Episode #032: How to Utilize Volunteers for Giving Tuesday with Julia Campbell

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 with the very awesome Julia Campbell, who actually has a podcast called Non-Profit Nation that I discovered.  

I’ve been following Julia for a while. I see her around, I’ve been seeing her around. She’s my sister from another mother because we’ve been leading parallel lives for a while in the nonprofit space. 

And it’s really interesting when I was looking up what she was up to and I’m like, “Wait a minute. Nonprofit Nation. Shut up!” So it’s gonna be really exciting to talk to Julia.  

Before we get started though, I just wanna mention to everybody that our VisionWeek five-day strategic planning sprint is happening December 5th, starts on Monday, ends on Friday. 

By the end, if you do the work, you will have a strategic plan for volunteer engagement. Yes, we are promising that. Now, you’ve gotta do the work, but I will lead you through.  

So we will have live teaching about an hour a day, Monday through Wednesday. Then we’re gonna have three days of co-working sessions of an hour a day, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. You can join, you don’t have to.  

Then we’re gonna do a wrap up celebration and I’m offering a VIP experience. So stay tuned for that. If you wanna learn more, go to volpro.net/vision. This is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this, so I’m really excited about it.  

I hope you are too. If you really wanna kick your volunteer engagement into high gear in 2023, leave covid in the dust, leave the last two years in the dust and start rebuilding a really engaging and really vibrant program, you gotta join us. So check it out. Volpro.net/vision.  

So back to our regular programming. I wanna introduce Julia. She was named a top thought leader and one to follow by Forbes and LinkedIn for non-profits. Julia Campbell is a non-profit digital consultant, speaker, and author, on a mission to make the digital world a better place.  

Host of the acclaimed Non-profit Nation podcast, as I mentioned. She’s written two books for non-profits on social media and storytelling, and her online courses, webinars, and talks have helped hundreds of non-profits make the shift to digital thinking. 

You can learn more about Julia at JCsocialmarketing.com/blog. I will absolutely put links in the show notes. So gang, you don’t have to remember that. We will make sure to link in the show notes. So Julia, welcome.  

Julia: Thanks, Tobi. I’m so excited to be here. That challenge sounds amazing, that’s sprint.  

Tobi: Yeah. We’re really excited. We just kind of thought of it off the cuff. It wasn’t something we had planned on doing, and the thing that I see missing sometimes in our space, particularly in the volunteer space, is just folks are really shooting from the hip and they don’t really have a plan in place. 

And I find that people are very much…first of all, most volunteer managers wear many hats. So they’re doing a variety of things. They’re doing everything all at once and they’re trying to be effective.  

And I feel like people are overwhelmed. They feel stressed, they’re not being effective, focusing on the right things at the right time. And if you have a plan in place, you can kind of divvy out your work a little bit better.  

And part of this is what I’ve learned from years and years in my own, both consulting practice, but also as a leader of volunteers. So I try to bring my best learnings of how to keep yourself safe and sane in this space. 

Julia: Yeah. Well, my mantra for 2023 is to be proactive and not reactive. That’s what I teach a lot of my students and clients.  

Tobi: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. So folks probably don’t know you. You’re the founder of Julia Campbell Social Marketing and you’re the author of Storytelling in the Digital Age, A Guide for Nonprofits. 

So, gang – as a leader of volunteers, you are absolutely telling stories, right? So you need to get your hands on this book and the book, How to Mobilize the Social Media Community for Your Nonprofit in 90 Days.  

Gang again. Many, many, many of you ask me about what I do with social. Whether you’re the person who’s primarily responsible or you are partnering with your MarComs department, you still have an input and a say and content that you can bring. 

You know the volunteer stories, there’s a million stories every day and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be shared in your social feed. So absolutely get your hands on these books. And we will link to your website and they can figure out where to get them from there. Is that true?  

Julia: You can get them, you know, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but also if you go to my website.  

Tobi: That’s awesome. So tell us a little bit more about yourself for folks who don’t know you How did you get involved in this?  

Julia: I started out as a development and marketing director when I had my first job in nonprofit. Well, actually, technically I was a teen program coordinator right after college. I graduated and I ran a teen program in Boston.  

I studied magazine journalism and the program was called Teen Voices and it was a magazine for girls, and it taught them how to do the reporting, editing, layout, graphic design, photography, production, every single aspect of magazine design. 

