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ISAE Blog

No Surprises, Please! Finding Qualified Volunteers for Your Association

Posted by Kay Neidlinger on Apr 26, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Finding qualified volunteers to fill open positions at your organization is sometimes one of the toughest parts of the job. Identifying the match between what your organization needs and what volunteers have to offer is critical. We probably all know of great volunteers who left their posts because something unexpected happened that was more than they bargained for.

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Topics: Volunteers

No, Thank YOU! Volunteer Appreciation Done Right

Posted by Tara Puckey on Apr 19, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Good volunteers give so much to associations, especially when they’re leading committees, spearheading projects or rallying the troops around a cause. Whether they do it because they support your mission, believe in your cause, were “voluntold” or are a glutton for punishment (just kidding about that last one, kind of), letting them know they’re appreciated and valued goes a long way. So, in that spirit, here’s a list of some ways to say, “Thank you.” You’re welcome. For the list.

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Topics: Association, Volunteers, Associations

It's Not Me, It's You: Dealing with Difficult Volunteer Leaders

Posted by Tara Puckey on Apr 12, 2017 12:00:00 PM

There’s something good to be said about volunteer leaders. Wait, let me think a little longer. I’m just kidding. Volunteer leaders are, for the most part, one of the greatest things about your association. They bring all the feels to your cause and they work hard, out of the goodness of their hearts, to inspire others and do good work for the organization. As staff, we love them. But, we also know there are some who are difficult to love and we definitely don’t love dealing with them.

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Topics: Association, Volunteers, Associations

Herding the Volunteer Cats

Posted by Tara Puckey on Apr 5, 2017 12:00:00 PM

The success of any association depends greatly on the strength of its volunteers. After all, as William James once said, “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.” As noble as the cause may be, inspiring, guiding and teaching volunteers to work cohesively can often be likened to herding cats. Wild, feral cats with the ability to spring off course at any given moment, destroy the furniture and look you in the eye while doing it.

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Topics: Association, Volunteers, Associations

Is My Committee Just Not That into Me?

Posted by Kalyn Rose Griffin on Mar 8, 2017 12:00:00 PM

It’s not you, committee, it’s me. I just need more space. All jokes aside, I’ve always struggled with keeping my board and volunteer committee engaged during the event planning process. I’ve gone from feeling like I’m reaching out too much, to wondering if my email isn’t working because I can literally hear crickets while I wait for responses.

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Topics: Meetings, Association, Event Planning, Volunteers, Associations, events, Committees

Taboo Topics: Firing a Volunteer

Posted by Jay Dziwlik, MBA, CAE on Jan 20, 2016 12:00:00 PM

I was recently at a neighborhood gathering where one of the attendees just had a terrible haircut. But as soon as I asked, “What happened?” he answered, “What do you mean?” I tried to explain only to find out he did not want to talk about it or even acknowledge the stylist made a monumental mistake. His hair was a “taboo topic.” Everyone saw it and knew it but no one wanted to talk about it. 

Every association has taboo topics: Those things we all see but just don’t have the courage or strength to discuss. I hope to periodically address them in future blogs and my first is “How do you fire a volunteer?” You may have a name in mind right now. Don’t say that name out loud. 

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Topics: Volunteers, Leadership

[New eBook] Microvolunteering: More Opportunities for Member Engagement

Posted by ISAE on Jul 22, 2015 12:00:00 PM

As life becomes more complex, members have more options for spending their time and, consequently, more demands on their time. Juggling their work, family, and social lives with association service isn’t as easy as it used to be. The traditional membership experience—volunteering for committee and board service—requires a commitment of time and energy that many are no longer able or willing to give.

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Topics: Association, Volunteers, Engagement

Sometimes Good People are Bad Volunteers

Posted by Amanda Cook, CAE on Jul 8, 2015 12:00:00 PM

Hi, my name is Amanda and I am a bad volunteer.

The first step is to admit there is a problem, right? Admitting you are not good at something or less effective than you had hoped is a difficult task. In many situations, including volunteering, sometimes you have the best of intentions, but something happens and you can’t commit like you had planned. It has taken me some time to come to terms with realization, but it has helped me see things differently within my own organization and use that information to my advantage to better serve our volunteers. Here’s what I have started doing differently:

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Topics: Volunteers

Three Great Reasons to Volunteer for ISAE in 2014

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Dec 11, 2013 7:06:00 AM

As an association professional, you likely work with volunteers every day through committees, task forces and boards. You’ve recruited them, motivated them, encouraged them, coached them and thanked them. Have you thought about joining them?

