Tobi: Welcome to the Volunteer Nation podcast, bringing you practical tips and big ideas on how to build, grow, and scale volunteer talent. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson, and if you rely on volunteers to fuel your charity, cause, membership, or movement, I made this podcast just for you. Welcome everybody to another episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast.
I’m your host, Tobi Johnson, and I am very pumped today. to talk about skills based volunteers. Now, before you get all up in arms, we all know that all volunteers have skills. We all know that, but there’s a particular kind of volunteer that uses their professional skills to help our organizations grow and to build capacity.
And so that is what I mean when I talk about skills based volunteers. So today I have an expert in skills based volunteers and a source of skills based volunteers. Tyler Manley from catch a fire. Today we’re going to talk about finding skills based volunteers the easy way gang. This is not that hard, but I find, and we’ll talk about this Tyler and I, we’ve already been chatting about it a bit that there’s a fair amount of resistance.
You know, engaging this type of very powerful volunteers. So I want to break it down today and, you know, see if we can lift the veil a little bit and, you know, catch a fire has done so many things lately to make it absolutely a no brainer and so easy for you. There’s like no risk in this. I’m really excited, but before we get going, I want to introduce Tyler Manley.
He is senior director of events and engagement at catch a fire. He grew up on a sheep farm, y’all, in western New York before graduating with a degree in philosophy from the University of Buffalo. After two years with AmeriCorps, which I find very interesting, and we were talking also before we started, That so many folks were in national service before they became non profit professionals.
It is a pipeline of professional talent. So not surprising that you have national service experience. But after that, he became marketing director of a food justice organization that focused on youth education and food access. And as Catchafire’s senior director, Tyler leads events and educational content for their funding partners and non profits.
So when he’s not working, he’s either cooking huge meals for friends, playing the mandolin, or cheering and crying for his beloved Buffalo Bills. Welcome to the show, Tyler.
Tyler: Thank you so much, Tobi. I’m so thrilled to be here. Go Bills.
It’s a bio right from the website. I love it. There you go. Yeah. So Hey, I love it. I love it. Personality, man, personality. So we talked a little bit in your intro about what you do, but tell us a little bit more. How did you make the transition from AmeriCorps to nonprofit work? I’m always interested in hearing people’s birth stories into the nonprofit space.
Yes. My birth story, I love, I love that. I’m gonna refer to it though from now on. Yeah. So when I, um, I graduated, I graduated from the University of Buffalo with a degree in philosophy and a minor in anthropology. Actually, it doesn’t say that. Okay, , but I, I really wanted to be rich was the whole plan there, and I just, honestly, this is the truth.
I, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I, I, I thought I could hide in school. longer and get a master’s or something. And I had a friend who was joining AmeriCorps and I thought that could be really interesting to kind of just like get out there and, and learn more about impact and, and things. And so I joined.
In Buffalo, we had this program called AmeriCorps ABLE, which was an acronym for AmeriCorps Building Lives Through Education. And you kind of joined the program and then they assigned you to an organization and you worked specifically with, with kids, right? Whether it was at schools or, or working with youth.
And so I got assigned to this incredible food justice organization on the west side of Buffalo. We had like an, uh, like acre and a quarter of growing space. We had an urban farm in the city teaching inner city kids, refugees about sustainable agriculture and the food system. And I drove around a huge mobile farmer’s market to food deserts around the city where I would do like cooking classes with single moms and, and working with local farmers.
I loved that work so much. Uh, I ended up getting hired. By my host site after that. So when I did AmeriCorps there for a couple of years, and then they brought me on as the marketing director, you know, I was the marketing director. That’s heavy, heavy finger quotes because I did everything right. Marketing, event planning, grant writing, all that good stuff.
And then, yeah, and that honestly, that experience changed my life. I mean, that was where I knew that I, no matter what I did, I wanted it to be mission focused. You know, I couldn’t imagine working somewhere where I wasn’t making a huge difference in some way or shape or form. Yeah. And then I ended up moving to New York.
Uh, my wife came here for grad school. She came for environmental studies. She worked at a nonprofit in Manhattan still today. And yeah, then I found catch a fire. I’ve been there for, uh, it was nine years in August. So a long time, but yeah, I fell in love with just helping organizations, um, of all shapes and sizes.
So interesting. Love the food truck. Yeah. I’m a master gardener and Organic gardener and, um, doing, creating a new garden, just having a lot of fun with the community. So I’m a big, big proponent of folks getting out into the dirt and making stuff happen. So I love that. That’s so cool to, and also to show people what to do with those veg once they, once they pick them.
Well, that’s, and we can talk about that forever, but that was always the funny thing, right? People talk about food access as if it’s just an access problem. But it’s not, right? You can’t just bring a bunch of kohlrabi to a neighborhood and be like, here you go, you know? Yeah, everybody’s like, what is it?
It’s a UFO. It’s, I find it to be very similar to getting people to use skills as volunteers, honestly. Like you have to teach, you can just give them access to things that you have to teach them. Hey man, like this is how you use it. This is how to do it correctly, so. Yeah. Yeah. Super interesting work.
Tobi: Absolutely. And you know what? We’re going to get into that. Before we do though, tell me what does volunteerism mean to you? Why does it matter in today’s world currently in your mind?
Tyler: Oh gosh. We could go, I could go on and on Tobi. I mentioned I worked in food justice, right? And one thing that always struck me was that I worked with people who food justice was their thing.
Like, that’s what they were going to do, right? And anyone who works at a non profit, you know, there’s people who work in your cause that like, that’s where they’re going to work for the rest of their lives. I loved what we did, but it wasn’t my thing. Right. Like I, I, I always had a hard time choosing a cause I had a hard time thinking about, you know, this is more important than this or what should I devote my life to.
And so the reason I chose catch a fire right to work is because I wanted to support the sector. I want to support organizations at large. And so such a big part of that is volunteerism. And it really what it is, is people, right? I volunteerism to me is action. And the opposite of action is inaction, right?
And it’s about people raising their hand. We talked about, you know, civil service, public service before this. It’s about people raising their hand and being part of the solution, right? And not just kind of sitting every night watching the news and waiting for something to happen and being horrified by what they see, right?
It’s kind of getting out there and making it happen. The way I like to think about it a lot too is, you know, in food justice we talk about There’s a quote that food justice people use. We use it when we speak at panels or we’re at events, which is, you know, right now on the earth, we have enough food to feed the world, right?
Actually, I think it’s like one and a half times now. We have enough feed, not enough food to feed every single person on the planet, but we just don’t. And there’s a lot of reasons why we don’t, right? We don’t because of corporate greed. We don’t because of waste. Most of our food ends up in landfills. Uh, we don’t because of logistics.
It’s frankly really hard to get food to everybody geographically and logistically around the planet. I feel the same way about all of the world’s problems, which is that right now on this earth we have enough people and talent and passion to solve all of our problems. Right? We just don’t. And I think a big part of that is civic engagement.
It’s about people who work in the sector, great, they’re doing good work. People who are on the ground doing good work. But people who are not working in the sector, having them look at social good work, and thinking that that’s my work. That’s our work. It’s people work. Right? It’s not just a nice thing you do on a weekend or at a corporate event.