And it was run and produced by teen girls, 14 girls. That was a fantastic experience. Then I served in the Peace Corps. I was in Senegal in West Africa for two and a half years, and I think that’s really where I ran my first fundraising campaign because I was working with NGOs and working on a lot of projects there. 

Came home, became a development director, marketing director, oftentimes both at the same time. Development, marketing, and occasionally volunteer coordinator. So I have done that role on top of all my other roles, and right now I help nonprofits navigate the digital landscape.  

I do audits and assessments, but also coaching and consulting around how best to use digital tools to accomplish your goals and how to create a plan and how to use them strategically rather than, like you said, shooting from the hip. 

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely. And so needed now. I know in our Volunteer Management Progress Report survey – which gang is live right now until Thanksgiving, so participate if you can – we have found digital maturity.  

We got a bump in self-assessed digital maturity in the middle of the pandemic, and then it went down again, of digital maturity vis-a-vis volunteer engagement. So I think people started using tech tools, then realized there was lots more tech tools to learn.   

This is my assessment. I don’t know this is for sure, but this is my read on it. People are seeing what’s out there and then realizing, oh wow, there’s way more that I could get involved in, way more tools I could use, way more ways to be efficient. 

You know, way more overwhelming. It can be overwhelming without the right guide. So we’re here to talk about engaging volunteers in giving Tuesday, and I think many of the folks who are listening may or may not be utilizing volunteers and giving Tuesday, and may not be actually doing so in all the creative ways they can. 

So I’m really excited about this and we are, you know, we’re a few weeks away, so there’s still time, y’all. So let’s talk about what are the reasons to involve volunteers in giving Tuesday? Let’s just start there.  

Julia: Well people, let’s start, I mean, I wanna start with whether or not you should run Giving Tuesday. Cause I think maybe there’s some, some misconceptions out there.  

I obviously think you should, and I know that you think that you should, but I want people to understand that it’s not really, it’s not the “Hunger Games Nonprofits,” as it has been called. It’s a day to celebrate generosity, and volunteers are generous. 

So it’s a day to celebrate all of the great work that we do and to bring new people into the fold, and also really just to spread the word about what we do. So it’s actually perfect, a perfect day to engage volunteers, whether it is on social media or fundraising or advocacy or awareness.  

So, Giving Tuesday started out as just a day to sort of lift the veil on all of the great causes in the United States, and now it’s international. It’s in almost every single country.  

And celebrate the spirit of generosity that exists. And you know, it’s sort of a counter to the cult of consumerism. Obviously, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either of those days, but it’s sort of a counter to that.  

What I see it as is really democratizing philanthropy and showing people that even $10, $5, or just sort of, you know, volunteering can make a difference. Your time, treasure, your talent, anything that you can give can make a difference. And that’s the spirit of giving Tuesday.  

So if we explain to our volunteers whatever the purpose of our campaign is, but that it really to celebrate them and their spirit and their generosity as well. And it’s a day for them to really be acknowledged and to come together and to build community around that. 

So I think that Giving Tuesday is absolutely fantastic. I also think there are just so many ways to engage volunteers on giving Tuesday. Um, do you want me to go. Well, let’s, some of the ways, Or do we, Am I jumping ahead?  

Tobi: Well, let me put a pin in this for just a minute before we move on to the practical-tactical. You said something about, it’s a way to bring in volunteers into the party, right?  

It’s really about celebrating philanthropy and volunteers are part of philanthropy. In your mind…I often think volunteerism and financial support are sort of kept in separate silos. 

I mean, in some organizations that person might wear both of those hats, you know, the volunteer and the financial or development side of the house. But usually they’re separate, often not even in the same department.  

What’s your take on this? Do you feel like there are separate silos that are happening in nonprofits you’ve been working with? Or do you feel like across, and we don’t have exact date on this, but in your gut thinking about this, do you feel like there’s siloing happening?  

Julia: Absolutely. I just see siloing in the terms that we use. Major donor, annual donor, peer to peer donor. You know, grant funder, board member, some of the terms that we’re using were, I think we’re using them to really silo different groups of donors. 

And there’s a purpose for that, certainly, because obviously if you have a $10,000 donor, you’re a really tiny organization, you probably need different stewardship strategies maybe then for the $5 donor.  

But Lynn Wester, who is the donor relations guru, actually she just changed the name of her business, DRG group. So Lynn Wester says that we should eliminate all of that.  

