Episode #081: How Vol Services & Nonprofit Marketers Can Work Together with Kivi Leroux Miller

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 today I have a super special treat. With a very old friend, someone I’ve known for eight years. If you can believe that in the nonprofit space, we’re going to be talking about how volunteer services and nonprofit marketers can work together. And Kivi Leroux Miller, the queen of non profit marketing, the maven, the one who’s written the books, is with me, and she’s got massive value to add today.

And I’ve been waiting for this conversation for a while, I’m so happy she’s here, and I just want to kick us off with some thinking. Because as a leader of volunteers or an organization that’s a volunteer involving organization You are certainly involved in marketing volunteer recruitment is marketing And collaboration is key.

So, you know, well many staff who are involved in nonprofit marketing and volunteer recruitment in particular Search outside of their organizations for community partners that can help boost the results of their volunteer recruitment efforts. I feel like it’s a missed opportunity if they neglect the tremendous value and power of collaboration right at home, right inside our organizations.

We’re talking about busting silos folks. So people in your own organization can be of organizations around volunteer recruitment lately.

And I know that your marcoms or marketing and communications If you haven’t heard that term before your marcoms colleagues can supply advice support technical assistance and even sometimes paid advertising via Google Grants to help you boost your recruitment results.

Alternately, if you have a rocky or non-existent relationship with your other work units, they can actually tarnish your reputation and credibility by incorrectly framing What volunteer services is doing what you have to offer the community So it is absolutely vital that this collaboration is tight.

So think of your organization’s communications all of the communications including volunteer recruitment as an ecosystem and your recruitment messages influence and are influenced by What other departments are sharing with the world?

You’re not, even though we think sometimes we’re working in silos and other people aren’t influencing, we are absolutely all of our communications that goes out into the world is going out. The rest of the world doesn’t see it as separate. So it makes sense to build bridges and share plans and work collaboratively.

To reinforce one another’s work. It’s just absolutely essential. I keep seeing this come up as a challenge for folks. So we’re going to get into it and have two sides of the coin here in this conversation. Now I met Kivi eight years ago and I’ll tell you, I started volunteer pro and I suffered from the number one challenge and mistake that people make with marketing.

And that is that they believe that they can build it and people will come and that could not be further from the truth It couldn’t be further from the truth then And it definitely isn’t further from the truth now. In fact marketing is getting harder I believe but back then I had worked very diligently to build the volunteer pro community We had built up the volunteer pro brand and we were starting to open the doors.

And what did I get crickets? I put this fantastic offer out and nobody came. It wasn’t because the offer was bad because our community has been going for eight years now. So we know it’s got something there. We’ve got, we’ve got the mojo, but I wasn’t, I didn’t have, I didn’t really know. And I didn’t have the marketing chops.

I didn’t have the systems in place. And so I actually hired Kibbe. And she coached me through what it takes to actually do digital marketing. And since then I took off like a rocket. I have to thank you for that. Because obviously if I didn’t have your coaching, I would have been still stuck. Well, you had to do all the work and you’re definitely preaching it for me here.

So I appreciate that. So big gratitude, big, big gratitude bomb to you for helping me just get started. And you know, all it took was the light bulb to go off and for you to really help me frame, Oh, This is what I have to do. And you know, we often think of marketing when marketing isn’t our main job. We think of marketing as a side hustle, as something that is annoying as something that we really wish we didn’t need to do.

And if we spent more time on other stuff, we wouldn’t have to do marketing. Well, guess what gang? That’s just not the case I found through. You know, my years of business now that marketing is like half of my job. You know, it just is. If we want people want the community involved in our organizations, marketing is part of your job, whether you’re a Marcom staffer, an executive director or a volunteer coordinator.

So let’s get started. Let me introduce Kivi. Kivi Leroux Miller is founder and CEO of nonprofit marketing guide. She is a popular and trusted keynote workshop and webinar presenter, and is a trainer and coach to hundreds of nonprofit. Marketers every year. In fact, she was a coach to me. As I said, Kibbe is also the award winning author of three books on nonprofit marketing and communication that are often used in college and certificate programs.

And I actually have my hands on those three books and have read them and they are marked up and they have highlighting. So gang, if you want to learn, you got to grab your, her books as well. And we’ll post links to those in the show notes. Because Kimmy can’t get enough of nonprofits and entrepreneurship for good.

She also serves as president of the Lexington Farmers Market Association in North Carolina and co founded a baking business with her teenage daughter called Rabble and Rise Baking Company. That’s so awesome. And I did not know you were into organic and farmers market and all that because I’m a master gardener. I didn’t know if you knew that.

Kivi: Oh, that’s great. That’s wonderful. We work with a lot of master gardeners at the farmer’s market, obviously.

Tobi: Yeah, I’ve been doing that since 2016, I think. I’ve been a master gardener here and Yeah, so I have a, I’m an absolute geek about organic gardening. If you want to talk composting people, we can talk.

Anyway, after Kivi attended college in San Francisco Bay Area and a few years working in Washington DC, she moved to rural North Carolina where she has lived for the last 20 years with her husband, two teenage daughters, seven rescue cats. I have one rescue cat. You have seven. That’s amazing.

Kivi: I do. Not really by intent, but it was a mama and some babies that sort of doubled the population here.

Tobi: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. She enjoys year round gardening, baking, vegetarian cooking, hiking, and kayaking. Gang, welcome Kivi.

Kivi: Thank you, Tobi. It’s great to be back with you. It’s great to catch up with you too. I know. Wow. And we were, we were reminiscing. We think that we have not spoken. Probably haven’t for eight years, which is yeah, I still don’t want to believe that but it’s probably true Well, then we might have had one interaction at some point.

Tobi: I feel like I don’t know but anyway, I remember with your sister her sister’s her business partner and I remember I was on, because we, in our community is built on circle and I know you all use circle. Oh, great. Yeah. And I think I was at a circle summit and I saw her name in the chat and I’m like, wait a minute.