It’s about, you know, we’re all kind of in this one cause together. And so, yeah, volunteerism for me is just, it’s a, it’s a necessity. It’s, it’s something that everybody, if everyone were to raise their hand and say, Hey, we ought to be a part of this solution and a part of helping us in the ground. We’d be in a much, much better place, right?
I don’t know what we’re all waiting for. I think we already have everything that we need. It’s just about, yeah, get out there and doing it. Love it. Love it. I believe that as well, not only for solving problems related to getting the work done, but also the process itself is a solution. Like when we talk about people being, you know, divides between communities, it’s interesting when you start working with people who are different than you.
Either you’re helping serve people who are different than you, you’re providing support or shoulder to shoulder with other volunteers. It starts to break down biases that we have stories we tell ourselves about other people, because we happen to, they, we start to realize like, Oh, our story, the story I was telling myself about this group of people is actually not true because we, we see it in front of us.
So it’s a way to bring us together as communities as well. So there’s even the process of volunteering, even. You know, health, mental, increased mental health, increased physical health. You know, there’s been research studies on things like heart disease and volunteerism reduced impact. Yeah. There’s like the craziest stuff.
I believe there’s a, there’s a crazy stuff. I agree. It’s not only volunteerism. We have the answers. The answers are already there. If we tap the talent and we get the brain trust and the brain trust is the community. And it’s not necessarily people from a specific part of the community. The people with the lived experience probably have the best wisdom.
To bring to the table, you know, so that’s fantastic. And I totally agree.
Tobi: Let’s talk about skills based volunteering and let’s get everybody grounded a little bit and what the difference is between the more traditional sort of direct service volunteers that come in every week and do something for our nonprofits.
First of all, maybe how do you define skills based volunteering and what are the common roles? That you’re seeing that are trending right now.
Tyler: Yeah. Good question. So I, you know, I, the thing you said at the beginning of the show, I always like want to start with two, right? Which is we talked about skills based volunteering.
I just had to make sure everybody was like, this is not a knock on traditional volunteering. Right. And, and it’s, you know, and people call it traditional, people call it hands and hearts volunteering and person volunteering, whatever it is. It is, that’s so important. And as you mentioned, like getting people in the community, like in person, working together, feeling ownership of their communities, feeling that they’re like, they’re a part of something like, and, and how, and also like just that the traditional volunteering, like how impactful that can be for organizations that are volunteer run.
Right. Skills volunteering is just a different way of making that connection. The way that we think about it, right, is you can go paint a fence, you can go clean up a park on a Saturday, right, with your, with your employees or your team that you work with or something. But skills volunteering is specifically donating your skills to an organization, your professional skills to strengthen that organization. So for some examples, right, we focus at Catchafire on short term, high impact, capacity building projects. So we think about these things as things that strengthen the organization from the inside out, allowing them to be more effective and efficient in the work that they do.
We don’t do like programmatic volunteering, we don’t do hands and hearts, we do specifically the skills based volunteering. So here’s some examples, right? As an organization, you could have someone come and create a brand new website for you. Or help you with a visual brand refresh, or a marketing strategy, or, you know, copywriting for emails, or designing a brochure, or even like leadership coaching, right?
How many of us as executive directors kind of became the ED because the last one retired or died, and we raised our hand, right? Like having someone come in and really coach us on leadership and things like that, all of that’s skills based volunteering. And then someone is deciding to donate something that’s unique to them, that’s what we think of as skills based volunteering.
And so, You know, those are the common roles that are kind of often often seeked. I think that when people hear skills based volunteering, they think of pro bono. I think that nonprofits always think of legal, right, as skills, which is true. Totally fine. But I think what we’re talking about here today is more, again, that capacity building stuff, things that can make your team more efficient, right?
Helping you with process improvement, helping you with CRM setup, database setup, things like that. Absolutely. And you know, I think folks hesitate a little bit to get moving with these things and we can get into this. I think we’ll talk more in detail, but I mean, just pause for a moment, gang, if you’re listening and think, is there anything, any place where you’re getting stuck where, you know, whether it’s web pages, you know, your volunteer recruitment, I talk about hub pages, having a.
Uh, a website within a website where you, you send prospective volunteers, maybe it’s your copywriting, maybe it’s your curriculum development. It could be any kind of thing. And you know, folks are always saying, and we don’t have enough time, we were wearing too many hats and there’s a benefit to having extra pairs of hands, but there’s a double benefit of having extra pair of hands who really know what they’re doing because number one.
They’re going to do it better. I’m sorry, gang, but they are. And number two, they’re going to do it faster. You know, in some cases if they have the time to set aside.
Tobi: What are some of the trends or emerging practices in the field of skills based volunteering that organizations should be aware of? What’s sort of the, You know, if people have thought about it in the past and they’re like, well, I don’t know what’s, what’s happening right now in this specific type of volunteering. Is there anything people need to know about?
Tyler: Yeah. So many things that you just said there, Tobi, that resonate. I mean, one thing that we’re seeing a lot of is, is process improvement. Which is the least sexy thing in the whole world to think about. Oh, I don’t know. I like it.
We’re in a weird spot right now where there are so many tech tools that exist. That no one even knows that they exist. And there’s so many things that we do at our organizations that we just do this way because we’ve always done them. That’s how we were taught to do them. And it gets done. So we’re like, this works.
Right? Right. Like a fun thing I always love to ask because I get this weird job where I get to talk to like EDs from all different orgs and cause areas and shapes and sizes every day. And I always ask them like a really simple question. Like, how do you… So someone comes to an event. How do you get them to your email list and convert them into a donor, right?
And I’ll get these answers that are like, Well, first what I do is I create a CSV and download this PDF and put it here and put it into this system and put this thing into these long, these super, super long processes because there’s so many things out there that can make your job and life so much easier that you just don’t even know exist.
And there’s no reason that you would. You mentioned it’s not because you’re dumb. It’s because that’s not your specialty, right? Right. A joke I always make, and it’s… It’s so cliche, but it gets a laugh every time, Tobi. At the beginning of every event I do is I always say, Hey everyone, like, who in this room is doing things that are not in their job description?
And everyone laughs. Because that’s like a super, what a funny question for non private professionals to be asked that because no one is doing things. In their job change. We’re all expected to do things and figure out things and YouTube it, you know? Yeah. Learn it, figure it out, make it happen. And what I see so much is like that leads to so much burnout because people are so tired.
Like people don’t mind being busy doing things they know how to do or feel confident in. Yeah. But when you’re doing something that, you know, someone else who really knew what they were doing could do it in five seconds and it’s taking you two hours to do. That is soul crushing work, and that weighs on you.
Process improvement is a big one. I’m pointing a lot of people to like, what can be replaced with AI? What are things that you’re doing that you could have AI do? What are things you’re doing? And so much of that is like, understanding what the new industry standards are. Orgs just don’t know. They’re not exposed to that world, they’re not exposed to tech, updates in tech, as much as other sectors are.
And so, the big thing I’m seeing orgs do, and I’m pushing them to do, is like, get on the phone with someone who is a marketing expert, an operations expert, and being like, here’s how I do this, how could I do this better? Because keeping things more efficient and streamlined are going to lead to, again, so many more benefits.
Not just less busy, but happier. Yeah, absolutely. Even integrations. You know, there are people that, that. Like 20 different tools that they’re using. Yeah. You know, I’ll, I’ll explain sometimes how we use, there’s a tool called Zapier or Zapier depending on how you pronounce it. I call it Zapier. They call them Zaps, but then they Yeah, I know.