We should treat all donors the same. We should treat volunteers the same. Anyone that is in our philanthropic ecosystem, we should be treating with the same level of love and care. And I believe that, too.  

So I see volunteers as a critical piece, not only of the third sector, but of philanthropy in general and driving, I would say almost a hundred percent of the missions of my clients and my students.  

They couldn’t do the work that they do without volunteers, whether it’s board members or whether it’s people on the ground, or whether it’s people unloading trucks or painting or whatever they’re doing right. Then the work can’t get done, the mission can’t move forward. 

So I agree that there are silos, but I think that especially on a day like Giving Tuesday, we need to be celebrating everyone that is part of our generosity ecosystem.  

Tobi: Yeah. I think it’s a great opportunity if you’re in a nonprofit where you feel like that silo really exists is to start the conversation. Like, what does philanthropy mean? To use it, at the very least, to use Giving Tuesday as a catalyst to start that conversation about what does philanthropy mean in our organization.  

You know, their volunteers will leave bequests to organizations after they pass and the organization has no idea. And you think about when you say stewardship, who knows the most about your mission?  

Who is the most informed, aside from paid staff? Volunteers on the continuum of giving. Philanthropy volunteers are the ones that know the most, and our research does say donate more, donate more often, to the places where they volunteer. 

Volunteers are donors and donors are volunteers, so I completely agree and we’ll link to Lynn Wester and the DRG group in the show notes that people wanna look up that as well.  

But I absolutely agree that these silos don’t help us. You know, aligning communications. Figuring out where people are at in that journey and what information they need from us. When to make the right ask.  

I remember my aunt, she was volunteering for a hospice. And she got an invitation to an annual luncheon to celebrate volunteers. And within two days or so, she also got a donor request email.  

And it made her really pissed off because she was like, “Wait, on the one hand you wanna thank me and on the other hand you want my money.” Now if you would’ve asked her at a different time of year and made the appeal.  

Julia: Maybe appreciated her first before asking. I think that’s what happens. That’s what we get wrong.  

Tobi: Yeah. So, if those two departments would’ve been talking together better, who knows what would’ve happened. So we’ve talked a little bit about what Giving Tuesday is.  

How long has it been around, do you know? I remember seeing it on the scene about 10 years ago.  

Julia: I think it’s the 10th anniversary this year. I could be wrong.  

Tobi: Okay. And you know, it’s funny because I remember, I used to belong to the Association for Fundraising Professionals here in my area. And I didn’t feel like it was for me as a volunteer leader. 

And I stopped being a member, and they would have this philanthropy day for giving Tuesday or around that period of time. And I would be like, “Why? Why should I show up? This doesn’t have anything to do with me.” Because it wasn’t message that way.  

Julia: Exactly. I think Giving Tuesday is doing a fantastic job now messaging. They actually got a really big grant from Mackenzie Scott. And they are doing a lot more messaging themselves. 

But I still think that there’s so many pervasive myths and misconceptions out there that people have about it. Also, because a lot of people have “run,” – I’m using air quotes here – “run” a Giving Tuesday campaign and it failed.  

And by that I mean sent one email, right? They didn’t raise the amount of money that they did, so now they’re blaming Giving Tuesday, I think we tend to blame the days, or we blame the tools, but we don’t actually look at ourselves and our message and our ask, and see if it was the right time, the right person, and the right message.  

Tobi: Yeah. So the date is November 29th, 2022. For those of you who are listening to our-  

Julia: Oh, you’ll start getting those emails, people! We’ll start sending them out. I mean, I always recommend starting early and getting people.  

I just got a Giving Tuesday email today about a campaign that’s gonna be running on Giving Tuesday from a place that I’m a monthly donor, so it’s appropriate.  

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely. So if you’re listening to the back catalog of this podcast, it happens the – what is it? – the fourth? 

Julia: The Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  

Tobi: Tuesday after Thanksgiving. So if you’re listening later or after 2022, just it’s every year and we’ll link to the Giving Tuesday website as well.  

Julia: Yeah, just GivingTuesday.org, and all of the resources on there are free, and they’re a non-profit as well. 

Tobi: Awesome. Cool. So let’s get into a little bit more of the tactical, because I know people are thinking, “Okay, you’ve inspired me a little. I might wanna dip my baby toe into this.”  

So what are different ways nonprofits can involve volunteers in their giving Tuesday efforts? Small and large.  

