Finding & Keeping Volunteers
Darren from Victoria asked me via email awhile back, how to find and keep eager volunteers for his Victoria Bike Coalition.
If you are actively involved with an association, especially non profit or charity, you’ll realize volunteers are critical to your organization’s success.
There are several key elements to attracting volunteers:
1) People who care about the organization’s cause (family and friends of the organization’s core staff)
2) People who enjoy helping and serving others (community oriented people)
3) Volunteer training (if new skills are taught and people can easily take on the roles assigned)
4) Management (certain people like power and control, so if they get a management position, they will work extremely hard to achieve the results)
5) Volunteer benefits (will there be volunteer T-shirts, thank you gifts; or an appreciation party, food and water?)
6) Time line and overall control (volunteers should be recruited all year around. Keep a list of active volunteers handy. Have face to face meetings or telephone conversations - Don’t rely on online postings or email for communication. Some volunteers take time off just to dedicate to an event, so dedicate yourself to them.
7) Feedback and focus groups (always send a reference letter to all your volunteers to demonstrate your appreciation, and follow up to see if they enjoyed the experience, and if they want to be more/less involved with the organization)
8) Interview your volunteers (do not let anyone into the job, when you put the word out to the general public, you might get some sour apples, so conduct interviews before letting people on board)
Where to find volunteers:
-www.craigslist.com has an event section where you can post volunteer positions
-local international schools: many foreign students learning English love to get real work experience, and have fun at the same time.
-Put an advertisement in university student papers - it’s usually very cheap, and you get great people.
-Put up advertisements in your local community centre and libraries
-Call your corporate sponsors, and see if their staff wants to be involved more regularly. Some companies have programs that pay their staff to volunteer for charities each month.
Fear as your Best Defense
Has fear ever stopped you and immobilized you from reaching your goal? I try everything possible to keep fear from taking hold in my mind. My fiancé Dave never seems to worry about anything - not about money, the “what ifs,” anything. I asked him what his secret was, and he simply replied there is no point in worrying.
He said that fear is a tool, and used effectively, it sharpens your mind and senses, and can help you find the right solution quickly. Fear, like all emotions, can guide us to make better decisions. I find that our mind can actually lie to us; when you believe in something wholeheartedly, your mind has the power to ignore your heart to in order to fulfill your belief. My first long term relationship was 2.5 years, and it should’ve only lasted 1.5 years. My naivety and belief in first love was so strong that I ignored my body and my heart. I can always tell something is wrong when I have nightmares: they’re always so vivid and detailed. When I analyze them, my feelings become very apparent.
Next time you sense apprehension – fear – the need to run away and hide, a desire to sleep a long time, or get lost in books every free moment, ask yourself: what am I afraid of? Are my fears valid? Pay attention and you could learn a lot.
Advertising & Promotions
Television: Good for international or national brands that are aimed at the general public. 30 second ads can cost millions to make, and even more to broadcast.
Radio: Depending on the audience, radio is only effective by repeating your broadcasts, which makes it suitable, again, for larger corporations, as it’s very costly.
Magazine: Great for targeted audiences, as there are many trade journals aimed at specific industries or professions. One should usually submit one’s material 4 months ahead of the publishing date. This is still costly, but is a great investment for a targeted message.
Newspapers: For a small or medium size business, consider a consistent classified ad, or spend the big bucks and get a full page with one simple message in the middle!
Internet web ads: You need a ton of them to obtain any results; a lot of them are open to trade. Unlike most ads, web ads rotate, so it’s not a constant viewing.
Blogs: They are becoming very effective in getting higher rankings and the word out.
Postcards: In Vancouver, there is a company called www.streetcards.com where they have 46 different postcard stalls all over the city including various coffee shops and community centres, where a passerby can pick up a promotional postcard. It’s as effective as a big ad at the back of the bus, but for a fraction of the price. Many large events and festivals have used them and gotten great results. I’ll be using them soon to promote my own business.
Posters: If you post them on the polls on the corners of the streets, it usually lasts one week. They can be very effective if they’re posted in high traffic areas.
Flyers through the post: In Canada, you can actually use Canada Post to find your geographic- or industry-specific target, and send out a min. 10,000 flyers at 9 cents each. It’s important to remember that flyer info is very time sensitive, and to keep the message tailored to the reader.
Mail through the post: Creative marketers use wedding invitations and unique packaging just to get people to the first step: opening the mail. Mail through the post is usually used for a promotion for a product or service, or a solicitation for charity donations.
Email Campaign: You must have people’s permission to send them unsolicited email. If you have met someone and received their business card, then you may send them an email. If it’s promotional in purpose, please remember to have an ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of the email. I recently voted for a contest for a friend, and www.savvymom.com now emails me EVERYDAY. Trust me when I say: it’s really annoying. I’ve unsubscribed 3 times, and have even complained to spamcop, but it’s still no use. From my experience, emails are great at delivering a message, but to get people to act, you must call or see them in person.
