When you work in the nonprofit world, your business is people – you serve people, recruit people and rely on people for funding. We know their time is limited and that there are hundreds of other commendable organizations vying for their attention.
The average person is bombarded with more than 3,000 marketing messages per day. How does a small nonprofit with a fixed budget compete with that? Denise Cogman, CEO and president of Springfield School Volunteers (SSV) in Massachusetts, said it’s all about volunteers.
“I have always believed that our current volunteers are our best recruiters. By sharing their positive volunteer experiences with friends, family members and co-workers they are much more effective than any SSV staff member could be while manning a table at a recruitment event or speaking to a group of people about volunteering,” Cogman said. “When we effectively and appropriately manage this valuable resource at our disposal by actively encouraging our volunteers to ‘refer a friend’ we have seen success.”
Volunteers are SSV’s backbone. Last year more than 2,000 volunteers went into the Springfield Public Schools as Read Aloud participants, academic tutors and mentors.
SSV has always been pro-active when it comes to working with other organizations and staying involved in the community. Cogman gives back to the city and keeps the organization visible while serving as director on boards such as the Human Service Forum and Behavioral Health Network. She also sits on two boards that revolve around social work and philanthropy at two local universities.
She explained that partnering with other organizations is important because it is a valuable way to share and transfer knowledge. It helps to build their capacity and allows them to maximize the quality of the services they are able to provide. For example, Cogman said partnering with organizations such as Mass Mentoring Partnership and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County on their Mentoring Program has not only increased their knowledge and skills as it relates to mentoring, but has also allowed them to improve the quality of their mentoring program through collaboration.
“As leaders of nonprofit organizations we are always looking for community members to support our organizations in a volunteer capacity – as board members, by serving on a committee or, in our case as tutors, mentors, readers and friends. I feel it is extremely important to lead by example,” Cogman said. “How can I encourage community involvement and talk about the importance of giving back if I’m not doing it myself. If I expect people to see our mission as meaningful and worth their time I have to find that value in other organizations as well and demonstrate my belief in the value of what they are doing to help our community by giving back.”
To maximize your budget and staff, your nonprofit should at least have these three basics in your recruiting toolbox to assist in keeping your nonprofit relevant:
- Social Media – Consider social media outlets that make the most sense for your organization. You need to go where the people are – they are online.
- Marketing Materials – You should always have up-to-date, simple and easy to access marketing materials. Even if it is just a one-page flyer saying who you are, what you do and where they could find more.
- Megaphone – A satisfied volunteer, fundraiser or client is the best bullhorn there is. Encourage your associates to spread the word about their positive experiences with your organization. Ask for testimonials. Use them to craft inspiring posters and/or multimedia campaigns.
Article originally appeared in May 2013 Lioness