Julia: There are so many different ways. I think the number one piece of advice that I give is to have a very specific ask for your volunteers, so you can have a menu of options. 

But I wouldn’t give them any more than three. options, because I’ve seen like a bingo card, I’ve seen a menu of 20 options. People get overwhelmed. They don’t know which one to choose. They don’t know which one’s the most impactful.  

And I think it’s our job to explain the purpose of the campaign and what we need people to do. So the campaign has the most impact. If you’re thinking about, say you’re running, or your development director is running a fundraising campaign, and they want more people to donate. 

I think for volunteers, you can give them three specific actions they can take. You know, share this on your social media, share in an email. If you want to share in an email, maybe record a short video of yourself and what volunteering means to you.  

Those are three really simple ways that people can help. They don’t have to do all three. Some people don’t like videos, some people don’t wanna ask for money. I’ve run Giving Tuesday campaigns that are all about awareness.  

So that’s another one where it’s just, “Okay, spread the word.” Maybe email 10 friends, maybe call the local paper or partner with another organization that’s in your community and, you know, put a flyer up. 

So I think giving people specific options. What you don’t wanna do is say, “It’s giving Tuesday on November 29th. We’re running a campaign and we need your help.” And then not tell people exactly what you want them to do and exactly how to do it.  

I also see the most effective campaigns giving a specific toolkit. So, writing the tweet, writing the Facebook post, creating the Instagram graphic, creating the email, creating the talking points.  

Whatever you want your volunteer to do, make it as easy and cut-and-paste as possible for them to do it. Because if you say, “Post on Instagram,” it seems easy, but it’s actually a little bit more challenging. 

I just worked on an awareness campaign with Boston Public Schools, for college and career month, and that’s in October. We had a group of ambassadors and the feedback we got from them, even though we gave them so much content, they said, “You know, we really wish you had just written it for us and been like: Monday’s post, this is what we wanna post on Monday. This is what we want you to post on Tuesday.”  

So we took that feedback and created content calendar, and actually gave it all to them so they could just cut and paste. Post the graphics, post the video, and they didn’t have to really think about it. So really holding our volunteers’ hands, recognizing that they’re busy and they are taking time out of their day. 

I also would love to see more stories, like if you have some volunteers and you can cherry pick them, and there’s three volunteers that you think are just absolutely phenomenal and have great stories, reach out to them.  

See if you could do a really quick 30-second video about what working with your organization means, because we don’t only have to hear from clients on Giving Tuesday, we don’t only have to hear the frontline stories. 

I wanna know the full holistic nature of the organization. You know, who works there, who volunteers there. And often your volunteer stories are very powerful because people are donating their time.  

And like you said, Tobi, they are the eyes and ears. I mean, they know what really goes on in this organization. So I think those are my really top tips. Just don’t overcomplicate things. 

And start early. Start now asking people for what you want to give them. Don’t just send out one email, because one email does not work for a volunteer request.  

Make sure you’re sending them a few emails. Make it fun, make it happy, make it upbeat and make it really easy to participate.  

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely. So the role of volunteers as ambassadors. The role of volunteers as storytellers. And they offer a really powerful type of social proof because you know what the community is behind this organization.  

And people, they might not think this, I mean, funders will think this, but individual donors don’t think…well, maybe they do. I don’t know. You tell me that. 

You know, ‘My donation is being leveraged here with volunteer talent.” I don’t know if they make that ROI calculation in their head, but it is social proof.  

Julia: They might. I think that donors, some donors are very focused on the ROI. Some donors are much more emotional.  

I make an emotional calculation, but some donors really do look at that and say, “Oh, well, you’re leveraging volunteers so that means that more of my dollar is actually gonna go to the program.”   

Although I can’t stand the overhead myth, but I think that some donors are really savvy like that.  

Tobi: Yeah. Are there any sort of corporate programs, or corporate dollars-for-doers types of programs, that ever align with Giving Tuesday as in a day of service or some way, or their matching funds, that kind of thing? Is there an ask for that as well during giving Tuesday?  

Julia: I think that if you’re raising money, having a matching fund or a matching gift is kind of the best way to do it because it’s gonna help you. Also, I don’t like the term “cut through the clutter,” but it’s gonna help your donors really pick you. 

It’s not necessarily competition. Just because it’s Giving Tuesday doesn’t mean I’m gonna make a gift. I still have to care about the cause. But if I know there’s a matching gift and my gift can go three times as far, it does tend to make me either wanna donate more or donate during that time period. 

