do have the time,” or, “I have that passion,” or whatever.
Patricia Regier: Yes! Showing the fun and impact, bringing it to light in a visual way. I love all those ideas that you’re giving to get people thinking about different ways that they can splice together something. It could even be within a closed Facebook group, but a lot of the younger volunteers aren’t necessarily on Facebook, so you can do an Instagram live, or YouTube live. In real time reaching out to your audience, which is the volunteer sector, whether it’s potential volunteers, or current volunteers. You mentioned funding, it could be that you reach people who want to donate to the cause and/or even potential clients or customers for services as well. There’s so many different way to reach people, and opportunities with going online.
Heather Ramirez: Right. And knowing how strapped nonprofit staff usually are in terms of time and resources, I do want to say that if you create content online on a regular basis, it really does show potential sponsors and donors you want to contribute, it’s free marketing. It makes all stakeholders look good, and that’s just another reason for them to contribute. It doesn’t have to be anything like having to get a video production team. I think logistically you just want to make sure everything is consistent from a branding standpoint. But hey, all it takes is a phone, and you can really, you can do so much with it.
Patricia Regier: Yes, and that brings up equipment. People don’t have to jump into having even the fancy mic or webcam, a lot of phones are fantastic. Addition tips and things to consider, when it comes to policies and procedures and when a board of directors gets involved with potentially decision making, are above. I think sometimes there’s a fear of going down this road (in the nonprofit sector), but it’s a huge resource. Yes, it will take a little bit of time and knowledge, but not a lot. It doesn’t have to require a lot to jump in and start to take advantage of this, as an opportunity for the organization.
Patricia Regier: So, for equipment, people don’t have to be afraid of all of that. And there are things like your course that people can access. I know sometimes it’s fear stopping people from taking that step. I talk about becoming Intentionally Brave. There are opportunities I think for people to stretch their comfort zone a little bit and grow their courage. I know you say this all the time as well, “people don’t have be perfect”, they’re not going to grow unless they just start. I think that was a lot of the messaging with the #10DayTackle.
Heather Ramirez: Yes, I mean, that is what is so exciting. That’s why I’m on this mission, my personal mission in life, and why I’ve dedicated my life to Digital Literacy. Because honestly, you cannot lose. The whole thing is set up so that you can’t lose. And you know, Patricia, you talked about equipment being a factor that holds people back from creating content. Honestly, I agree with you that it’s the fear. I can totally run my entire business off of my phone, 100%, very well. It’s getting over that fear because the more you are online for your organization, especially for nonprofits, it can get more staff involved, because they care about the mission. So, more than any other type of sector, the non-profit helping services is about people. It’s easier than ever to organically and authentically share that message, just by going live.
Heather Ramirez: I think, of course, there’s always going to be that fear component of like, “Live, oh, my gosh. What if something happens that we cannot predict?” But I mean, it’s not as hard as you think it is, if you’ve never gone live before. You just have to do it, provide a lens into how your organization operates and makes a difference.
Patricia Regier: Yes, I agree. Even my courage, over the last two years of doing this, it’s only recently that I got a lot more comfortable with the camera. I was doing it even though I felt awkward, and that only went away because I kept doing it. If organizations want to start in one place, it can be the volunteer coordinator themselves going on camera. It doesn’t have to right away feature the volunteers and the clients or whomever because of policies and procedures. It can be as simple as going on Instagram or Facebook or other social media, to say thank you. I think a lot of people are using social media to say thank you this week, but get creative, and the lives are a great way to try different things, i.e. “on location” news update.
Patricia Regier: There should be an awareness of safety, for example you don’t show a house number or the street name, you take precautions, not give last names necessarily. There are definitely ways to utilize social media and still preserve confidentiality, privacy and safety, but still get out there. I don’t know if you have some thoughts on that too. As a YouTuber, you have to consider safety a bit too.
Heather Ramirez: Definitely. I mean, most of the organizations I worked with were youth centered, so privacy, confidentiality, all of those things were very, very paramount to everything. In terms of how to further your progress as a nonprofit, leveraging online tools, especially for volunteer coordination is great because what you want to do is show people how they can get involved. That doesn’t mean that you have to have anyone’s face in it. You know, it could literally just be showing yourself at your desk… And it’s funny because I tell people this and they say, “That’s so boring. I would never just show myself working at my desk,” but I don’t know what it’s like to work at your desk, and as the nonprofit, you are the expert about the issue of your mission. I will never be as well educated in what you are dedicating your entire organization to as you are.