I call it Zapier. So it’s a tool gang that helps different software talk to one another. So, I’ll give you an example. So we have a A C R M or a database that has all our contacts on it. We do, once in a while, we’ll do freebie webinars, and we could spend a lot of time downloading all the people who register on Zoom and then re-uploading it to that C R M.
Or we can create a Zap in Zapier or Zapier. And it does it automatically. And guess what? We just saved ourselves half an hour or an hour of time on our team. So there’s, that’s just a one example. Another example, setting up automated email series, for example, for a welcome series. If, if your volunteers get tagged as a new volunteer, they start to get a nurture sequence.
Tobi: And I’ve talked about this. In past episodes that you can start to nurture your new volunteers and help them feel welcome.
Tyler: And this is something that many folks don’t, they’re still doing broadcast email from their individual Outlook accounts. These are things that are process improvements in case you’re kind of wondering what is the process improvement.
So there’s so much again, and the tech tools nowadays are so much more affordable than they ever were before. I mean, you know, you can get access to things that you just couldn’t get at. And there’s, you know, there are free versions of things gang, but they’re never full. All of, you know, they’re never all of the bells and whistles, but a lot of nonprofit discounts out there too, though, which is yes.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So gang, there’s a variety of ways you could bring in somebody to help you get from here to there faster and more effectively. And maybe even, you know, help you get better results in the end too. So it’s not just about saving time. It’s about getting better results. Yes. But you know, many volunteer driven organizations have not yet really tapped the full potential of skills based volunteers.
Tobi: So from your point of view, Tyler, you know, what’s getting in the way? Why are people not picking up what you’re putting down?
Tyler: Yeah, yeah. We were talking about this earlier too. Is it, it’s so, it is, it is really funny. I, I, especially when I talk to organizations, like we have nonprofits in our community that they’ve literally, they’ve become a volunteer run organization because of.
Catch a fire because it’s skilled volunteers. They literally like everything’s outsourced to volunteers and I tell them we have so many organizations that have access to this That are like, oh, I don’t know and they’re like, there’s no way how can someone not utilize this? How can someone not take advantage of it?
The responses are really interesting one thing that I hear a lot of And it’s funny because it’s always the same kind of story, but a lot of nonprofits have this story they hang on to. It’s the story about a time that they were burned in the past, and it becomes this like organizational legend or myth that’s passed down where they’re like, Oh, Tyler, you know, one time.
We had our board members, sons, cousins, college roommate create a website for us and it was horrible or something, right? It’s always this like really long like elaborate like, oh, it sent us back months and it was this big disaster. So, you know, just skill just volunteers. It’s too risky. We don’t want to use it.
And, you know, the question I always ask them is like, okay, you know, totally fair. Like that’s, that was a real bummer. Have you ever paid for something? That didn’t really work out how you wanted it to. And of course they’re always like, yes, right. Because the exchange of currency is not this magical spell that makes everything work.
Right. That’s not how it works. Signing a contract doesn’t mean like you’re you might now you’re out money and you’re out the time. And maybe you’re taking someone to a small claims court, right? Who knows? But that’s the thing, is people think of it really differently. They think of it as, like, this is so risky to give, like, something that is, you know, high value to the organization to someone who we’re not paying.
And I think as organizations, we really just have to get over that. That everything we do is risk. When you hire someone, there’s risk involved. When you hire an employee, hire a contractor, when you’re bringing on a skills volunteer, there’s always going to be risk involved. But it’s not a good excuse not to utilize the resource.
Because more often than not, we see organizations get incredible things done from people that they are not paying that want to volunteer. The other big thing is around busyness. And you kind of tapped on this too, where so many organizations will say like, Oh, we need this. We need this, but we’re so busy that we just can’t possibly take this on.
And that’s really where like my ears perk up where I’m like, you know, what, what is really kind of bringing you down? Because I think a lot of folks, and to be clear, they are busy. It’s not that they’re not busy, right? We’re all busy in the non profit sector where executive directors are incredibly busy.
They think that they’re twice as busy as they actually are, but they still are actually very, very busy. Right. Yeah. Yeah. But it’s more about like, what are the things that are taking up your time that you actually don’t need to do? Right. You even mentioned it too, where there’s so many things where it’s like, well, I have to write all these blogs and I have to write this email copy and I had to segment the audience.
I had to do all this stuff. And it’s like, Honestly, you don’t there are tons of people who can do that for you And you know, I think when people if they’re used to working with more traditional volunteers, they may think oh They have to train people like I had to train this person how to do these things But actually the beautiful thing about skills is volunteering is that you kind of have to give them the context Of like what you’re doing, but they have the skills.
In fact, you’ll probably learn a lot from them, which again, it’s about taking things off of your plate. It’s not about another thing to do. It’s about actually utilizing it in that way. And that’s just more of a mindset shift, I think, of like how this is actually beneficial. Absolutely. I think both of those are scarcity mindsets in disguise.
Tobi: Yes. So I’m so busy. I can’t, sometimes I’ll have folks, they’ll say, I don’t have time to set this up or I don’t have time to delegate this and I’ll say, all right, well let’s do the math. If it’s anything you’re doing, that’s either inefficient. Or it’s done repetitively. Let’s do the math on if you really don’t have enough time.
So if it’s something you’re doing over and over and over again, let’s just do the math in any given month. How much time are you going to spend on that? Now, what if you took like 25 percent of that time, got somebody else involved who had some skills or needed training to do that? Then how much time would that free up?
And if you just do a little bit of math on it, you can realize, yeah, okay, we’ve got this figured out and it’s much either more efficient or, you know, we can do it quicker because this person knows how to do it more efficiently, or I’m just going to take it off my plate. Once I get them up and going, well, that’s a, that’s a, like not enough time is a scarcity mindset.
Sort of busyness is a scarcity mindset and not finding people with the skills and talent is also sort of a scarcity mindset and abundance mindset would be, yes, there’s talent out there in the community. There are professionals all over the place who know how to do this so much better than we do. You know, people who are working for corporations doing like advertising and, you know, doing digital marketing at a really high level, content producers, designers, tech folk that, you know, they just, and they can see a bigger picture than you can see, like you said earlier about process improvement.
So those are both scarcity mindset. So I encourage folks when you start thinking the yeah, but yeah, but yeah, but. Analyze it and see, be honest with yourself. Is it a scarcity mindset that’s telling you there’s not enough because an abundant mindset says it’s out there. I just need to find the people.
It’s not a question of how, it’s a question of who. Yes. And so, I think about it like money. Like I, you think of the same thing. Like if you had an organization, you say, Hey, here’s 1, 000, no one’s going to say, Oh, we’re too busy to spend that. Right. Like, but that’s really, it’s actual value. Yeah. Actual dollars that you’re turning down and being like, we’re too busy to do it.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Not, not to mention, I was just talking with one of my team members this morning and we were doing a little bit of research on the average individual donation annually. An individual in the U S donates about 731 to approximately four and a half charities. Throughout the year and about 85 percent of volunteers donate and mostly to the place they volunteer so Not that volunteerism gang is not your primary, you know fundraising strategy, but it is a lovely benefit So you’re you’re engaging people who are professionals We’re making money and they’re going to want to contribute to you.