People use Giving Tuesday to kick off year-end, but I do think if you have a matching gift that you can leverage, maybe have your volunteers call some donors and see if there’s any corporation, any local business, any one of your major gift donors that would be willing to make that matching gift to even make donations go farther on Giving Tuesday. I think that is a really important point.  

I see a lot of Giving Tuesday campaigns around volunteering. So there was a campaign in 2020. It was in Detroit and it was like, “Make Detroit Beautiful.”  

And volunteers ran all over Detroit and did chalk drawings and took pictures, and they went up to people’s driveways and they just wrote, you are loved and you’re awesome. And they wrote all these inspiring messages to, you know, make Detroit beautiful.  

And even something like that. I’m thinking there’s a campaign locally here on Giving Tuesday, there’s a winter coat drive. And volunteers are coming together for the winter coat drive.  

There’s always a Thanksgiving Turkey drive that’s before giving Tuesday, but then there’s always spillover into food donations. So, certainly if you’re not raising physical funds, you can raise awareness of the volunteer opportunities at your organization.  

And one thing I wanted to add is when you’re telling these stories, make sure that you are sharing a little piece of what the volunteer does, because if I see that story and I say, “Oh, I didn’t know they needed front desk help. I didn’t know they needed people to babysit during support group.” It’s just people don’t know.  

We think that people know much more than they do, but always talk a little bit about what the person does and sort of their emotional experience. One of the best volunteer stories I ever read was from a domestic violence shelter locally, and it was a woman that was saying she was terrified to start on the hotline. 

She didn’t think she was qualified. She was really scared, and it really spoke to me because I think a lot of people feel that way. They think they’re not qualified, they think they can’t do it. They think the time commitment’s too much.  

So if you have those stories, you know, definitely shed light on the myths that people might have about volunteering and Giving Tuesday’s a perfect time to do that. 

Tobi: Yeah. I think too, any of those stories of personal transformation, and the ones that are the most powerful, as you said. You know, it’s really about if you could find stories that directly address volunteer objections. Like, “Oh, this is gonna be too intense.”  

You know, I remember I used to work with homeless kids in San Francisco, and I started an employment and training program, and I remember I told my friends. They were like, “Well, what are you doing lately?” 

“Well, I just started up this program within this organization in San Francisco to help homeless youth and young adults get back to work.” And everybody’s like, “Oh, that’s so sad.” I’d be like, “What’s sad about it? Kids are getting off the street and into jobs! Like, I’m sorry, I’m not seeing sad here.”  

Julia: I’m seeing inspiring!  

Tobi: Yeah! Is it hard? Yes. Do people stumble and have setbacks? Yes, absolutely. But that’s what we’re here for. Anyway, so I think the myth busting and also the personal transformation. Those are the stories.  

You know, I was working with a client on a volunteer recruitment campaign and I asked them, I did a little bit of an audit of their communications just to see how they were recruiting and what was working.  

And I said, “Well, what do you notice about your social media? Where do you get the most likes and shares and all that?” They’re always personal stories.  

They’re of donors, of volunteers, of people who are involved. You know, that’s what people wanna hear about. People really want their heart touched.  

Julia: And that’s how we make sense of hard issues. That’s how we actually can empathize and put into context.  

You can send me data all day long, but once I read a story about an actual family, a person that’s either going through it or someone working with them, then it helps me understand that while the problem seems insurmountable, there’s one piece, a corner of the problem that’s being solved or at least being addressed. 

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely. Breaks it down to something on a human level.  

Okay, so we can use volunteers, bring volunteers and partner with them around being ambassadors, around sharing stories and content, around making asks and outreaching to some of our donors.  

Julia: Or thanking people! 

Tobi: Or thanking people, or figuring out and reminding people that they can also get a matching gift from their employers. I also think there’s a place for skilled volunteers that might have experience in marketing, et cetera.  

You know, if you think about CatchaFire and I’ll put a link to CatchaFire. They’re always looking for projects. And these are folks that get paid big bucks to come up with campaigns, and they want to donate their time to a nonprofit. 

And, you know, sometimes you need an outside voice to come in and say, “Well here’s a campaign you might do,” or “Here’s how you might approach this.”  

Julia, Right, examples. I think that’s a great idea. And helping think through the communications plan for Giving Tuesday, because you do need a plan. You need to know, okay, this is when we’re going to identify the volunteers we want to ask.  