Heather Ramirez: I’ve have witnessed a couple of organizations who every Monday will go live and talk about, “What we’re working on as an organization, upcoming events, volunteering opportunities etc. If you’d like to sign up, here’s the link,” It’s as simple as that, seven minutes. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but … you can ask yourself, “Why is this anything that anyone would care about?” I think that’s the fun part. You have that feeling because you’ve never seen it work or you’ve never seen anyone doing it, so this is the time to kind of define how your organization is going to do it and set that precedent, keep it consistent, and I promise it’ll catch on.
Patricia Regier: Yes, absolutely. I totally agree. It’s a great way to show their mission, values, and vision for the organization, or what they do, as you said, it can be as simple as an Instagram post, taking a picture of their coffee mug with their logo on and posting that. It’s simple little things, and I love the idea of showcasing something at the desk. Of course, you make sure that client information is put away. Continue to be aware of that lens, but you can get creative and try different things, and have fun. It’s a great way to add some creativity into a job that can sometimes be tough.
Heather Ramirez: Yes, definitely, one piece of content can go a long way, so if you are thinking, “I don’t even know where I’m going to find the time to do a video,” or you’re freaking out about it, which I get … this is a perfect example of what Patricia is going to do. She’s recording this conversation for her YouTube channel, create a blog, and a podcast, and other social media posts about it. She’s going to send it to me so I can create clips out of it, and now that’s at least 10 pieces of content created out of one thing that we did. After a few weeks have gone by, reshare it, repost, and that is just content that new people who weren’t following you at the time can now catch up and see that as a fresh piece of content.
Heather Ramirez: Definitely, it can be time intensive and require effort, but a little can really go a long way in terms of your communications and community building. Social media platforms can cultivate new and existing supporters, clients, donors, etc.
Patricia Regier: Absolutely. I’m glad we’ve been talking quite a bit about going LIVE, because then people don’t have to be afraid of editing. It simplifies things and is a great place to start with being on camera.
Patricia Regier: This one video is going to be used in three ways (video, written and audio). It’s an idea to help organizations be efficient, when utilizing online platforms. We may consider doing a webinar or something at some point about this information. I know there’s so much more for people to learn. For example when they are putting up a video on YouTube, to add tags and a description with links to the volunteer application form etc. You have all this knowledge and resources, but really, people can just start doing it, even if they don’t know all of it right away. They can improve later and just go for it now.
Heather Ramirez: Yes, definitely, because I mean, I can go on and on about all of that, but presumably, if you’re an established nonprofit, you have an existing audience, even if it’s 100 people.
Patricia Regier: Right. That’s true! This is about engaging their current volunteer base and stakeholders, not just recruitment.
Heather Ramirez: So leverage your current, client volunteer and stakeholder base. For example send out in your next newsletter, “Hey, we’re going to have a new video every week where we show you what’s happening,” or, “We’re doing a new live show where we’re talking about the issues surrounding this mission. If you’d love to jump in, we’re going live every Friday.” Just leverage your audience that you already have because then they’ll share it. You’re already going to expand your network by just doing this.
Patricia Regier: Yes, that’s so true, because when you send out an email or a newsletter etc., in paper form, it’s not necessarily shared beyond that effort. When you share an electronic link and videos, that’s what people want to share. At lot of people are online, even if people might think that their core audience isn’t, even an older demographic includes a lot of people going online. I think it creative content allows the opportunity to reach your diverse audience (different learning styles/interests), in a variety of ways, and that can be a beautiful thing.
Heather Ramirez: Yes. Exactly.
Patricia Regier: Thank you so much, Heather, for joining me!! I love this collaborative conversation. I know we could go on and about all of this.
I want to also thank all of you that are joining us in any format that this is going to become available. We want to inspire and support people to Intentionally Lead, Live & Learn. Check out our links below!!
Engage Your Audience
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Patricia with Regier Educational Services, helping facilitators engage the variety of learning types in your online audience. Education includes a Master of Adult Education, a BA in Psychology, and twenty years experience developing and facilitating workplace, community and collaborative training. Online learning experience designer and facilitator. Utilizing teaching adults best practices, and innovative multi-media resources to emphasize your message. Engaging content creator, facilitator and online production partner.
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