Volunteers: Everything in its place

Nearly everyone working in nonprofit has had the revelation;

Hey, let’s have volunteers do x, y, and z.”

They can do our books.

They can help us fundraise

They can run our programs.

They can do our social media.

They can manage all the overflow we are too short on paid staff to accomplish.

Volunteers when organized, supervised and enrolled in a well-designed volunteer program (at a homeless shelter, for example) are awesome. The trouble arises when you have volunteers doing jobs so you can save money, to fill a void in paid staff, or because perhaps you are members of a board who are removed from the daily mechanisms of your nonprofit and you truly believe volunteers can manage the organization.

Oftentimes, volunteers seem like the easy fix to turn an organization around. Who doesn’t need some extra man or woman power – for free?

The big BUT comes when these volunteers don’t have the knowledge to properly do the task they are assigned. Expecting an unpaid volunteer with no marketing training to do an exceptional job managing your social media platforms or come up with materials for an annual appeal is unrealistic and even detrimental to your organization. Did you know the job of Social Media Manager, a job that was non-existent five years ago, now encompasses 6 things that until very recently were not on anyone’s radar?  (the article says 10 but you need to be way ahead of the curve to know about these things even now)

We have seen time and again the ineffectiveness of volunteers. I am going to tell you honestly, you get what you pay for. I can tell hours of horror stories about well-meaning volunteers muddling things up for organizations when asked to do jobs outside their areas of expertise or experience. Some of these mistakes have cost tens of thousands of dollars while others even put organizations at risk of losing their nonprofit status.

This blog’s job is to help educate our readers, and to offer our services. And there is no greater reward for our knowhow, our connections, our professionalism and our expertise than the success of our clients. We are proud to have long-term clients who stay with us because they know that by following our advice, each year’s return is even greater than the last.

It is no coincidence that positive change happens with the right people in place. This year we have seen two of our clients, who we manage social media for have their annual appeals increase by 29% and 14%. In addition, one of them had 35% of their donations come from new donors.

One year after taking over social media platforms for a client, relevance scores (which measure the success of your ad to comparable ads) on Facebook advertisements we have composed have soared to 8’s and 9’s, as compared to Facebook’s average score of 5. Such ads have increased website traffic, driving 473 new potential donors to the website in the last month.

Volunteers are useful in their proper place, but it’s important to invest in your organization’s future by hiring individuals (or consultants) with the expertise to not only get the job done, but to do it well.

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