This is what we’re going to ask them. This is when we’re gonna create all of the assets that I talked about, the graphics, the social media posts, the emails, and send it to them.  

This is where we’re gonna house it, maybe Google Drive, and this is how we’re gonna follow up with them. And then this is how we’re gonna thank them at the end, and make sure that they know this was the impact that you had on Giving Tuesday.  

Even if you don’t reach your goal, I always tell people you should still communicate what happened and especially to your volunteers. Communicate your learnings. Like you might not wanna communicate your learnings to your donors, but to your volunteers, communicate and say, “All of you did such a fabulous job.” 

I know with the Boston Public School campaign, we looked at the social media analytics and we shared it out and we said, “This is what you did.” You know, 10,000 mentions on Twitter and 40,000 on Instagram, and this reel got 10,000 views and this is what your amplification helped do, and it was so impactful.  

So just making sure that you don’t kind of leave it at the end of the day, Giving Tuesday, you tell the volunteers the impact that they had, and you know, this is the plan even if we didn’t raise all the money.  

We’re still doing great, and this is what we’re gonna do with the money. Or this is what we’re gonna do with the awareness, or this is what we’re gonna do with the advocacy that we created.  

So just letting them know all of that, even if they sent one social media post, you know that it does make a difference. 

Tobi: Yeah, I think that’s so smart to circle back. I think people make the ask and then they don’t think about appreciation. “Okay, we’ve gotta have some big thing, we’ve gotta have a luncheon, we’ve gotta have this, that, or the other.”  

But what volunteers really wanna do is make a difference, so show them that they made the difference, right?  

Julia: Yeah. Or just, if you have a small crew, send a thank you note. Send something meaningful. I think that little touch can be really impactful.  

Tobi: Yeah. That’s awesome. Okay, well, we’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back with specifics on how to engage volunteers in giving Tuesday campaigns with Julia Campbell. So don’t go anywhere.  

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Tobi: Okay, we’re back with our discussion with Julia Campbell about how to utilize volunteers for Giving Tuesday. Let’s get into some more actionable steps that organizations can take to get their volunteers involved. 

So Julia, what would you say to volunteer coordinators who are hesitant? And I hear this a lot, to ask volunteers to donate or be part of fundraising efforts if they’re not already doing.  

What would you say to folks that are saying, “I’m not sure I should be asking people and I don’t know. They’re already giving so much of their time.” I hear this a lot. I have my own opinions on it, but I wanna hear what you have to say.  

Julia: This is a tough one. And actually I was just talking to Steven Screen of the Better Fundraising Company just yesterday, and I asked him this.  

I said, “What do you think about asking staff members for donations or asking volunteers for donations?” And the way he framed it, he says, “You know, we should think about fundraising as really inviting people to a party.”  

Inviting people in. And if they don’t wanna come to the party, that’s fine. Maybe they’ll come later. And if they do wanna come to the party, we better throw a great party and we gotta show them a great time and make sure that they wanna come again. 

And I think that analogy is really good. So I wouldn’t strong-arm your volunteers, but I would let them know that the campaign is happening. And I would also be very specific as to where the donations go and maybe create a smaller ask for them. 

And definitely preface it and say, “We are so grateful of your donations of time. We wanted to let you know that we are running this campaign, and we wanna provide 300 backpacks to children in rural Arkansas.”  

Whatever it might be, like we wanna provide this. This is where the money’s going. If you wanna participate, we’d love your participation. If not, we would just love if you could help us spread the word. So that’s really giving them the option of either making the donation or spreading the word.  

I think that really personal ask, that’s where we get lost, is we lump our volunteers in with our donor newsletter. Like you just said with your friend who received that appeal, she was on the mailing list, as in the donor list, when she should have been segmented out or had a very specific communication created to her. 

So we can’t just lump them in with our regular email list, our regular mailing list. It has to be much more personal. Maybe it’s a video that is created by the executive director that is first and foremost saying thank you, but then explaining the campaign and telling them how they can get involved.  

So we know there’s so many more ways to be philanthropic than giving, but I would hesitate to say we can’t ask. That’s sort of like when people say to me, we can’t ask our clients for stories.  

And I think, Well, you never know. I mean, you can’t just have a blanket assumption about all of the clients. So I wouldn’t have a blanket assumption about all of the volunteers. That’s my thoughts. 