You know, like, duh! You can go off about this, but this is what the beauty thing, the beautiful thing about it too, is that we talked about like getting things done. It’s great to have someone create a brochure for you, for your event that you’re doing, right? You’re putting together in Photoshop. You don’t know what you’re doing.
Tyler: And so it makes it, that’s a nice thing, but it’s so much more about the relationship, right? It’s just like, you know, when you’re in donor relations, right? You always know like that 50 donation. That’s the beginning of the relationship. Right. That is not the end. That’s the beginning. That’s when you start getting, how can they want to get more involved?
How can we get more giving? Skills volunteering is exactly that. And the beauty of it to me, like we talked about this earlier when you talked about exposure of people like meeting their communities, meeting with each other. One thing that I love so much about skills based volunteering specifically is that it kind of pulls back the curtain on what real non profit work looks like, right?
Yeah. Maybe you’ve had this experience. I’ve been working in this sector for a long time. I feel like we’re in this sector. You and I can talk about this for hours. We’re in it. All the language, the words. If I go outside this sector and I’m in a conference talking to people who work at like ESPN or whatever, I’ll explain my job and they’re like, Like, oh, like a charity, like Salvation Army, like the idea of even what a nonprofit is, people don’t even know.
Like they, if they’re so far from that space and this gives them an end to really see what that work is like. Like when you donate money to a nonprofit, what do you get? You get their annual report and it has a bunch of smiling, laughing kids on it. And there’s some beautiful stories and the numbers went up from last year and it’s like what a great thing But what you don’t see is how much work went into that You don’t get to see that like, oh, they just got a giant grant, but they don’t have paper in their printer Right, right You don’t get to see the truth and I think skilled is volunteering and working with a staff and a team Gives professionals this Glimpse into like, wow, this is how the sausage is made.
This is what it really, really takes to get this event off the ground to get these things. And I think so many volunteers have told us that’s why they donate to the organizations after they match with them is because they’re like, I know, I see what they’re working with. This is what I’m going to support because I know Kathy, I know Mary, I know that she’s doing something that she’s not good at.
I know, you know, and so, yeah, it’s a very interesting relationship for a donor now to have with you is to see it really how things get made. Yeah, absolutely. And they get a taken from a 30, 000 foot view to a 10 foot view of the community issues that you’re tackling. I mean, I like to say, Hey, look, if have that at private industry, if you could go out there and solve all these world’s problems, you would have done it already and monetized it.
It’s not possible that way. We’ve got to do things from the community, from the ground up and in community. So it is, it’s funny. I went with my husband once I had him come to a conference with me and he went to dinner with, I invited him to come to dinner with me and my colleagues. And this is what he heard the whole dinner.
Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.
He is a PhD, right? He’s a, he’s a. Also, I’ve gone to conferences with him and gone out to dinner with him and he and his colleagues and I hear wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah. I mean, we really don’t. We think that the world understands us. Yeah. They don’t even understand why things have to take so long. Yes. Like, I don’t understand all these layers of people that have to have a say.
Well, because we have multiple layers of stakeholders, much more complex era, you know, constellation of stakeholders than private industry has. Oh yeah. It’s easy to be like, these are the customers. That’s it. Right. That’s it. You sell t shirts. Yeah. Customers and maybe shareholders and, and that’s it. Yeah.
Maybe employees. Maybe you care about employees. It is much more complicated because we’re actually trying to, we’re working in the communities to make the communities better. And there’s a, it’s a layer above that. And so it, it matters. Yeah. From the top, like our relationships with funders and philanthropy relationship with donors and volunteers relationship with the community itself.
Like it is government, it’s hard work. Yeah. Yeah. But we love it. So, okay. So at this point, gang, you’re listening, you’re like, all right. Tyler and Tobi, we’re going to give it a go. We’re going to give skills based volunteering a try. What is it essential at minimum? Maybe one of the things is people are feeling a little bit like, you know, maybe we don’t have the essential elements. Maybe we have too limited of resources to get started.
Tobi: So what’s at minimum do people need? Because I think people do need something at minimum. I mean, it just can’t be like, Oh, we’re going to. Jump on a call with catch a fire and we’re good to go. That’s not how it works. There is some prep involved There is some essential resource that organizations need to think about. What are those resources people? Etc.
Yeah, I think there’s a couple of things one is the way that the way that our site works is how I’d recommend doing it Which is there’s two different ways for organizations to get involved with the skills with volunteer on our website, right? So you can, you can do a large project, like again, someone’s designing a website for you, visual branding or whatever it is.
Or we do these things called one hour ask an expert calls. This is just a one hour phone call with a professional as an expert in their field. And you can just pick their brain, ask them questions, right? Get advice on things that you’re doing. And that was actually my first dip into skills as volunteering.
So when I worked at my organization, We have this woman who donated to us at our pancake breakfast. And I was, I was happy to be talking to her afterwards. And she was like, she mentioned that her husband was the CEO of like a small company, you know, I think maybe like 30 employees, um, it was like a sports company, but I was like, you know, I’d love to just pick his brain.
Like, would I, would I be able to just chat with him? And she was like, Oh yeah, for sure. And I, I got in the call with this guy, super awesome dude, you know, talked to him about like org design, talked to him about like strategy, talked about different stuff. He had a lot to share. I had really specific marketing questions for him and he was like, you know what, let me connect you with our marketing guy.
And I connected with him, talked to him for a couple hours and just said, this is how I do this. How would you do it? Like what, like this is my open rates on my emails. What’s the industry standard? What should I be changing here? Can you look at this template? And he was super patient again, and never nothing too, but people love donating their skills.
Yes, people love talking about what they know really well. Everyone loves to be good at things. And so he talked my ear off. Like he’d loved giving his advice, right? Like something that’s unique to him. He has honed this skill over his life. He was thrilled to tell me about this stuff. And just that conversation helps me identify three or four things that I would want to do.
And a couple of them I could do myself, a couple of them, I probably needed to help for someone to do. And that’s the, it takes me as the first step is talking to someone who is in that field. And again, if you’re just getting started, like asking donors, asking folks in your network, who do they know, right?
Who are they married to? Who are, who are they connected to? What companies they work with and just asking for like an hour of someone’s time, because that those initial calls. Can help you actually identify projects that you actually want and need to get done in ways that, you know, cause this is the biggest thing is that as organizations, we need things so badly sometimes that we don’t even know how to ask for them.
Yes. We don’t even know what we don’t know. And so asking for help, it’s like, duh, just ask for help. But it’s like, I don’t even know what’s wrong with it. I know that it stinks, but I don’t know how to ask. And so that that’s my first step is like just start talking to folks and making it really clear.
Like I want to pick your brain about your specific skill and professional expertise. People are so willing to do that and help you with that. And it’s such a great first step to get started. Yeah. And people shouldn’t feel embarrassed that they don’t know. That, you know, they’re going to be quote unquote found out.
Like you said, people want to share their expertise and especially because you’re a nonprofit, it’s giving them that little rush of dopamine as well. Like they’re getting the feel goods from their conversation with you. You’re offering a great perk for their day. No lie. If they have time and if they don’t have time, they’ll tell you they don’t have time.
You know, people don’t book time that they don’t have for it. Also, I think your ask an expert calls. You know, when did you all start doing those? Cause I feel like it wasn’t, it wasn’t all, you didn’t always offer that. I feel like it was a newer thing. No, we didn’t. And it was funny. And I was there and we started it.