Kivi: Okay. That’s coming back to me. That’s right. Yeah. We’ll have to have a different conversation about circle sometime. Yeah, we should. We should talk online communities.

Tobi: So I I’ve talked a little bit about what you do, but I would love to know, I like to ask our guests about how they got into nonprofit work in the first place.

So service has always been a part of my family’s sort of just approach to life. A lot of my ancestors are in the military and nursing and government jobs. So it was always just something that was very familiar to me and I went straight from college to work for a federal agency. And got to know a lot of nonprofits through that because I was a grant maker as a fed.

And I just realized that there was a whole new and different way to serve that wasn’t working for the federal government, which I did not enjoy very much. And so I just sort of went from there and never looked back.

Tobi: That’s amazing. I also worked in my, one of my first jobs was doing, being a contractor for a federal agency. So I get that completely.

Kivi: There’s a pretty wide range between them, that context and the context of entrepreneurship. They’re pretty much night and day. Yeah. I was really the first person in my family to become an entrepreneur. And you know, everyone was pretty. Afraid for me at that time But since my clients are exclusively non profits, it didn’t really seem like that much of a leap for me Yeah, so it’s worked out great.

I still feel like I am even though I’m technically an LLC and earning profit I still feel like I’m very much in a service Role in our sector.

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely me as well So tell me what volunteerism and community mean to you, especially, you know, why is it vital for today’s? Nonprofits, why is community engagement and volunteerism important?

Kivi: You know, for me, it’s really life. I just, I don’t know how to describe it any way in terms of my own personal experience. My daughter has created a t shirt that says. community is resistance. And, you know, in some ways that message really resonates with me, because I think it’s a way to fight back against a lot of the hate in the world, the corruption in the world, the bureaucracy in the world.

It’s really resisting that sort of social media companies. Just when you think about all of the big players in our world that are hurting people and, and creating anxiety and stress and, and hate in the world. Community is really how you get past that. Yeah. It’s about connecting with other people, communicating with them, even when they’re different than you and really trying to find.

A way forward together, and it’s also about connecting with people who are like you, where it is maybe a little bit easier to make really good things happen. So, for me, you know, that’s 1 of the reasons I’m so involved in the, the local food scene here in North Carolina. Uh, it’s another form of community beyond the community.

I work in sort of our more global nonprofit community, the local food community. Community is really about helping your neighbors stay healthy and fed and you know, that just really came very clear during the pandemic when there were food shortages and people were having a hard time finding meat in, in the regular grocery stores and yet all of our local farmers were able to, to meet that need.

So community to me is just, it’s everything. It really is life itself to me. Yeah. That’s fantastic. I love that lens. It is true. I mean, it’s the, it’s the last vested, it’s last, last frontier of non monetized space. I feel like, you know, yeah. Yeah. And you know, people can solve problems, have more power than they believe sometimes I think, and constantly and so flexible and nimble in solving problems and coming together, it’s much, you know, sometimes faster.

Folks at the ground level understand pretty intimately what the problems are that need to be solved. Right. And that’s why nonprofits are here, right? We’re here because there are things in the world that can’t be solved by government corporations or individuals alone, right? Have to be solved by community.

And so the nonprofit is the structure that allows community to function in our economy. Yeah. So I don’t really see how you really can divorce nonprofits from community.

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely. So let’s talk about the context of marketing because I feel like it really, there really has been a sea change, you know, early in digital marketing, it was, you know, Massive things were happening and I feel like now things are getting a little bit more challenging I think our audience is just mostly leaders of volunteers I think would benefit they benefit from understanding when they’re collaborating with someone else Aka the marcoms team or a person often it’s the person and often they’re wearing many hats just like the volunteer coordinator What’s the current trends you’re seeing and what are some of the challenges they’re up against right now?

Kivi: You know, I always think when you’re collaborating with somebody it really Walk in their shoes a little bit. So help us understand what, what you’re seeing out there in the field of nonprofit marketing. Wow. That’s a big question. So, well pick a few things. Just a couple of top ones for sure. I mean, I think one of the perennial problems is that there are a million choices, right?

There are a million things you can do. There are a million things you can ways you can talk about things and everybody has an opinion. Sure, sure. So, and when you’re in an organization that frankly, isn’t well run, isn’t well led, everybody has their own opinion about how their particular slice of the organization should be communicated about marketed out into the world.

And it’s the communications. director’s responsibility to really have this sort of one voice, one organization, one brand out in the world. And so, you know, it’s sort of like at some point, you know, you need a plumber or, you know, you need a surgeon, you go to the professional. Well, I think in the nonprofit space, and I’m sure this is true for volunteer leaders too.

It’s like, There’s not this recognition necessarily that you need the professional yet. Everybody still thinks they know what’s best and they honestly don’t because the marketing communications world is so complicated now. It’s highly technical. You can’t just. Be good at writing. You have to be good or passable at graphic design.

You have to understand psychology. You have to understand how to do media relations. You have to understand how to get into the back end of your website and change something there. There’s just a lot going on that. Most folks don’t appreciate. And so it’s just, it’s a lot of balls in the air all the time.

Tobi: Yeah. So I think for volunteer managers, like I said, when we kicked off, this is a tremendous resource for you, but this resource like you who are wearing many hats often are stretched in. So when you approach your MarComs department, I feel like you really got to think about how you can be of assistance And really do some of the work to get prepped really well.

So that when you have the conversation about, okay, because we do a lot of work in volunteer pro around messaging around volunteer recruitment. What’s your big why? How to message from the inside out? How to have heart centered messaging? What kinds of stories could be told? If you’re doing story collection, that’s helping your MarComs person out tremendously.

Kivi: That’s just one of the things that’s on their plate. I don’t think you can come to some, if that’s the context right now, Which I, I totally believe it because it’s always been the context in nonprofits.

