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Marketing Volunteers: How to recruit and manage

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This is the second in a series of four articles that explain how to attract and manage marketing professional volunteers.

How to recruit a marketing volunteer

In the first article, we figured out what marketing help you need. (For a complete list and expected hours, see the menu of projects.) Here are links to job descriptions for the most common types of marketing volunteers. Customize and circulate them following the suggestions in the links:

  • marketing generalist (define your brand, key messages, analyze revenue efficiency, donor touch point effectiveness, spokesperson training, organizational structure, promotion audit)
  • writer (write copy for all promotional literature, write client stories)
  • graphic artist (layout all promotional literature)
  • videographer (create videos for website)
  • donor database analyst (help you “mine” your donor database)

How to select a marketing volunteer

It's important to ensure a good fit between you and the prospective candidates.

What to look for in a generalist:

  • Constant experimentation. The best marketers are constantly learning. They look for opportunities to test different ideas and to experiment with different techniques.
  • Clear thinking. A clear, simple message makes a powerful brand.
  • Project management skills.
  • Number crunching. Describe spreadsheets they use to analyze their customer database in their day job.
  • Ensure they have received links to the Menu of Projects that corresponds to the project scope. Have they taken the time to read it before your meeting?
  • Their thoughts on the project scope. Judge their comfort level with the content. Are they more comfortable with the creative side of marketing? The number crunching side of marketing? Do they have examples of similar work they have done?

What to look for in specialists:

  • Flexibility to adapt to different clients.
  • Clear, uncluttered style.
  • Review their portfolio for examples similar to your nonprofit.

What to look for in every volunteer consultant:

  • Listening skills.
  • Asks more questions about your nonprofit, than gives answers.
  • Focuses on the needs of your non profit, not their own accomplishments.
  • Uses language that you can understand.
  • Candor, without being disagreeable.
  • Spirit of collaboration, willing to work with you to figure out the answer rather than presenting you with the answer.
  • Gives you a fresh perspective.
  • Helps you think things through.

Understand what’s in it for them

Treat volunteer consultants just like paid consultants, but pay them in ways other than money. Recent graduates are motivated to:

  • build their resume with concrete examples
  • learn how to apply their marketing education to a new industry
  • learn how to be a consultant

Other marketers will want to:

  • stretch intellectually
  • share the expertise they have learned
  • reconnect with marketing because their career path has gone onto other areas
  • volunteer (but fear doing mundane assignments)
  • help a cause they support
  • meet new people outside their existing network, camaraderie, connect with neighbourhood
  • reduce boredom with retirement
  • see the difference they can make, get a sense of accomplishment (in large organizations, it is hard to measure the impact of one employee)

Other subjects to discuss:

  • Are they available when you are available?
  • Potential developments in their work life or home life that might change their availability?

How to manage a marketing volunteer? Treat them like a consultant

Start the relationship with a contract to clarify your expectations. Help your volunteer learn how to be a consultant. Most generalist marketers are employees, with no consulting experience. They know how to do marketing; they may not know how to do consulting. Structuring the relationship will help them adjust to being a volunteer consultant.

Finish the relationship with a thank you. This is the way you “pay” your volunteer. It contains your results and your volunteer needs this information for their resume, to build their career. Every marketer needs a resume that contains concrete accomplishments but in a large corporation it is hard to measure the impact that one employee makes.

Lelia MacDonald is a Volunteer Consultant with MAS, a free consulting firm that serves Toronto nonprofits since 1993. MAS is a charity with 40+ volunteer consultants that is funded by donations from satisfied clients. You can apply for help at www.masadvise.ca.   Lelia also has her own website and is available via Skype across Canada.

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