It was probably like. Like five years ago six years ago and what ended up happening was You know again people would come to us for big things and whatever but I would get questions like And this one always sticks out to me this woman It was an organization in california and she was like we need to buy a printer.
I don’t know what printer to buy and I was like Oh, like we don’t have a project for that. Like, I don’t have like a whole scoped out thing or whatever, but that’s a great question. And she was like, we bought a printer a couple of years ago and it doesn’t do what we needed it to do. And I think we wasted money on it.
I just want to ask someone about that. And that was really such a light bulb moment where I’m like, people just want to ask really simple questions like that. And you think, what’s that woman supposed to do? Like, and everyone, everyone’s a lot hearing about it. What would you do? You would Google printer.
You get a bunch of weird sites that are probably owned by Hewlett Packard that with like fake reviews. You have no idea. You don’t even know what you need or don’t need and there’s all these things and you’re gonna waste money on that. We’re gonna talk to someone who knows printers and so that’s when we started doing the calls, which is like, yeah sometimes people need large strategic planning.
Sometimes it’s like What printer do I buy and frankly, like that’s just as impactful. Yeah, because you know the way that we work and we’ll talk about that later But like foundation sponsor access to organizations for catch a fire, right? It’s something I always tell funders is like I tell them that story and I say when you grant money to this organization Do you want them spending time?
Googling what printer to buy like is that how you want them to spend their time is like Standing in front of a printer that’s not what they wanted or needed and it’s not working and they’re frustrated. Like, is that where you want your grant dollars to go to? No. Yeah. Right? You want it going towards the impact and the thing, but like you mentioned about feeling bad.
Non profits are so unique and weird where that… No one starts a non profit because they’re really good at starting non profits. Yeah. They start it because there’s something in the world they want to elevate or extinguish. But now suddenly you’re the CEO of this company and you need to know finance and budgeting and grant writing and marketing and management.
All of these things with zero training on that stuff. And it used to be where that was, not that it was okay, but it was like, well, nonprofits, you know, their websites kind of stink and that’s fine. And their marketing materials are kind of bad. That’s okay. But it’s not that way anymore. The expectations are so high, right?
You need to have nice stuff. I remember, sorry, I don’t want to rant here, but I remember 10 years ago, fundraising for my organization. I remember that my executive director said to me, Oh, Tyler, we want our stuff to look nice, but not too nice. Because people won’t give us money right that and like people I talk to people now and they say that to me and I’m like that is not a thing anymore.
No, expectations are so high, but it’s not like we’re all swimming in unrestricted dollars anymore. It’s not like we it’s not like we just have unlimited money for what’s up there. So like actually just so high. So again, don’t feel like, Oh, I should know how to do everything you shouldn’t. Yeah. You shouldn’t.
One example I think that’s rapidly impacting nonprofits in terms of their, uh, sophistication is around digital marketing and volunteer recruitment. Yes. So many people are having a hard time building back from COVID. And when I talk to the nonprofits that, you know, need coaching and need support, et cetera, I’ll ask, what are you doing, et cetera.
Okay. Do you have a Google grant? Are you doing keyword? Have you set up your SEO? And they’re like, SE what? Yeah. I’m like, okay, you’re not showing up on people’s phones. You’re not showing up at the top of Google. So people don’t know you exist. And the sophistication of our appeals because there’s so much noise out there around competition.
There’s so much for the human attention span. And there’s so much sophisticated marketing out there. The one thing, the one area I think you can do with making it look rough is video. Cause there’s so many Tik Tok, homemade Tik Tok. Yeah. Yeah. It has that person. That’s the only area where you cannot be sophisticated, but you know, but it, that your Tik Tok needs to be part of a strategy, but folks.
There’s no charm in a broken website. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So, you know, I think people are really starting to reach their limit of what they can get done with less than. Superior marketing, you know, digital marketing. So I, I see it and I, when I talk to organizations and we explore where they’re at with things, and we talk about what we, how I can help and where we can move, I see the gap, how wide it is and the knowledge.
Tobi: So it’s fantastic that catch a fire is out there. Let’s take a quick break and afterwards we’ll get into sort of step by step how do people get involved and gang, it is free, it is at no cost. Now, it takes some of your time, but you know, you could jump on and ask an expert call and have them help you scope out your project too, right?
Like, here’s the problem, not sure what kind of project would help solve it, can you help me figure that out? I mean, that’s a way to use an ask, ask an expert call as well. So let’s take a break. We’ll be right back with more on finding skilled volunteers with Tyler Manley. So don’t go anywhere. Y’all we’re going to get practical and tactical.
We’ll see you in a minute. If you enjoyed this week’s episode of volunteer nation, we invite you to check out the volunteer pro premium membership. This community is the most comprehensive resource for attracting, engaging, and supporting dedicated high impact volunteer talent. for your good cause.
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The volunteer strategy success path. If you’re interested in learning more, visit volpro.net forward slash join. Okay, we’re back with our exploration of skilled volunteers with Tyler Manley gang. Gonna get practical. We’re gonna get tactical. If you have been hesitant to bring on people who really know their stuff.
Let’s talk about how to make that happen and reduce any lingering friction to making this work. So Tyler, answer me this. How can nonprofits and community organizations, first of all, identify specific skills based volunteering needs and priorities? Because of course you’re not going to take on 10 projects at once.
Tyler: You’re going to need to prioritize. We talked about jumping on before the break. We talked about jumping on with an ask an expert call to talk about a big pain point you might have. Talk about possible solutions, ways you should be framing your thought process around that problem and even helping scope out a project.
Tobi: You know, is there a process you recommend for people to decide which is a high priority and also to decide whether or not they should go out and pay somebody or they should go with a skilled volunteer or is there a process? Maybe people should just choose skilled volunteers. Well, yeah. I think that the world is nuanced and there’s always advice either way.
I think one tactic for how to identify, I do a lot with organizations, so at Catchafire, we do a lot of non profit advising. So organizations will talk to us like, Hey, You know, what do I need? And everyone’s always like, I need everything, right? And you’re like, okay, totally fair. But like, let’s, let’s kind of break it down.
And so the way that I like to do it with organizations, and you can really do this yourself too, but it’s helpful to do it with a partner. If you have like a team, team member or an organization that you trust or whatever. And it’s where someone talks about what they need. And then the other person intentionally, almost semantically drills down.
What does that actually mean? So I’ll give you an example. Like a lot of orgs will say, Oh, we really need fundraising. And they’ll say that like, as if that means. Anything. Right. And it doesn’t mean anything. Right? Right. Like, oh, like you need money? Like, of course you do. Everybody needs help with fundraising, right?
But then it said we drill down. Right? Okay, so you need help with fundraising. So, what does that mean to you? Does that mean like raising more dollars this year than last year? Is there a target? Right? Okay. Yes. You want to increase donations by 30%. Okay. What are the three different ways you fundraise now?
Right? Here’s a different thing. Here’s this. Here it is. Okay, great. Which one of those would you want to improve? Which one has the most room to run, do you think? Oh, social media. You know, you have a small amount coming in for social media. You think that could be higher. Okay. Let’s talk about that. Is it the frequency of your posting, the way that you’re posting, the audience that you have, you don’t have the right people seeing your posts.