Tobi: We’re always stretched too thin that you can do more with less by really coming prepared and also being able to maybe supply content to that marketing director. What do you think about that?

Kivi: Absolutely. And the thing is, you know, come early and come often. So, you know, we joke on in our coaching program that the default turnaround for everybody other than the communications team is by the end of the day or tomorrow at the latest. And most of the things that people are asking for need a week, two weeks, even two months of prep time to do well.

Yeah. Engaging in those conversations early about what you need, letting the communications person really talk through what you want to achieve and then figure out how to achieve it together. You know, lots of times folks Who don’t do communications for a living will come in. I want a flyer. I want 15 Facebook posts.

And what they really need is neither one of those things at something else. And so it’s the communications person’s job to help you figure out how to actually get that message out. But if you’re coming with good messaging already, if you’re coming with good stories already, that is a huge leap forward.

So absolutely bringing those content ideas, those stories to your communication staff and then working collaboratively to figure out the strategy for how to reach the target audience and how to do that and how much time it’s going to take. Again, time is a huge source of conflict. Because people, you know, they get behind themselves and then they come running to the communication staff and it’s like, you know, I, but I need, I need this done by today because I have to have these people tomorrow.

It just doesn’t work that way. The world doesn’t work that way. So you’ve got to give each other enough time to be really thoughtful and strategic and to produce good products together. Yeah. So I absolutely agree. So gang key takeaway. You know, we teach people how to create recruitment plans. And part of that is marketing.

Tobi: We, we work on personas, developing your ideal, uh, a real clear picture of your ideal volunteer, if you can suss that out, that also helps your marketing director, just understand, you know, in the, that’s the one thing that helps you sort of take all of the things. And, you know, that could be possible to communicate and really reduce them down to a manageable load because you know, you’re only going to go where that ideal person is.

You’re not going to spend your time. If you’re looking for senior citizens, you’re not going on TikTok. You know, that’s what I like to tell, you know, like gang, don’t waste your time where ideal volunteer isn’t living.

Kivi: Right. But I would also, and that is all wonderful, right? Because those are all the decisions that the marketing folks are going to want, but I would encourage you to include the team in developing those personas and in making those strategic decisions early because let’s say that you as a volunteer come up with a particular persona, but everyone in your organization is really trying to reach somebody else. That’s going to be complicated.

Right? Yes. And so, and, and this happens all the time or the flip side, is that you do have people that are trying to reach that same persona, but they’re trying to reach them with different calls to action. Mm-hmm. , and you just want to talk about volunteerism all the time. But you’ve got three other programs that want to talk to them about something else.

And that also has to be coordinated. And it, and that’s the communications director’s job, is to coordinate all of this. So bring them in early to these conversations, it will produce infinitely better results for you in the end. Yeah, absolutely. I love that, you know, synergy. So another key takeaway is just alignment.

Tobi: Yes. And I, you know, I also want to highlight what you said earlier, which was the communications director’s job is to ensure a consistent voice. And so if you’re off doing your own thing and the comms department’s doing their own thing, and maybe even the fundraising department’s doing their own thing, completely different voices, they may be talking to the same target audience.

At cross purposes and gang, remember that there is an editorial calendar, smart communications directors have editorial calendars that there were, you know, they’re plugging stuff in. And so you’ve got to align your communications in with their editorial calendar.

And like you said, sometimes that editorial calendars planned out like, you know, 3 months, 6 months. And, or even a year in advance, not every detail, but the broad brushstroke, the broad story arcs, the broad, you know, strategies, the broad, big events, fundraising campaigns, et cetera. So it really does take a more, a less, less of a siloed approach. What are the areas, aside from folks just coming in and starting early?

Kivi: Aligning working side by side to really collaborate to build out. What’s this ideal volunteer persona? What are the messages? How can we bring story greater story because volunteers and there’s a million stories. Stories are fantastic and the phone, you know, the comms director is in their office They’re not wandering around all the time looking for stories. They don’t have time for that.

Tobi: It’s great to become like a stringer Uh, you know, uh, uh, sort of journalist stringer out there bringing stories to your marketing folks. What are other ways they can collaborate effectively things they could do? Where do you see synergy between these two functions? I really feel like it is just taking a collaborative approach to a shared goal.

Kivi: So too often we get into situations where it’s like, okay, the volunteer or the fundraiser or the program people think the mark on people work for them. Right. And it’s always like, you have to do what I say, or then we get in the opposite situation where. The communications director asserts more, too much, too much control over the editorial calendar and ends up turning people away.

And then those people go off and do their own thing. And that’s a whole nother nightmare situation we can talk about. So it really is about saying, okay, what is our shared goal? And then what is my responsibility towards reaching that goal? And what is your responsibility towards reaching that goal? And where do we overlap?

And where do we need to be checking in with each other regularly to make sure that that overlap is really functioning well so that we are meeting this shared goal. And if you can do that, that will solve just an incredible number of problems. It’s really when People see themselves as being separate and having different separate goals and you’re sort of negotiating with the other person to see if you can get what you want or need from them without this sort of shared understanding about where you’re both headed together.

Tobi: Yeah. It’s like community within a nonprofit. Do you have community within a nonprofit or not? Yeah. Kind of ironic if you don’t, right? If you’re a volunteer engagement professional. All over the place, right? I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve coached communications directors who tell me, Oh, the volunteer people have their own list.

Kivi: Yes. Oh, preach sister. They send out their own emails. And the volunteer coordinator says, Oh, it’s okay if it doesn’t look like the rest of our stuff. It’s okay if it’s got some typos in it. Our people understand it’s, it’s, it’s just our volunteers. You know, that happens all the time. Yeah, absolutely. And it’s terrible for everybody.

Tobi: Yeah. I’ll give you an example. I like to share this example because I remember my aunt, my aunt’s a really super volunteer. She, when she retired, she said she was going to take on volunteering as her second career, which she did until the pandemic. And she’s getting back to it now, but she’s really aging now.