In 2011, according to the Federal Agency for Service and Volunteering, Americans volunteered a total of almost 8 billion hours, an estimated economic value of roughly $171 billion. During the same year, Indiana residents volunteered an average of 29 hours per resident for an estimated $3.1 billion of service contributed statewide. According to ASAE’s 2008 publication The Decision to Volunteer, the top reason cited for volunteering “a desire to help others and create a better society. While association members expect career benefits from their professional volunteering, they are also interested in contributing to a larger cause, such as building a stronger profession”.

Why should YOU volunteer? Here are five ways that you can benefit by volunteering in the association community:

  1. Volunteering allows you to build your network and strengthen your skills. Whether you’re on the market for your next position or you simply want to meet new people to benefit from the collective wisdom of a dedicated group, volunteering is a great way to learn from like-minded individuals. A new study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research even found that unemployed people who volunteer are 7% more likely to find a job than those who don’t.
  2. When you volunteer, you are taking a positive step toward strengthening your organization’s brand in the industry. How many times has a company’s involvement with your professional association influenced a business decision? Name recognition matters. (Tip: Remember to add your volunteer affiliation to your “Volunteer Experience and Causes” section on LinkedIn.)
  3. And, of course, as a volunteer, you have the opportunity to give back to the industry that supports you. It’s not a secret that being involved in your professional association is a fantastic way to increase the return on your membership investment. When we contribute as individuals, the whole benefits.

If you already volunteer with ISAE, I encourage you to continue your involvement into 2014. If you aren’t volunteering, please take a moment to check out the volunteer opportunities at http://www.isae.org/volunteer-opportunities and to ask questions of the sitting committee chairs. You can find out what makes your professional association hum and learn how you can personally support the profession by participating on a committee in 2014. The benefit far outweighs the risk.

Author: Melissa Heeke, CAE, Midwest Political Science Association

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).

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Topics: Association, Volunteers

How to build a great volunteer marketing committee

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Jul 24, 2013 12:59:00 PM

We do a lot of work with non-profits and associations and we absolutely love helping them reach their goals using web and marketing strategies.

However, non-profits often have unique challenges, and the number one challenge we hear about it (you guessed it) –– budget.

Our non-profit clients often have a great understanding of how bloggingsocial media,content creationSEOvideo, and a good inbound marketing plan can help them. However, for whatever reason they have not been able to set the budget necessary to make it happen.

When this is the case, what’s the solution?

A good path to great marketing as a non-profit can be a great volunteer marketing committee! A great marketing committee can manage the website, create content, set strategy, engage in social media, and optimize the process. This means your organization can get closer to your goals (because great marketing works).

However, if you’ve ever served as a board or committee member for a non-profit you know that marketing committees are not always wildly successful. Here’s how it usually goes:

  • Marketing Chair: Hey! I need some committee members. You’ve got some marketing background. Want to join?
  • Committee Member 1: Sure! Count me in.
  • Marketing Chair: Hey! I need some committee members. You’ve got some marketing background. Want to join?
  • Committee Member 2: Sure! Count me in.
  • Marketing Chair: Hey! I need some committee members. You’ve got some marketing background. Want to join?
  • Committee Member 3: Sure! Count me in.
  • Marketing Chair: Ok… we’ll have monthly conference calls where we talk about marketing things. Cool?
  • Committee Members: Cool!
  • First Call: We need to do some marketing things! Talk talk talk (insert some great ideas here). Ok… let’s follow up on that next month.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Does this looks familiar? This is a very common format for non-profit marketing committees and as you can see it doesn’t aways lead to results.

So how do you build and run a successful marketing committee?

Define general strategy in advance

The problem with most marketing committees is that they start recruiting volunteers before a strategy is defined, which means it happens before roles are defined. Step one is to decide what your general strategy will be. This can be a board decision or it can (and probably should) be delegated to an expert. Often this expert will be a board member who has professional marketing experience or your marketing committee chair (often the same person). An outside consultant can also be utilized.

For example, do you plan to utilize inbound marketing as your approach? SEO? Video? More traditional PR? A mixture? How will you map out your process? Getting some clarity on how you want to approach your constituents will help you with the next step. Don’t over-think this step but do get a basic sense of what direction you want to go.