Like it’s not bringing enough dollars, like really narrowing and narrowing and narrowing down until you come to an actual project. And that can be really quick sometimes, but I can tell you that oftentimes. You’ll say you need fundraising and then 20 minutes later you’re like, oh we need a copywriter Which is not what you thought you needed But that is actually the skill that you need because when you get down to the actual things that have to get done Think about it more like what is the kind of person what do they look like in terms of skills that could do this thing?
And that’s what you need, right? The goal of that process is to get down to a process in which you are able to have an actual project with deliverables, right? Something that, again, if people have had a bad experience with skills, volunteers in the past, a lot of times what’s happened is. They’ll go to a conference and they’ll say, they’ll meet somebody and that person’s like, Oh, I’m in marketing.
And they’re like, Oh God, we need marketing help. And they’re like, Oh, well I can help you with marketing. And they exchange business cards and they leave. They have no idea what they just promised each other. No one has any idea what you’re talking about. It’s not a real thing. Right. And so being able to clearly articulate it, if you go on our, on our site and you can, it’s all open and free air.
It’s catchafire. org slash menu, our project menu. Every product that we have is scoped out, right? Every product has what the product is, what it is not, and what it will look like when it’s done, right? Because when you’re working with a skills based volunteer, it is crucial that expectations are being set at the beginning of a project, right?
Again, think of it like you were paying someone to help you. You would never pay somebody money and say, Help me with marketing, and they’re like, Totally, and you give them 500. That would never happen. You’d have a very clear articulation of what you’re going to get for that money, right? It’s the exact same situation, but you’re paying them in your time.
Your time is valuable. Like when we say you’re not busy, whatever, of course you’re busy. Your time is incredibly valuable. Incredibly valuable. But that means that when you’re asking for someone to help you with something, and you’re going to spend time managing the project, you need to set up expectations.
You’re not being a jerk by setting clear expectations. It’s why we’re so successful in what we do, because volunteers keep coming back to us, because our organizations set expectations. This is what I need. This is what I need it by. There is a thing that organizations get, and I understand it. It is an uncomfortable space where suddenly when you’re not paying someone for something, we get really soft on deadlines or like, Oh yeah, they missed three meetings in a row, but like, I’m not, you know, I’m not paying them, so it’s fine.
Or, or whenever you can get this done, you know, whatever, it’s totally fine. Like that is not the way to go. And I can tell you that it’s not even about being mean or rude. The volunteer wants you to tell them what you need. Right? Yeah. Because either they’re going to spend all this time doing something that you don’t actually need or will use, which is annoying for them, or you’re going to keep asking them for things because scope creeps going to come in and you’re going to be like, okay, well now this and now this, and also this can do this, and then they’re going to feel bad saying no to the seventh thing, and it’s a bad experience, even though it was supposed to be such a good one that happened there.
So again, really articulating what is the actual thing that you want done. A good way to start doing this is to start with really small things. So copywriting is a good one. Yeah. But a really good project I recommend organizations try first. If you want to dip your toe into skills as volunteering is translation, right?
Translation is something that’s usually a pretty low risk project. The it’s rare that you’re like, I need this thing translated by tomorrow at noon or else our org will shut down. Right. There’s very little pressure on that in terms of timelines. And it’s a very low lift, right? You’re assigning someone work, they’re coming back to you and giving it to you.
It’s a great way to kind of get in the process of managing a SkillsVis volunteer. And again, it’s low risk. That’s why I recommend like, again, having that project there, scoping it out, starting with something small. And the last thing I’ll say too, and this is a mistake that I see orgs do, is no matter how big you are as an organization, when you’re working with a SkillsVis volunteer, There should be one person at your organization that is the contact for that volunteer.
It should not be like, yeah, email any of us. Right, there’s five of us, just ping us, let us know. One person needs to be their person, and that person needs to, I’m going to say manage the project, and I want to put that in quotes too. It does not mean you’re doing the work, but it means that you are the point of contact, so that they know who they can ask questions for, who they can get feedback from.
And it should be the person at your organization that knows the most about that thing. Right? If you’re getting social media help, the person that they have should be your marketing person or the person who at least does your social media. But that, it’s a very simple thing. It doesn’t seem that big, but it’s actually so huge.
You need to have that responsibility on both ends. Someone is like, someone’s looking out for them. Someone is going to be there. And the dispersal of, what is it, the dispersal of responsibility or something? When you have five different people. You need to keep it with the one. Those are my tips, I think, for getting started there.
Tobi: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think, yeah, we’re so team based in nonprofits, but you’ve got to realize that folks are fitting you into their busy schedules as well. And if they can understand what the deadlines are. And, or can help you if you can give them the main deadline and then they can break it down into smaller steps.
Tyler: They can also let you know when you need to be available to, for, you know, let’s say in the example of copywriting, okay, you can expect this back to me in this date. So then, you know, to put on your calendar review time, right? So you can get together and have a collaborative looking project plan that doesn’t need to be complicated, but a skills based volunteer can help you understand the process as well. You know, what process works best, what’s most efficient. You don’t have to figure out the process necessarily, but I agree. You need to figure out the scope of work. So at catch a fire, what’s the process that folks go through to get involved as an organization that wants to engage with a skills based volunteer?
Tobi: What’s the process you recommend? You have a lot of resources. You’ve got scopes of work for different projects. So folks don’t have to create, you know, for common projects. So they don’t have to create it from scratch. You can jump on and ask an expert call. Is there anything else that people should know about using your service?
Tyler: It’s free of charge to nonprofits. It just takes a little time, effort, and thought, which, hey, we’re all smart people. We can do that. What, what, what else? Yeah. Again, any organization right now that’s listening, like there may be some of you who are listening that are probably like invited to a program, right?
So the way that Catchafire works is that we partner with large foundations or large companies. And they sponsor access to nonprofits, right? So they pay for it. I’m probably should not pay for catch a fire. If you’re listening to this and you have been invited to a program, if you’re a grantee of a foundation that partnered with us, whatever it is, like you’ll go on, you can start using it today.
If you’re not, if you have not been invited to a program or anything, all you do is come to our site, there’s a waiting list. You just join. And we find you a sponsor, what we’re doing is like finding a funder that will pay for your membership, finding a company that’s looking for organizations, you’ll put in information about your cause, the community that you serve, your region, whatever it is, and then we’ll add you to programs as we go.
And some people are on the waiting list for like three days, some people are on it for a little bit longer, a couple months, right, because we have to find a sponsor to do it. But it is 100 percent free. Um, we just don’t believe that organizations should have to pay for this. Because we don’t think it’s their fault.
That we talked about before. Like, you don’t have the tools you need to succeed. That’s the system that we’ve created. You just don’t have all of them. And so connecting that way. But even if, let’s say, you’re on the waiting list. You don’t have access to like, posting a product on our site. All of those resources that Joey mentioned are there and they are free of charge.
So we have 160 pre scoped out projects on our site. You can go there right now, steal them, just copy and paste them. Literally, they’re yours. It has not only like, you know, something like a marketing strategy, it will have the deliverables for it, what it will be. It will have like the estimated time, what you’re going to give, what you’re going to get.