So she’s doing less, but at the time she was volunteering and she was in, in the same week she received first. And invitations, they were recognition luncheon for volunteers. A couple of days later, she received an appeal to make a financial contribution. And boy, did that piss her off. Yeah. She was like, you want to thank me.

And then the minute you thank me, you want to ask me for money. Now she would have been open. To make it a financial contribution. In fact, volunteers make major bequests to the organizations where they volunteer and the volunteer coordinator never knows they’ll find out somehow, Oh, wow. This, this volunteers put 200 K for, to our organization when they pass.

This is amazing. I had no idea. So that needs to be aligned and it’s true. These databases, you know, I also see from the other side. The volunteer coordinator wants to do a recruitment campaign because we really preach a lot of build relationships while you sleep, develop campaigns, develop your email copy ahead of time, get it out there, you know, have it be automated email versus individual emails to each volunteer.

You’ve got to save time and they’ll want to do that and they’ll go to the Marcoms folk and the Marcoms folk, absolutely not. You cannot use our  CRM for that. Our, uh, email service for that. And so then they’re like out getting their own MailChimp or their own. See, and that’s a bad decision on the part of the communications staff.

Kivi: Right. So, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s plenty of improvement to be made across all of these roles. The technology issue is massive. in our sector. The problem with all of these different databases that do not communicate well is a, it’s, it’s really holding us back. Yes. And the inability to segment the list properly.

Yes. So even if you do get all the names together, if you don’t have clean data and you don’t know who’s who, then you can’t segment it. So your aunt does get all of this ridiculous email that she Should have gotten at that point because there’s no clear segmentation of the list. I think on both sites too, pruning of the list.

Tobi: I always know folks, if folks do have a contact list. And I, so how many active volunteers do you have? That’s what I’ll, well, I, I, I’m not sure. Then I know that their list isn’t tight and gang, just as an aside, if you don’t prune your list, if you don’t have good list hygiene and your, your email list, and you’re sending out broadcast emails, your reputation is going down, down, down.

Kivi: Your open rates are going down, down, down. It doesn’t help to keep people who are not engaged on your email list. Just doesn’t help you at all. So I feel like again, Tobi, I’m telling you, I’m loving all of this. I don’t even think you need me. I’ll just say, yes, Tobi is correct. Go.

Tobi: No, no, I’m just saying, well, you know, Kivi, once again, how did I start learning this from you, my friend?

From you. Well, let’s get into a little more detail. Uh, after the break, we’re going to take a quick break. Uh, we’ll be right back with more on how we can really improve our nonprofit marketing, how nonprofit marketers and volunteer managers can work better together. Gang, there’s so much room for improvement, but there’s also so much potential and ROI on this collaboration.

I swear. It would improve impact for both sides. It makes sense to have these conversations. So let’s, let’s go come back right after the break and we’ll talk more, maybe a little bit more nuts and boltsy about how to make this happen. Sound good? Yeah. All right. See you in a few. If you enjoyed this week’s episode of Volunteer Nation, we invite you to check out the Volunteer Pro Premium Membership.

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Okay, everybody. We’re back from our break with our chat with Kivi Leroux Miller about how nonprofit marketers and volunteer. Managers can work better together. We’re going to dig in a little bit more in detail, give you some tactics because I, I know you all are looking for practical tactical. We’ve really talked about some of the challenges before the break, some of the context of how you all are working.

Remember you are both, both sides are stretched thin. If you’re a nonprofit marketer, you don’t want a volunteer manager coming to you and saying, Hey, I need a hundred volunteers by next week. Can you create a recruitment campaign for me? Don’t want that happening. You as a volunteer manager. You also don’t appreciate when people come to you and say, Hey, we need 100 volunteers by next week. Get to it.

So gang, you know, working together early on is absolutely essential. So How can they align their strategies specifically to meet these strategic goals?

When folks get together for this, you know, I’m assuming for many, it’ll be a preliminary meeting. And when they’re talking about goals, do you have any ways that, or, uh, frameworks for people to really like figure out how their strategic objectives are overlining or overlapping?

Kivi: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a couple of really very practical tools that you can start to use that will, if you’re using them together, will actually sort of lead you to strategy long-term.

So one of the things we always recommend is just, is there a style guide? Oh yes. Are there basic templates because your communications director doesn’t want to have to do every single flyer you need or even write every single email that you need to send, but they do want to know that they, those are on brand and when we say on brand, we’re not just talking about looking pretty, but we’re talking about the voice, the style, the tone, it being appropriate and representative of the organization’s personality as a whole.

Okay. So something as simple as, do you use, does everybody use Canva and are you using the same set of templates in Canva that have the right color palette, that have the right logo, you know, that have the right footer. It’s just really basic things that you can start with where the communication staff are comfortable with the way it looks, the amount of content it has in it.

Are you agreeing on who’s gonna proofread the thing? Doesn’t always have to be the communications director, but there should probably be two sets of eyes on everything that’s going out to a bulk list. So, you know, can you agree on just basic workflow? Mm-hmm. and what things are gonna look like and templates and that style guide.

Just doing that and working on that together is going to make a huge leap forward. And then I think at that point you are talking about shared scheduling, editorial calendars, uh, what we call the big picture communications timeline, which is a visual sort of annual plan for generally what’s most important to talk about when.

And what that allows you to do is to say, okay, you know, volunteer coordinator, we need to also talk about program A, program B, program C, fundraising campaigns, events. We got all this other stuff going on. Let’s look at the calendar and figure out where in the course of the 12 months, it’s really going to be about you and you primarily.

And then let’s figure out where there are opportunities to sort of wedge volunteer as a, as a call to action in with some of the other programmatic communications that are going out or the fundraising. So, maybe you’re not the lead message, but you’re sort of a secondary call to action. Let’s figure that out together.