Define roles in advance

Another mistake that non-profits make is that they use the “mirror test” to decide who to recruit. If you’re breathing, you’re on the committee! This is not ideal. Before you decide who to recruit to your committee, you need to define roles. For example, if you’re planning to create an inbound marketing campaign, you’ll want to recruit for the following roles:

  • Project manager (marketing committee chair)
  • Blogger(s)
  • Social media community manager
  • Content developer(s)
  • Designer
  • Video expert

A good inbound marketing campaign requires these roles to be successful. This allows you to create clear expectations for potential volunteers. It also helps you effectively break out the workload in your committee.

The committee chair should be taking over at this point to define these roles and move on to recruiting (the next step).

Recruit experts

Once you’ve defined your roles, it becomes much easier to recruit volunteers. Instead of vaguely searching for “marketing people” to join a non-structured committee, you are now filling specific job descriptions. You are now able to ask your network for experts in a specific tactic like social media management, design, or video. If people know why they are being recruited and what specific skill they are being asked to share, they can get a better grasp of what’s expected. It also subdues the fear of being overworked… instead they can see that they are part of a team.

As you recruit, be sure to look for true industry experts. The best marketing committee members are often professionals with full-time jobs who are very successful but who are looking for a way to give back and share their talents with a good cause.

Create a process

Nothing discourages volunteers more than a disorganized committee. Make sure you (as the committee chair) create a clear process for getting work done. Meet monthly to define strategy and then delegate tasks to your committee. Use a project management system like Basecamp to make sure things stay on track. Set a tone of action for your committee so everyone is focused on results.

Be specific when assigning tasks. Rather than give vague instructions like “look into video for upcoming events,” try “create promotional video for 2013 convention using testimonials from last year’s event.” Then set deadlines and follow up.

Set a real budget

9 times out of ten (made-up statistic) non-profit marketing committees operate with no budget. The conversation often goes like this:

  • Marketing Committee Chair: What’s our annual budget? I’ve got some ideas but I need to know what I can invest.
  • Executive Director: Budget? Ha ha… we’ve never had a marketing budget! Do what you can for free.

This is insulting to your volunteers. Don’t set them up for failure by ignoring their need for funds and parameters. A great marketing committee can accomplish great things with a limited budget but don’t under-invest or ignore it completely.

Invest in the right tools

Plenty of marketing committees operate with no budget (see above) but this is not ideal. Non-profits should consider in investment in the right tools to help their marketing committees succeed. There are a number of tools than can help your volunteers make the most of their time. We are fans of HubSpot but there are plenty of options. Set your marketing committee up for success by giving them the right tools.

Measure results

As your committee executes campaigns and optimizes their efforts, keep an open line of communication between them and the board, as well as between other committees. The marketing committee should be thought of as the “marketing department” of your non-profit which means they need to be in communication with sales (a.k.a. fundraising) and other groups so that everyone is in sync.

This will also allow the marketing committee to get real-time feedback on what is working and what it not. Looking at website analytics is super important but it’s also incredibly valuable to supplement it with human stories and feedback.

Build a great marketing committee

I hope this has helped you as you consider making use of a marketing committee within your non-profit. Having served on many boards and committees, I’ve seen some great things happen as a result of following these guidelines.

Here’s to all the great non-profit organizations out there who are making the world a better place. Let’s do our best to support their marketing committees so their work doesn’t go unnoticed.

About Michael Reynolds

Michael Reynolds is President/CEO of SpinWeb – a digital agency located in Indianapolis, IN. As an Inbound Marketing Certified Professional with Honors Distinction, Michael regularly blogs, publishes educational industry content, and speaks at conferences around the country covering topics like social media strategies, inbound marketing, and technology. In addition to his obsession with marketing and technology, Michael devotes part of his brain to ballroom dancing and classical music. Prior to earning degrees in both Cello Performance and Management Information Systems from Ball State University, Michael studied the cello with a real live Klingon and still plays regularly in church and the occasional chamber music gig. Michael enjoys playing tennis, cycling short distances very slowly on the Monon Trail (usually on the way to Bazbeaux Pizza), traveling with his beautiful wife, and eating lots of sushi. For more information about booking Michael for a speaking engagement, visit his speaking site at www.michaelreynolds.com.
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Topics: Marketing, Volunteers

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