What kind of skills you should be looking for with a professional, but then it also has a full step by step milestone roadmap. You can follow along with the volunteer to complete the project. Right? Nice. And again, you don’t have to use that, but it’s especially helpful. If you’re getting assistance on something that you’re not super familiar with, like you mentioned, let’s say you don’t know anything about web design, but you’re having someone design a website for you.
It’s all there. I mean, you can literally follow along that that line for you. If there’s something, I’ll even plug this, if there’s something that you need, that you want a skilled volunteer to do that we don’t have a template for, honestly, go use ChatGPT. I mean, use AI. AI is great at creating project plans, everybody.
Let a robot do that for you. For God’s sakes, that’s the slogan of this year is let a robot do that for you. You don’t have to overthink it. I think people are like, they’re paralyzed. They need so much help. But it feels like, Oh God, then I have to do this and that and whatever. And it’s like, it’s really not that hard.
And I’m telling you, even just talking to a person, setting up a call, you’re going to learn so much and it can be so helpful. You mentioned before, I’ll answer this too, because we didn’t get to it around like, when should you hire someone or when should you get a volunteer? It’s a really good question. I think the question around that to me always comes down to risk assessment, where I think that’s again, as if you’re an executive director or you’re an executive team or in a leadership team.
Your job is to assess risk. That’s what you do. That’s the value you give to an organization. And so if you’re like, hey, we need a brochure done. We need a logo design. We need whatever it is. Awesome. Perfect job for a skilled as volunteer. If you’re like, hey, we need, we’re a multi million dollar health organization that needs to transfer like health data that is confidential so that these hospitals can speak to each other like That’s something that, I’m not saying iVolunteer couldn’t do that because it does happen, but that’s something that you look at.
You probably need to go to a contractor for. You probably need to go to something that’s more multi step, multi thing. Like, we had an organization once that was creating an entire, like, health resource platform. Like not a CMS based website, like they wanted to build an entire resource for patients and they came to us and I was like, this is too big.
It’s just too big for a skilled volunteer. You’re talking about hundreds of hours of work, but they were going to hire a consultant to do it. They’re going to hire a contractor to do it. I told them, like talk to a volunteer who’s a web expert and have them sit in on interviews with you. And they did.
They said, Hey, can you come sit in interviews with us, with contractors and ask them questions that we don’t know about to get with it. And they came back, they were like, we would have absolutely chosen the wrong contractor if we didn’t have that person in the room. And that’s a great way of using skills as volunteers.
It is an extra head, someone on your team, you’ve access to the world’s talent on your fingertips. Just to have that extra advice can save you so much money going forward. So it’s not, I wouldn’t say it’s for everything in this world. But I always had this caveat, there are so many things I’ve told organizations, hey I wouldn’t recommend using a skill to volunteer for that, and they do it anyways, and it turns out amazing.
And I’m like, I’m so glad, I’m so glad it happened, I don’t want to advise you, you know, I don’t want to like, that shouldn’t be your first thing, but like, it does, because I’m telling you, there are people out there who will do, it would shock you. Well, and it could be, you know, Hey, I’m on a month long entrepreneurial sabbatical and I want to do good in my community and I’m not doing, I’m, I’m taking a break from work or I’m between big projects.
So there’s, there’s things, but I like your advice of starting small. And also, you know, making it very discreet, a very discreet beginning, middle and end to the project. That is the best use I think. And, and you, and you might have a serial volunteer come back and do another project with you and another, maybe, but have it have a beginning, middle, and then it’s only fair on both sides, I think.
Tobi: So anything else people need to know about you? So folks sign up. If they haven’t been invited, they sign up, they wait to get an invitation. Meanwhile, There’s tons of resource. Can they sign up for an ask an expert call before they’re accepted? Or do they need to wait until they become a member? They need to, they need to wait till they’re accepted.
But again, to be clear, like all that is, is just access to like our matching community. Right. Our community of volunteers, but all the tools that you would use are already there for you. Right. Yeah. And so like, if you want to do this on your own today, right, you can, again, you want some templates, go to catch a fire.org, check out the project menu. We have all the templates that are there, but one thing that I do recommend it, and again, like. Everything that we do, our whole process of matching an organization with a volunteer is, it’s not a random thing. Every step is incredibly intentional. It’s things that we have learned.
We’ve been doing this for 12 years, right? We’ve learned so much about what creates buy in on both ends, what makes successful projects, right? And what makes kind of flakier projects. Well, then it’s really crucial for us and I recommend to you all is that when you are looking in your own network, right?
Take our template, use it on your Facebook, put it in your network, whatever you’re doing, people should apply to it. Yes. Right. It should not be the case that you’re asking someone like, Hey, please, can you please help me with this website? And they’re like, yeah, I guess, I don’t know whatever it is because that dynamic is not good for the product.
It should be, look it, scope it out, write it just like you would as if you were hiring someone and say, Hey, this is a volunteer role. I need someone to do this for me, have people apply, have them interview for it. Right? Yeah. It’s not your board members, sons, cousins, college roommate here asking for help.
Someone is applying to you because they have the skills that you need and they have the time to do it. You’re interviewing for that process. Obviously be very clear that it’s not a paid role. It’s a skills volunteer position, but treat it exactly that way. What that’s going to do is create a lot of buy in on both ends so that you know, they’re committed, you are committed.
You know, cause I’ll tell you, people are like, well, what if volunteers flake? This thing I see way more often is that organizations end up flaking a bit on the projects because you get busy and things happen, but the more that you know what the deliverable is, someone’s applying to you, they have this relationship, you’re going to have successful projects.
So that’s definitely one to me. I would recommend. Yeah. Let’s talk about, we’re almost at the top of the hour, so we’re going to wrap up, but I wanted to ask you, once you engage with a skills based volunteer, what are the things that organizations should think about to make sure it’s a fulfilling experience, that they enjoy their experience, that it’s as reduced friction as possible?
We know that there are road bumps in projects. I mean, it happens, nothing’s always smooth, but you know, we talk about, you know, it’s not necessarily to retain the volunteer forever in a day to continue to help you. That’s not the purpose of this, but you do want your ambassadors out there. You want people to have, first of all, it’s only fair that they would enjoy their experience.
That’s the deal you struck, right? That in exchange for, you know, them giving their expertise, you’re giving them some joy in their life of helping their community. Sure. But what else, what can people do to make sure that that joy happens? Yeah. So many things we already mentioned too, like before the project, being really clear about what the project looks like when it’s done.
I reiterate that a lot because Why that’s so important is that it’s very important to have the moment when you can say Thank you. And if you don’t know when the project ends, you can never say that. Yeah, you can’t be like you did it They don’t get the feeling they accomplished something because you’re like, okay this or that I think I guess okay And like even though they help you so much There’s not that moment and so being like when I have two blogs In my hand and they are posted you are done.
Thank you. That is so amazing, right? Yeah, that stuff is done before the project during the project. It’s gonna be important that you are available to provide feedback I don’t want to say that and people think oh god, this is a lot of work You said it wasn’t a lot of work, but it is like no, but you have to understand that as a volunteer I want to know the things I’m doing are meeting your expectations and that you’re going to use them.
I’ve seen this happen many times where an organization gets something from a volunteer, the first draft, they want to be really nice. It’s not really what they wanted, but they didn’t pay this person. So they’re like, we love it. It’s so great. Thank you. And then two months later the volunteer is like, hey, You know, I saw that like my logo didn’t make it on the thing like didn’t happen and then they’re like then they messaged me Like what should I say?