Tobi: Yeah, totally agree. I think we can’t say no. We can’t say no. Let people say no if they wanna say no. Make the invitation. And I like your idea of offering opportunities. So, you can raise awareness, amplify, you can donate.  

I like to talk about my grandmother who lived on her own in subsidized housing, low income senior housing, living off social security until she was 101. In her own apartment, wanted to be independent. 

And you know, she was donating to all kinds of things. Because she had like 10 kids, you know, 20 some grandkids, 20 some great grandkids, and 12 great, great grandkids.  

So she got tons of booty from our family for her birthday, and what she wanted for her birthday to give it away. And when she passed away, we found out she had bought a piano for her church. 

And she’s super limited means. She’s living on, she was on Medicaid. She was living on really limited means. And so, I think we really do the community a disservice by not extending an invitation because then they’re not part of it.   

Julia: And sometimes people find giving as a sort of antidote to all of the madness in the world. They feel like it gives them agency.  

I know, especially during Covid, especially during the political season, sometimes I would make donations if I saw something that made me angry. If I saw something that spurred my emotions, and it would make me feel better.  

We have to understand that giving back should make people feel good. So we’re giving them that opportunity. And we’re certainly not penalizing them if they can’t give. But that’s just like any other donor, you’re issuing the invitation to them and you’re not chastising them if they can’t donate. 

You’re not making them feel bad. I do not like manipulative fundraising. I do not like the fundraising that makes you feel bad at all. I really don’t. You can certainly pull heartstrings and create an emotional response. 

But that kind of fundraising, you know, you see those ads on TV that you think, “Oh my gosh, like I can’t even look at this because it’s so horrifying.” That kind of fundraising I’m not a fan of, but the invitation is there, and letting people express themselves how they wanna express themselves. 

So, I don’t know. I’m a big fan of just asking everyone. You just never know. And honestly, what is it Wayne Gretzky says, “You don’t get a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”  

So, you know, you do not get a hundred percent of the asks you don’t ask the money, you don’t ask for. 

Tobi: Yeah. Yeah. So we’ve talked a little bit about toolkits and how to thank folks. Is there anything else people need to watch out for when it comes to engaging volunteers?  

Whether it’s preparing them to support Giving Tuesday and participating, or thanking them after the fact? Is there anything else you see people getting wrong when they’re involving volunteers that we haven’t talked about? 

Julia: I see the main thing that people get wrong is the lack of preparation, and the lumping in of volunteers with the entire mailing list.  

You know, I opened up my email on Giving Tuesday and all of a sudden I’ve got the ask. I have no context. Volunteers feel like they’re a part of your organization. They feel invested. They don’t feel like they should be treated like just another person.  

So, definitely creating that plan for preparation and communication ahead of time. A lot of your volunteers also are not going to know what Giving Tuesday is. I mean, for us, like it’s in my blood.  

You wouldn’t even believe the amount of text messages that I get on Giving Tuesday or direct messages from friends and family that say, “Oh, I’ve just heard of this. Should I make a donation?”  

I’m like, Oh my god, yes. And here’s a list of 20 non-profits you can donate to! But people don’t necessarily know. They don’t get it. Maybe they’ve heard of it. Maybe they have a bad taste in their mouth from some other experience they had.  

So you know, maybe holding a Zoom or a virtual event and just saying, “Hey, we’re kicking off our Giving Tuesday campaign. We’re so excited. We just wanted to let you know what’s going on so that if you get asked about it, you can talk about it. Here’s where you can direct people.”  

You know, because sometimes when you volunteer, people will ask you, they’ll say, “Oh, I heard it’s Giving Tuesday. I wanna make a donation. I know you volunteer over at Beverly Bootstraps. How can I make a donation?”  

So you wanna equip them with that information beforehand. You wanna show them where they can go on the website to get information. You wanna show them exactly what you have in store, what you’re trying to raise, your goal, how you’re trying to raise it. 

This is all of course for fundraising. You can do this for advocacy and awareness campaigns as well, but just don’t blindside people. And definitely don’t wait until the morning of to send an email to your poor volunteers who, you know, they think they know what’s going on. 

They think they know the insider view of your organization, and then they just get an email out of nowhere. So I would do a lot of preparation ahead of time and then, like I said before, just to repeat myself, a lot of impact reporting after the fact. 