Business Cards: This is your best tool to make a great first impression; make sure your email does not end in @hotmail.com, @gmail.com, @shaw.ca or @telus.net as it can seem unprofessional, or produce a ‘small home business feel.’ Pay attention to the thickness of the paper, whether it’s laminated, the corners, font sizes, etc, Make sure people can insert your card into their card rolodex. Cards that are not standard size may be lost or forgotten. Your business might be judged on the quality of your card, so invest in a good card.
Video Emails: This is a trend, but I believe an effective one. 90% of people are visual as well as curious. Try to produce good quality videos; most videos recorded from a camcorder sadly aren’t the best quality.
Social Networking: Facebook, Linkedin, and Friendster are examples of how people’s interactions have really gone online in the last decade. We don’t chat over the phone for hours anymore. Rather, we’re on MSN with 6-30 people at the same time. Used effectively, this can be a very powerful viral marketing technique.
Text Messaging: Canthrill, a local nightclub event promoter has adopted text messaging to promote their events -very innovative.
Website: The best kinds of website are those that are simple and easy to navigate, highly ranked, and that stimulate all your senses. Flash intros guarantee no ranking, so remember that when considering whether or not to use a Flash-based website. Remember: Most people research the website of a company before purchasing a product or service.
Street Team: Hire young people dressed in clothing with company logos to give away a sample product or promote a discount or deal in the street, or at major events. The idea is to ‘Try it before you Buy it’. Most effective for product launch, because the new customer gets to experience it.
Lunch & Learn: showcase the company’s experience through educational mini luncheons where you can promote knowledge in certain sectors.
Contest: Paul from Sofa So Good once participated in a contest for The Worst Livingroom Makeover with another business. Their partner did all the advertising and promotion of the contest, and Paul donated the new furniture for the winner. It’s a win-win situation.
Event donation and sponsorship: Put your brand in front of the competition by sponsoring an organization or event that targets the right people. Do it consistently to achieve brand recognition. Oftentimes, the cross promotion is worth twice or more of the value if you advertise yourself.
Being a teacher
I have been teaching at Vancouver Community College since Fall of 2005. At first I taught Event Planning 101, then I began to teach Event Marketing. Starting this September, I’ll be teaching Event Planning 101 and Event Fundraising. Surprisingly, As I meet more interns and people interested in the Event Planning industry, I’m finding out that there are practically no event planning programs and training available to learn from.
In addition, I have tried to get my hands on every single event planning book out there, but have found most of them tedious and boring to read. There are no pictures or case studies - just the ‘how to’s’. That’s why, in addition to teaching, I’ve decided to start writing a workbook to tackle this problem.
Teaching has given me a higher level of confidence, and many rewarding experiences. In my past, I found the school process boring and too cold of an experience. One thing I did enjoy, however, were the group sessions with classmates during university, where theories were challenged and discussed. That’s why in my teaching method, I’ve decided to continue this with a fun and interactive method of teaching. In my 10 week classes, I invite a lot of guest speakers from the special events industry - most of whom I work with - to speak to my students. I call them ‘Show & Tell’; each person gets 15 minutes to present their business using pictures, videos or PowerPoint to illustrate how they can make an event more exciting. The speaker also talks about pricing, and their best and worst event experience. The human elements bring the speaker and students together; they often end up laughing and sharing experiences. I like to get my students involved, because I believe only hands-on experience can prepare them for the harsh realities of the industry, as well as its rewards. I’m very proud of my students, as in the end, all of my students are required to submit a business plan, and complete an event of their choice on their own. The events range from sold-out fashion shows, charity grand openings, wine tastings to some of the International Special Events Society’s celebrations.
At first, I was a bit apprehensive; most of my students were older than me, some of them with many years of hotel catering experience. After my first classes, however, I realized that everyone can always learn more from each other, and the students that had many years of experience enjoyed the classes just as much as those first starting out (if you would like to get a peek into events, visit www.vcc.ca the courses run for approximately 10 weeks, and are for 3 hours on a chosen week night for $330 CDN).
I enjoy teaching, writing and sharing my knowledge with others. Vancouver will need a lot of people with special events experience to take on the Olympics, so let’s get prepared!
1) A Technical Writer is required to write a training manual for a Real Estate Appraisal company. We expect the size of the manual to be approx 20 pages. Compensation: Negotiable
Contact: Ranbir Kler, eCOM Appraisals
2) Full Time Legal office receptionist with English, Cantonese and Mandarin. The pay will likely start at $12.00 CDN per hour and increase to $15.00 CDN per hour after a probationary period. The work involves receiving telephone calls, office administration, and light production of legal documents. Contact: Robert Pryer at email@example.com
3) Inside sales position. Required to answer phones, provide customer service, direct phone calls, and take sales orders. Minimum 1 yr experience in the food service industry.
Contact: Daniel Sebal at A&B Partytime Rentals Ltd.
110 West Fourth Avenue
Vancouver, BC Canada