Published on One Change's fuel efficiency initiative - Simple actions matter. (http://fuelefficiency.onechange.org)

The Business Of Volunteerism

By OneChange
Created Feb 2 2011 - 10:25am

You have heard the adage "the medium is the people." Outlining the merits of community-based social marketing [1] to increase positive energy efficiency behavior in my previous column, we focused on the importance of one-to-one conversations carried out by trusted sources as one measure to significantly increase the uptake of positive actions or behavioral changes. So how do you go about getting good people to volunteer and make them a believable, trusted medium for your social marketing message?

It is a highly competitive space to secure volunteers, with so many causes and organizations relying on their help. In the same way that you are trying to compete for market share in your sector, you must work at obtaining a share of the volunteer market. Think about volunteers as another segment of your target audience -- those people who may become potential spokespeople for your community-based social marketing campaign.

People volunteer for many reasons: to gain a sense of person achievement recognition; for personal growth; to give back; or to help bring about social change. As with social marketing and simple actions, one small action can lead to another, which can lead to another. Providing a volunteer with a positive first encounter with your organization/cause can significantly increase uptake for more and repeat volunteers. Given the nature of volunteerism, mass-marketing campaigns tend not to be very cost effective (worldwide natural disasters aside). Less than 20% of those who volunteer seek out the activity on their own, thus that positive first experience one person has with your organization creates a ripple effect for them to recruit friends, colleagues and neighbors to help out with your cause.

When planning marketing outreach tactics to recruit volunteers, develop messages with words that resonate with those who would be interested in your cause or who carry a complimentary platform. Focus on words that reinforce your base principles -- and keep it simple. The business behind your community-base social marketing campaign generally isn't of interest to a possible volunteer -- but of interest is the opportunity you are providing them to allow their voice to be part of an underlying movement.

Consider your potential volunteer's time to be as valuable as that of a potential sponsor or partner. A bad match in volunteers is as bad for your business as a bad match in business. Be organized and take a strategic approach to volunteer recruitment marketing efforts, in the same way that you do with your business development efforts. In both instances you want to build a lasting relationship.

When a volunteer comes on board, they become part of your marketing or campaign team. Provide them with messaging to use that allows them to come across as genuine. A good way to do this is to properly training volunteers -- they are in essence your front line staff even if it is for just a few hours or a day. The more familiar and comfortable volunteers are with who you are, the more they can add to your message, making the one-on-one conversation delivery components of your social marketing campaign that much more personal, relevant and credible -- which of course will substantially increase program update and the likelihood of positive, sustained positive behavior change.

People are the medium. Make an investment in that medium -- it will be better for your bottom line in the long run. A solid business approach coupled with focused efforts in marketing to volunteers can result in the social change [2] your campaign seeks to accomplish.

by Stuart Hickox [3]

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