And i’m like, well now I don’t know what you should say I killed you with kindness. I have some feedback Right, and now you’re stuck and the thing is like you have to understand that designer anyone who works in a professional setting But especially designers Creative people Used to feedback It’s how it works.
If they make something for you, be like, Hey, look, I love this. I love this. I wish this was bigger. I wish it was whatever. That’s their process, right? And everyone needs that because they want to make something. Again, they’re not getting paid for this. They want to make something you’re going to use. Right?
They don’t get a check either way. They want you to use it. So make sure you’re being really clear about that stuff. They will appreciate it immensely because they’d much rather seeing their logo on your website than you telling them they did a really good job, but you’re never using it. I can promise you the second one is better.
So make sure you’re getting feedback, making sure you’re responding to them. And again, real talk, if you, things come up because fires come up all the time, you have to put out, we miss a grant, someone gets it, whatever it is, just be really open and honest with the volunteer. Say, Hey, look it, we were so excited to do this.
Something changed. We have to put this on pause, but just let them know, be in contact about it. And then after the project is over, there’s a lot of things you can do. One is to, again, with any volunteerism or donations or whatever, like any way that you can recognize the person. Awesome. We have organizations that create like whole pages on their website for just their catch a fire volunteers.
I think what they’ve done, what the products they did, how much value they’ve given to the organization, that kind of stuff. You don’t have to do that grand gesture, but even just like giving them a review on their LinkedIn, even like posting out whatever it is, like little things like that are so awesome for a professional.
And they might ask for it, which is fine, but a lot of them don’t. And they will never not want that. They’re never going to be like, Oh God, I don’t want people to know that I gave this, I volunteered. That will never happen. So little things like that are really, really nice. And another thing too is, especially if they do something that’s like process improvement, database, whatever it is, like, they’re not going to be able to see their logo on the website in that case.
So, three months later, just ping them. Be like, Hey, just wanted you to know, our lives are so much easier because of the work that you did. It does not have to be this giant. Grant report you’re giving them literally just a couple lines. Like, Hey, look, I just want, you know, We use that you introduced us to Zapier.
We use it for everything. It’s changed our lives. It’s amazing. Thank you so much That kind of stuff really really helps. And again, these people This is about relationship building. I mean these people can become board members Donors, they can connect you with the companies that they work for to get in the shortlist of grants that are coming up.
Like, your network is your lifeblood. And this is a way to really build a relationship with someone in a way that is different than other ways you do it. Whether it’s donors or in person volunteering. These people really know you. Like, they, they don’t know the non pro I mean, they know the non profit and the cause, but they know you as the professional there, the employee they’re trying to help.
It changes the dynamic of the relationship. So many of them become board members. I’ll share one story. I called an organization to see how their project was doing. And a woman picked up and I was like, Hey, I’m wondering, I know you guys matched with Cindy a couple months ago, wondering how it’s going. And she was like, Oh no, this is Cindy.
I work here now. And I was like, Oh, I was calling and she’s like, Oh yeah. Like I did this project for them. They loved it. They had an opening. I applied to it and now I’m, now I work here. And like, I would have never known that even happened if I hadn’t called them, you know. So that’s, it’s a pipeline, like you mentioned.
And it is my dream, I’ll leave with this, I know we’re almost done, but, It’s my dream that one day someone will meet their spouse on Catch a Fire. I don’t know if it’s happened yet. But if it happens to you, if you’re listening to this and that happens to you, please let me know. That is a long time dream of mine.
Don’t use it as a dating site.
Tobi: It’s a lovely benefit. I love it. I love it. Gang, if you’re not, Lord have mercy. If you are not ready or excited about skills based volunteering, you need to re listen to this episode again, but go and peruse catch a fire. Their website I’ll link to it Tyler. Let me ask you one more question I’d love to ask my guests What are you most excited about in the year ahead?
Tyler: Oh my gosh It’s gonna be a year. Isn’t it? We’re coming into election year. Tell me things are gonna get really And I say that in not a cynical way. I actually think what I’m looking forward to most is how, when things get really hard, like working here for so long as things get really hard in the world, we see so many people step up to help.
And I will tell you, like during COVID, one thing that, you know, that was a rough time, everybody, as we all know, but one thing that kept me going, man, is like every day we all worked remotely. Then our volunteer numbers exploded. Yeah. Tens of thousands of people were home. In their houses, virtual, and we’re like, how can I get involved?
How can I get back to organizations? Right. How can I get involved? I mean, you know, that was a hard time for the world and seeing that, like we talked about the volunteers and the service. And so I think this year is, I think we’re in for a rough year. I think it’s going to be pretty wacky. And I, I think one thing I’m really looking forward to is like watching how many people decide like this is the year they really get involved.
And they say, you know, again, I want to be part of the solution. I want to, I want to, and if you’re listening to this call and you’re thinking about volunteering also, I’ll just say this, because we have non profit professionals that volunteer on our site as well, right? I can tell you like one thing that stops people from doing that is they think, oh, I’m not skilled enough.
I don’t know enough, right? I, I only have 10 years of marketing experience. I don’t, I couldn’t help an organization. Anything that you have that, you know, I’m telling you is needed and can be given. And so. I think that’s what I’m looking forward to this year the most, is just like, seeing how the world steps up again.
Tobi: It always just makes me feel the warm and fuzzies. Oh, fantastic. That is a great note to end on. Tell us again where folks can find you. Get in touch if they have questions. You’ve talked about the website, anything, any places, people, you want to send people to learn more. Yeah. I mean, anyway, email me directly.
It’s just Tyler at catchafire. org. It’s just our names and the website. Email me, let me know questions that you have, whatever it is. Again, catchafire. org is the website. Go to it. There’s so many resources there and all kinds of things. And again, like I guarantee there are people listening to this, that already have access to catch a fire.
And if you have it and you haven’t tried it yet, like reach out to me, come to the website, like I can get on a call. If you can get you started again, it’s that first hump of, you know, it’s new and it’s different, but I can tell you that like, you know, as you mentioned, Tobi, like there are organizations that are utilizing this and they’re taking advantage of it and they’re thriving.
If you find yourself with these struggles, like. Reach out. Again, we have so, so many more volunteers on our site than organizations and projects. So yeah, we need your listings. Yeah, absolutely. Reach out. Please do everybody. Please do. There are people out there who want to help your organization and you know, you, we can’t continue.
To try to take the world on our shoulders. That’s not how it works. The best solutions in community come from community come from people working together. So we’ve got to open our doors and invite more people in. There’s no shame in asking for help and you know, our organizations may be stronger for it.
Tobi: So. I want to appreciate you all for listening today and thanks for joining us for this episode of Volunteer Nation. If you liked it or found it valuable, please share it with a friend. And of course, your ratings and reviews are always appreciated. We like those 5 star ratings because, gang, it helps us reach more people.
And if you have comments, post a comment. Let Tyler and I know. How this has been valuable to you and we’ll see you next time. I’ll be here next week. Same time, same place on the volunteer nation. Thanks everybody. Thanks for listening to this episode of the volunteer nation podcast. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to subscribe, rate and review so we can reach people like you who want to improve the impact of their good cause for more tips and notes from the show.
Check us out at Tobijohnson. com. We’ll see you next week for another installment of volunteer nation.