And then you’ll know sort of when your time is right, and you can really develop strong messaging around those times that fit into the life of the entire organization. Yes. And then if you still need more, then we can talk about how you can do that through a real segmented list. Where, you know, you’re really just doing additional communication to very targeted folks and that can work too, but all of that has to be discussed and, and worked out and fleshed out.

Tobi: I think to just understanding the goals, you know, often I’ll say, you know, how many volunteers do you need? Right. Exactly. And they’ll say, well, and they’ll low ball. I’ve I’m where I work with a lot of people in our recruitment accelerator and they’ll low ball. I’ll say how many, how many volunteers, well, we’ve.

Character, you know, recently, since the pandemic, we have about 60 active volunteers. Well, you know, in one case I asked, how many kids are on your wait list? Well, we have 225 kids on our wait list. I go, then you, you need for volunteer mentors, you need 225 volunteers. Let’s not like keep people on the wait list.

Yeah. So, so folks are low balling because of fear. Because of uncertainty and I’m a strong believer in stretch goals. I also think if you don’t meet them, that’s okay. It’s setting your mind towards that goal and you need to make sure you’re not beating yourself up if you don’t meet them. But if you low ball yourself.

Kivi: You’re never getting anywhere and it’s not serving the ultimate mission So I feel like if the volunteer manager is going and saying like look These are these are our goals. We want to have x amount of retention percent of retention or Reduction in churn rate of volunteers leaving every and we’re keeping an eye on who’s active That’s the caveat guys.

You got to keep an eye on who’s active but also we want to grow our volunteer core by x percent to this number That’s going to really just being that specific. I think when I come to the, it’s not the communications director’s job to specifically recruit these folks, but they can figure out, you know, they know, for example, what kind of open rates they get, what kind of conversions they rates they get on calls to action, and they can kind of help you understand what to expect in your digital marketing, don’t you think?

Kivi: So it would be helpful. Absolutely. And I mean, I would argue that it could that hitting that number could be a shared goal, right? So like the volunteer people know the kinds of people they’re trying to reach. Hopefully they know what messaging is working, what the opportunities are, all of that. So that’s where there’s real overlap in terms of determining the message.

But your comms director now, I see it. Assuming there is decent technology, which again, this is a huge assumption in a lot of places, but you know, there’s a difference between recruiting 50 people and 500, right? Yeah. So if you’re trying to recruit 500, you’re probably hitting that entire list cause you’re just hitting a bigger number.

But if you’re getting to the point where you only need 25 or 50. And you know that ahead of time, your communications director can start watching the way that links are clicked. The emails are opened to basically build you a segment. So, for example, if I’m the communications director, and I have this, you know, big email list of 10 or 20, 000 people, and you’re telling me, you really only need 50 new recruits.

I’m going to go ahead and starts. I’ll plan some messaging that goes out to the entire list. And if it’s if volunteerism is in the open rate, I’ll make note of that. If there is a link clicked, I’ll make, I’ll make note of who’s clicking. So my opens on a subject line that mentions volunteerism and people that are clicking on links.

That mentioned volunteerism. Those are now my segment, right? Because they’ve expressed some kind of interest from the bigger list. I don’t have to keep emailing the 20, 000 people. Constant, constant, constant volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. When I’ve got 30 other people lined up behind you asking me to write an email about that too.

What I’m doing is I’m building a segment of people that are essentially now warm leads. Yes. They have done something in their inbox that tells me they’re. in some way, shape or form interested in volunteerism. Now we can do different email just to that segment. And again, we can keep refining who’s interested, who’s interested, who’s maybe these people now need a phone call.

Maybe they need a personal email because they’re getting warmer. Maybe they’re not filling out the form. And please, God, tell me there’s a form that people can fill out on your website. An interest form. Right? You know I preach this. Um. Not the application. An interest form. Right. So, maybe they’re opening a lot or clicking a lot, but they’re not quite doing the full call to action.

So, I don’t know. This is in communications land again. If you want to impress your communications director with how much you are willing to learn and cooperate, we talk about awareness, interaction and participation. So awareness is Oh, I see you. I see. There’s a volunteer thing, right? And then interaction is maybe I’m filling out that interest form.

Okay. You probably have people that are kind of stuck in the middle, right? And that’s that segment. They’re clicking, but they’re not completing the form. So we can do additional marketing to them. Bye. Bye. And then there’s between interaction, there’s actually participation, which is completing the call to action.

So they’re not just interacting with your interest form, but they’re actually signing up to come to your, you know, training or whatever your next thing is that you want people to do. And you can count the number of people that are in that funnel, and you can keep track of where people are in that funnel.

And that is how you get. to your final number that you need. But you have to do that with your comms person. Yes. And your comms person needs to know that you’re following up with people that are doing the form and keeping track on your end, what’s working and what’s not. So it really does have to be an integrated partnership to achieve this goal of recruiting this number of volunteers.

Tobi: Gang, it does serve the goals of the  comms director as well. Your, your nonprofit marketer is also responsible for engaging community. And getting eyeballs and hearts engaged in the mission. So, and those folks may become volunteers, may become donors, probably will become both. And just, you know, potential clients, you name it.

But let me ask you about ambassadors because we’ve been having this, you know, this conversation inside the volunteer pro community. And one of my coaching clients recently. They have a recruitment committee made up of volunteers and they have, we’re working on a full recruitment, digital recruitment campaign, but they also want to integrate.

And they said, well, what should we have them do? And they started with their job description and I said, I don’t think that’s where you start. I think you start with your recruitment plan. Let’s go through your recruitment plan and see. Where this recruitment committee of volunteers can be plugged in to the best effect where their skills, their connections, you know, their community capital can be leveraged to help further and amplify the messages that are already happening in your basic campaign.