Not just letting Giving Tuesday be 24 hours or however long you run your campaign, and then never speaking to anyone again. Really letting people know.  

And if you want a gold star, maybe calling out specific volunteers and saying, “Oh my gosh, Vanessa got everyone at her work to donate $5,” or I don’t know, whatever it might be.  

Calling out some specific people that went above and beyond. I think that works really well, too.  

Tobi: That’s so awesome. I love this idea of a briefing of your volunteers, and including what happened last year too. Here’s what we did last year. Here’s how we wanna do more this year. You know, here’s the who, why, when, where, how. 

Julia: And get them involved! The briefing is where you can ask their opinions and say…you’re not really gonna change the messaging at that point. Maybe you wanna have a volunteer meeting earlier. 

But you can get their opinion. And say, “What do you think? Here are two choices for the logo,” or “Here are two choices for a Facebook post. Which one do you like?” 

Just getting buy-in from people that really understand and know you. So I would definitely do that briefing. I would tell people, but I would really look at it as almost… 

If it’s a smaller group, you know, if it’s hundreds of people, but if it’s a smaller group looking at it as a focus group, and you’re kind of running it past them first and seeing what ideas they have, because they’re gonna have some great ideas for you.  

Tobi: Oh, it’s so great. Such a great, you know, there’s never not a time to involve volunteers. And, you know, people are down on what they’re not up on. And the minute they become part of the process, you’re gonna have, everybody’s gonna be on point. 

You know, you’re not waiting till like…now you know, this is gonna air pretty close to Giving Tuesday, so probably now’s not the time for focus groups, but next time around, or anytime you’re doing focus groups. 

Julia: Or afterwards! What worked, like a debrief.  

Tobi: Debrief! Oh, these are such great ideas! And even any other fundraising campaigns you have throughout the year, why not? 

Julia That’s exactly right. Any big campaign. Say you have a cause and awareness month, and we all do. All of us, every single one.  

There’s a cause and awareness month, or a week for whatever it is you do. That is a perfect time to run an awareness campaign and to get volunteers involved.  

That’s a perfect time to do that focus group. It’s a perfect time to do some planning with them, and really get them involved. And April’s Volunteer Appreciation Month, correct?  

Tobi: Yes, it is.  

Julia: So that’s another one. If volunteers are your bread and butter, to highlight them and their stories in April, get them involved in that kind of campaign. 

Tobi: Yeah, it’s fantastic. This has been such a great conversation, Julia. I’m hoping people are walking away inspired. It is not too late to get your volunteers involved, but you wanna make sure they have all the information and tools.  

That was my big takeaway. You know, don’t take them for granted. I mean, if you think about the value of the volunteer’s time, each volunteer, their value for most of them is of a major donor. 

Why don’t we treat every regular volunteer as a major donor, and I’m telling you, we get some traction.  

Julia: We treat wealthy people a lot differently, and I think that we should be looking at the contributions of the people that are really donating their time as well. So the silos I think need to go away, and we need to be just as appreciative. 

Tobi: Yeah, this has been great, and that’s a great way to end it. Thanks for joining me today. A one question before we wrap up. What are you most excited about in the year ahead?  

Julia: That’s such a great question. I am incredibly excited to get really back on the road and do a lot more speaking in person. I love in-person conferences.  

I did a few this year, but I think 2023 is really going to ramp it up. I love travel. I love being together with people, so that’s what I’m most excited about.  

Tobi: Yeah, that’s fantastic. You got a ditto here. I’m really excited. So nice to see people’s body language, and feel the energy of the room. 

So Julia, how can people learn more about your company, the Nonprofit Nation podcast, fet in touch with you? We’ll post stuff in show notes for sure, but why not share with our audience?  

Julia: Yeah. Well, my podcast is Nonprofit Nation, so just look for it. Spotify, Apple Podcast, anywhere you get your podcasts, and it drops every Wednesday. Sometimes I do an extra episode on Fridays. 

And my website, which really houses all of the information about what I have going on, is JCSocialMarketing.com.  

Tobi: Awesome. Thanks for sharing and gang, don’t forget VisionWeek. Go to volpro.net/vision. We’d love to have you be part of that sprint and get your planning done, and get it done and dusted for 2023. You can get it done in a week and why not do it with a group of friends?  

So, join us next week and don’t forget to subscribe, like, share. Share it with somebody who might be able to use what we’re sharing here. And, we will see you next time. Same time, safe 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.