How would, how would that particular group integrate with this process? Would it be, it would be the volunteer manager working with them directly? Would they ever work with the comms director? And what are Sort of a two part question. What are things you’ve seen for other types of ambassador programs that have worked well?

Kivi: So I think you just want to bring people into the conversation early, right? And then you can decide whether that comms director is just really acting as a consultant, as a sounding board, as a resource, or if there is really a role for them in implementation. So I think it really just depends on what you’re trying to do.

If you’re really trying to. Speak to a more limited group of folks. There may be some assets that the communication staff can provide, like making sure that all those volunteers have access to a clean logo and the templates and camber, whatever it is, you know, however much you’re empowering those people, or if that person actually needs to take on some of that work if it’s a more kind of broader community audience.

So I think it just depends, but the, the key is to have that conversation early and to bring them into, into the conversation, to brainstorm and think through things with you as a strategic partner. In terms of the sort of what you can do with ambassadors, you know, a lot of people will prewrite social media posts.

Develop graphics and then those things will not be used.  So I think it’s always, you know, we have a million different communications channels and not all of our volunteer leaders use all of them. So I think you wanna get really specific, what are these volunteer ambassadors willing to do? Yeah.

Are they willing to post on Facebook? Are they willing to share an event? Are they willing to make phone calls? You know, what are they actually willing to do because there’s nothing more infuriating to a communications director to be asked to create a bunch of work that then doesn’t actually get used.

So don’t ask for a bunch of graphics for your volunteers to share on social if no one is going to share them on social or no one is going to send an email. Don’t ask for the email draft if no one is actually going to forward a personal email. Like you got to really find out what people are willing to do. And then give them the assets.

Tobi: Yeah. I also think, you know, the real strength of volunteers as ambassadors is they have high credential. In fact, high trust level. In fact, and, and, you know, nonprofits don’t have automatic trust. Y’all, if you’re thinking that you’re crazy, because especially in today’s world, you know, it kind of ebbs and flows, whether or not the public trust nonprofits.

Kivi: You know, they have that there’s a, there’s a level of trust. There’s a level of credibility and most volunteers don’t have a lot of  Marcom’s they’re not, you know, they’re not Marcom’s folk usually. And so if you’re asking them to share a bunch of assets and they don’t really not comfortable with social media, that’s probably why now they’re not doing it.

Tobi: I feel like the, the real strength. And of course with traditional nonprofit management, one of the most basic things is to get people in the right seat, right people in right seat. So the right, right skillset that first of all, that they have the skillset or you can train it up. And second of all that they have the willingness, even sometimes people have the skillset and they’re like, no, I don’t want to do that because I already do that in my job 40, 50, 60 hours a week. I don’t want to do that on my weekends.

But also I think, you know, the relationship, the building of community, those personal touches, that’s where I feel like an ambassador group, if trained well, and if they understand the goals and if they’re, they’re meeting regularly with the volunteer coordinator, maybe, maybe the marketing director comes in and gets them briefed from time to time on like the style guide, the messaging, the overall strategy of the organization might be helpful for them to know the overall strategy of the organization so that when they’re out talking in the community, they can mention, Oh yeah, we are doing something big on giving Tuesday too. I know I’m here to talk about volunteerism, but giving Tuesday’s coming up and by the way, you know, get on our mailing list for that if you want to support us.

So I feel like that’s where they can be deployed best. I don’t know. Am I crazy in this?

Kivi: No. And I think, you know, getting people comfortable talking about the organization and about their passion and sharing that passion is absolutely something that you can do. But that’s, you know, that’s practicing talking with people, right?

That’s not a Facebook post. Yeah. And then similarly, I think a lot of us these days, because we are so focused on online communications, actually discount the value of print. So if you are talking to somebody, you might want to give them. A brochure and, you know, your communication staff is like, we haven’t made a brochure since like 1999, but the reality is that they might need something to hand to their friend as a reminder, right?

Yeah, or they might need a little flyer that they can put up in their office. And, and something visual to see, you know, or something on the refrigerator, a postcard on the refrigerator, you know, these little sort of visual reminders of things when people aren’t on their phone or on their computer are very powerful.

Tobi: Yeah. But I think a lot of us tend to sort of forget about that. And it’s also more expensive, right? Doing printing is more expensive.

Kivi: Yeah. So that’s always an issue, but I think, you know, this is something that has really changed. I think since, you know, you and I first got into this, this business, Tobi is, you know, with print now you can, you can make 20 brochures.

You don’t have to run 200, 500, 2000, you know, and you can update them more often and, you know, give people what they need in that moment. So it’s the right message for the right person at the right time. And that’s something you can work with your communications team on again, get the template worked out in Canva.

So, you know, you as the volunteer person, if you’re, you’ve got an opportunity to talk to 10 people who you think are going to go talk to 10 other people, you know, you can just sort of whip that up and print that out and make it. Super specific to what the volunteer opportunities are this quarter, you know, instead of it being like this big thing that you print and have to use for the next three years.

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely. If you print certain things like rack cards, for example, there’s companies just print rack cards and you can print off a million and one rack cards and it’s fairly inexpensive cause they’re doing it all day every day.

However, I like your approach better because you’re tailoring. You know, you’re, you’re updating and you’re tailoring and there’s nothing more effective in marketing than like, uh, you know, something that’s personalized.

Kivi: It doesn’t have to be personalized down to the nth degree, but, and it’s in the moment. Yeah. And if you, I mean, if you have a semi decent color printer at work, I mean, that’s good enough. Like it doesn’t have to print on like fancy paper that people don’t care about that. Right. It can be regular copy paper.

And if you don’t have a decent color printer, like. Go to FedEx or UPS or any of those other sort of staples. Any of those office stores do that print on demand stuff for you. They got the big, nice color copiers and the folding machines. It’s not that difficult. No, no. And while graphic design is important.

And I think if you have a style guide and you’re sharing and collaborating through Canva, you know Canva, you can put your branding in there. Your colors Canva’s great. And you can repurpose things. You can, yeah, resize. Now they have the magic resize. It doesn’t resize perfectly. You gotta go in and tinker.

But you know, you could create a brochure and then you could create a series of posts, you know, social posts that are branded along that that, that are similar. So you have a consistent sort of quote unquote mini campaign.

I think though people think that the design does the work and you know, I remember way back when one of my first jobs in non in in what with a government agency as a contractor.

I was doing marketing And folks just, you know, they’re like, well, we just need this brochure. And I go, well, no, we need people to hand out the brochure. It’s more important, the person handing, people ask me, what, how should I design a flyer? And I go, that’s not the question you should be asking right now.

Who’s going to deliver the flyer? What are they going to say? The flyer is a backup. Paper doesn’t convert people. People do, you know, absolutely. Yeah. So I’ve got a couple more questions for you before we wrap up, but one is, you know, I see a lot of mythology or misunderstandings really about different channels and what they can do, you know, specifically social media, but where are you seeing with folks who aren’t, you know, nonprofit marketers?

What misunderstandings do people have about the various channels? And gang, by channels we could, we’re talking about anything. It could be paper. It could be in your lobby. It could be person to person. It could be digital. There’s a wide range of ways we get our messages out. But where do people have the most, sort of, which channels have the most, like, misunderstanding around?

Kivi: Yeah, I would say two things, social media, obviously, because, you know, you, you hear about these big viral moments, right? And so everybody wants their viral moment, if they could just get their viral moment. And they don’t understand that you can’t really create a viral moment. And there are certainly ways you could, but it’s not anything a nonprofit is going to do.

Right? Right. So, you know, There’s that really understanding your target audience and on sort of the flip side, you don’t, I don’t think you need to be on every social media platform at this point. Social media has become very fractured just like all of the rest of the mainstream media has. And you really just need to pick 1, 2, 3 tops.

And be good there. So I do. And this is something that your communications staff can help you figure out, like who is really following you on social and what are your real opportunities there? There’s so much fake potential. In social media, there are so many empty promises about what’s possible on social media and just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s anywhere close to realistic.

So there’s just a lot of mythology and misunderstanding about what’s actually possible in social, especially if you don’t have any money. If you have advertising money, it’s a different story. I would say the other big misunderstanding is about how email functions right now. And so we’ve talked a little bit about email.

Uh, email has algorithms too. And just because in my inbox, somebody might be going to spam and in your inbox, that same email is at the top of your. Inbox waiting for you to read it. Email spam and delivery is completely personalized by an algorithm, just like social media is. And so people will say, well, it’s not going to spam.

It’s not going to spam. And yet it’s going to spam for like half your list. And again, that gets back to your reputation and how much people are engaging with your email. There’s all this going on behind the scenes that nonprofits. I have no clue about, I mean, I feel like we’ve been preaching it for a long time at nonprofit marketing guide, but I can guarantee you no one else in your organization understands there’s an email algorithm now.

And so, you know, people will get hung up on, well, I can’t use this spammy word that is so, I mean, it’s still technically important, but what’s more important is whether people are actually opening your email and clicking on links that determines how fast the email gets delivered to them and whether it’s in their spam folder or not.

So it’s really about creating engaging content and segmenting your list and getting rid of the people that are opening like we talked about at the beginning of the show. So I think those are, those are some big misconceptions I think about how email operates and then just about the promise or empty promise of social media.

Yeah, I mean with email it’s sort of circling back to the build it and they will come mentality. I just need to get this message out. Well, you know, I, you gotta spend a lot of time working on that subject line. You know, first off, I mean, with email, first off, you need to make sure that what’s in the emails you send out is of interest, it’s engaging, offers value.

So people know when they see something that comes from you, it’s in their inbox. It’s not going to be spammy. And they know that if they open, they’re going to be entertained or they’re going to be inspired, or they’re going to get some valuable information. So there’s the whole, like, you know, the, the content that people expect from you.

Tobi: So you can’t just be, you know, e blasting people. I hate that term, e blasting people. But also copywriting is everything. Copywriting is king here, especially your subject line, which people a lot of times don’t spend a lot of time thinking about subject line. And it’s like, gang, well, you’re not going to get open rates if you have, you know, one of my favorite, uh, mistakes with subject lines is, you know, August newsletter.

Kivi: You know, the thing is, the thing is that sometimes that’ll work, right? If people know that the newsletter is loaded with stuff they really want, then it really doesn’t matter what the subject line is. So sometimes that’ll work, but most of the time it doesn’t. And what’s even more important now, and again, this is sort of like the technology stuff that your comms people are keeping up with it.

No one else probably is, is that the open rate is even more fake metric than it used to be because of the way Apple has changed their iOS. Privacy rules. So what, you know, you can still look at open rate, but a lot of your open rates are really inflated. So, you know, if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re like, we must be doing something fabulous.

We don’t know what it is, but our open rates are now 40, 50, 60 percent and we didn’t do anything. It’s like, no, that’s all of the iOS changes that have inflated your open rates. So what we really encourage people to focus on now is writing for the click. Okay. Because the click is the one core metric that is still true.

Um, the bots generally aren’t clicking on things, although that’s not a hundred percent accurate either, but it’s definitely more accurate. Clicks are way more accurate than opens for sure. So again, that, that really changes the way that you’re talking about your opportunities and your calls to action and your email to get people to really want to click for more information.

Tobi: Yeah. Yeah. That’s, that’s helpful. So the key metric y’all. Not only how many, you know, there’s vanity metrics, how many people are on your list, but the impact metric is the click and the major impact metric is the conversion. Are people filling out the info form? And again, you’re not sending people to a two, three, four page volunteer application.

You’re just, You’re not married yet. You’re not signing a prenup right now. You’re just like dating and get to know, you know, and I, you know, I, I, people ask for too much too soon in the volunteer space. You gotta, you know, you gotta get to know people. They gotta trust you.

Kivi: Right. So I like that idea of an info, just going to a form, a very short sort of, Hey, yeah, I’m interested. Get in touch with me. You know, and you can set up an automation in the system that says immediately sends them an email and says great We’re super excited. And of course you want to have a double opt in and have them say yes I do want to hear from you all but also like hey, and you could send them an email with a video And now there’s personalized video, which is super I don’t know.

Tobi: I’m a fan of Bonjoro and the personalized videos. How do you feel about that?

Kivi: I think those are great too. And you know, I mean, I don’t know how many people are doing this now, but you know, maybe in that automated email, you’re sending folks a link to sign up for, uh, to talk to somebody. Right. So you’ve got the, the meeting scheduler already there and available and people can just book a 15 minute casual conversation about what you’re interested in doing and what opportunities we might have.

You know, I would rather, if I’m going to volunteer with someone, I would rather have that sort of personalized experience where it’s like, okay, I can spend 10, 15 minutes talking to somebody. I don’t want to have to sign up to go to a volunteer interest thing when like now I got to commit to go and I might not even, you know, I don’t even know what you guys are really doing.

It’s just like too much. But if I can sign online for like a 10 minute phone call and just get that on my schedule, you know, that’s easy breezy. Yeah. And you, I like that in, in interest form where you’re not going back and forth. You’re actually in the interest form right there, like a calendarly link or whatever.

Tobi: Exactly. And you can post a few questions in that calendar link to get to know that volunteer a bit. I like that idea because it’s, you’re striking while the iron’s hot. People have the urge, the emotional urge, they’ve seen something on your website or they’ve been getting your emails over time and they finally time has opened up on their calendar or whatever.

But if you’re asking people to fill out a bunch of forms and they’re in this bureaucratic process to add infinitum and sooner or later, maybe they’ll get to start volunteering. They’re off to another thing. Life is happening way too fast for that. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think making volunteering easier, not harder.

Kivi: Is absolutely essential. Especially now people are tired. They don’t want to do any heavy lifting right now. It’s we’ve been through a really heavy three year lift. So yeah, or just also feeling like, you know, do, am I, if I volunteer my committing for the rest of my life, right? I mean, I think in that, that all comes to the messaging and that’s messaging that has to be created, you know, by the volunteer coordinator, cause they’re the ones that have the expertise and what’s actually possible.

Um, and what’s helpful, but then also with the communication staff who are going to know how to write the copy usually, um, more clearly to get that click.

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely. So that’s again, where this really is an integrated approach to achieve these results. Yeah, and that we’re going to end it with that.

That is such a, that’s a great way to end it gang. This has been so good. Kivi so much. Thank you so much. I have two more, two more questions to ask cause I always ask my guests these questions, but this has been such a great conversation.

I think you’ve given some really great pithy strategies that people can take, but the overall message really is, you know, start collaborating.

Now, start talking early and often and start to align so that you can find synergy. I just think that’s the biggest takeaway for me.

Kivi: Yeah, absolutely. And you and I should talk more than every eight years.

Tobi: Got that straight. So tell me, what are you most excited about for the year ahead?

Kivi: Well, at Nonprofit Marketing Guide, we are in the midst of making some really major changes with our software, so it’s a lot of back end boring stuff for folks that just want to be able to get the information and the training, but we’re really excited about really being the professional development home for nonprofit communicators in 2024.

It’s sort of a promise we’ve been making for a long time that we weren’t really feeling sort of doing fully, but I think we’re going to finally be doing that in 2024, so I’m excited about that for our community. Um, and really helping people connect better with each other. That’s fantastic. I love it. I’m in the same boat.

We’re taking VolunteerPro to the next level this coming year and just thinking, you know, over the years. We need to talk We do need to talk separately about this. We’ll book some time. Yeah. Tools. Uh, strategies, what we’ve been doing. Um, but yeah, I mean, Kibbe, Hey. I built the brand with your coaching, you were the coaching, you were the cornerstone, my friend. You really got me.

Kivi: I can give you a lot of, I can talk all day, but you got to run with it, so congratulations on that.

Tobi: Oh, thank you. So, uh, one last question. How can folks find you and get your fantastic information? Gang, I got to tell you, Kivi’s website, please. There is so much information on there. It’s fantastic.

Kivi: Well, we’re, we’re at nonprofitmarketingguide.com. Um, uh, and because I also have a fairly unique name, you can honestly just Google me, uh, and that will come up as well. So Kivi Leroux Miller, I think Kivi Miller will probably even get you there.

Tobi: Awesome. And gang, if you’re looking for books on the basics of nonprofit marketing, uh, content marketing, which is a little bit sort of part two, 200 level. These are fantastic books. They’re super well written. There’s lots of information and if your marketing director doesn’t have their hands on these books, you need to promote them to them as well.

Kivi: Maybe buy them a copy. Yeah. It’s a great way to start a conversation. It is. I’ll be like, how did I not know about this?

Tobi: Oh, yeah. I, I hear that about volunteer management sometime too. We did not, where were you living all of my life? I would, I would get emails like that and I’m like, I don’t know, I’ve been here.

Kivi: Right.

All right. Well, we got to talk soon. Let’s not make it eight years.

Kivi: I agree. I agree. Yeah, maybe we’ll be at the same conference sometime.

I don’t know. We’ll, we’ll talk anyway, gang. Thanks again for joining us today. If you know anybody who could use these value bombs that Kivi has shared today, please share this podcast with a friend. It’s how we grow our audience and more importantly, share the word about new tactics and share expertise from fantastic guests like Kivi.

And if you would. Please, would you go down and rate us? If you’re on your phone right now, you could do it right now. Just rate us. We’d love to have a five star rating, but you do you, boo. And uh, we will see you next week, same time, same place on the Volunteer Nation. Take care, 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.