How to Make the Media Come to You

Yes, it's true. There is a very simple way to make the media come to you, and all it requires is your email address. Too good to be true? Not at all!

I've been using this method for well over a decade, way back when I was a young pup at a boutique PR firm that focused on restaurants and hospitality clients. (We ate really well.)

What is this magic you ask? It's called, or known to us in the public relations biz as HARO. And it's just about the easiest way to get press for yourself or your organization.

 How to Make the Media Come to You


HARO is a way for journalists and bloggers to find sources for their articles. Literally three times per day Monday through Friday, you can receive emails that state the journalist's name, media outlet, and what information they need from a potential source.

Seriously, could it get any better? Oh, wait—did I mention that it's FREE?

I used this service for clients when I was in public relations, and then later when I was running the communications department at an eco-organization, and also at my last job as an event marketing director. 

So, when I started Signify, it was a no-brainer to use HARO to initially help get my name out. This is a large reason why you'll see media logos on my About page. I launched my website last February, and within a couple of months, I had half a dozen media mentions.

Why Do You Need Publicity?

Well, no one needs publicity for their nonprofit or social enterprise, but it sure is nice!

Being mentioned by the media can:

  • Give you credibility or "social proof," showing that others are endorsing you or your work.
  • Look impressive to potential partners, donors, customers, and sponsors.
  • Get links back to your website which increases your SEO.
  • Attract more fans and followers to your social media.
  • Help get your name out if your organization is small, in a growth phase, or just getting started.


Responding to HARO Inquiries

These are the most important tips to keep in mind when you respond to a HARO inquiry:

  • First of all, notice the deadline. Let me repeat that: note the deadline! Many of them only give you a day or two notice, and some may even only give you a few hours if they're on a tight deadline. (FYI, if you respond past the listed date and time, it's likely the email address will be dead anyway because they look more like Craigslist's generate emails than
  • Make sure you're a good fit for the article. Do not waste a journalist's time, or yours.
  • Be short and to the point. Answer their questions or query well, but don't be too wordy. You'll often see them note the word or sentence count that they're looking for in responses. Stick to that, or you're likely to just get deleted.
  • Read all their requirements. Be sure to hit every point in your response. And, for example, if they say to include your name, email, and website link, I like to list those in a list or with bullets rather than in a sentence. 
  • Be as helpful as possible. You can include links if that further supports your response, but they do not like attachments. For this reason, if they ask for a head shot, it's best to have yours stored on Dropbox or Google Drive and just include the link.
  • I also like to use humor when possible to stand out, or try to come at the article with a different perspective or angle than I think they'll receive from everyone else.


About Pitching


There are a lot of formulas for pitching, and a quick Google search will give you thousands of results. But since you guys aren't publicists or freelance writers, let's just keep it simple, shall we?

Here are the basic components, but depending on what's asked for, this could shift a little:

  • Greeting
  • I start most every pitch with what I do in a nutshell. This is only one sentence, and you'll find it below.
  • Get to answering their query as quickly and simply as possible. Try for just a few sentences, unless they say it can be several paragraphs.
  • Include any other info they've asked for like a headshot or website link.
  • Depending on the request, you may want to include availability for when you can chat if they said they'll follow up with the right people by phone. Again, read the listing carefully, and if they need to talk by phone, don't forget your time zone! 
  • I always end with something about hoping they have a good day, or get the responses they need, etc. It's just a well wish for them, and recognizing there is a person on the other end.

More Best Practices

Keep in mind that these people are from all kinds of media outlets and are writing all kinds of stories. So, you'll have to wade through 99% of them to find stories that you might be a good fit for. And that means 99% of ALL emails you get from them, not each email. Most of the time, unless you have a really broad topic or just want practice replying, it will be irrelevant to you. But there are opportunities that are certainly worth the wait!

And until you get used to the frequency, it can get overwhelming on busy days when you receive three emails per day from them. If you let HARO emails pile up, which I've done many times, just delete them and start over because most of the deadlines have already passed anyway.

If you're really active on social media, you might also consider following HARO there. This is one of the best ways to find last-minute stories. And if those are a good fit, you're more likely to make the cut due to the quick deadline and other people just not seeing it.

Oh, and if you do get chosen, be kind and promote the blog or article. For one thing, it's just polite, and you'd want the same courtesy. Additionally, it again looks good for your audience to see that you've received some publicity. And finally, it can lead to repeat opportunities with that media outlet, journalist, or blogger.


Final Tips

First of all, you won't get picked every time you respond to a query. Yep, it's just like fifth grade kickball. Each listing receive get dozens or even hundreds of responses, so sometimes it just comes down to if the journalist or blogger thinks that you're the right fit. The other half of the equation is, of course, making sure your pitch is carefully thought out and well-executed. Do your part!

Additionally, don't disregard media outlets that you've never heard of or those listed as "anonymous." You must have a fairly good-sized web presence to even create a HARO listing. So, people are still going to see your name out there online, and you just never know what that might do. It could be as small as new social media followers, or as large as you can imagine.

And when you're getting started, I recommend answering every inquiry you can. Of course, you must be a good fit! Again, you don't want to waste the journalist's time. However, just the practice of responding and honing your pitch will be terrific practice for when you see opportunities that you really want.

It was through this process that I refined my elevator pitch for Signify. (In case you're wondering, it's "I'm a copywriter and consultant who helps nonprofits and social enterprises get noticed and grow through effective marketing and communications." <-- That went through a lot of drafts before it ended up here, and HARO really helped me.)

One final note: hopefully, you'll hear back from the journalist or blogger if they use your information, but that's not always the case. That's why it's important to set up alerts for when your name, nonprofit, or social enterprise is mentioned online. Google Alerts has become really unreliable over the past few years, so I've turned to TalkWalker. I know this doesn't catch all media mentions either, but it is free, and I'm not ready to pay for a service yet. :)

And if using HARO works for you, I'd love to hear about it! See you out there!


By the way, this is the second week of our March PR series. Be sure to sign up to receive blog posts so you don't miss parts three and four! Catch up on using public relations in social media right here.


 Yes, it's true. There is a very simple way to make the media come to you, and all it requires is your email address. Too good to be true? Not at all! I've been using this method for well over a decade.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.

How To Improve Public Relations Through Social Media

Over the last decade, the lines between all forms of business communications have become blurred. It's no longer just marketing or public relations or advertising. They're all intertwined, and for that reason, I think you should have a good understanding of each.

So, today I've brought in my friend, Meleah Smith, to talk to you about public relations. PR seems to be a little more mysterious than its other communications cousins, but because it's often free, I think you'll be eager to learn more about it. And better yet, Meleah will put public relations in the context of social media to make it even easier to understand.

I spent a number of years in PR, and know the value it can bring your organization. And after she explains it, I think you'll see its worth too.

By the way, this kicks off an entire month dedicated to public relations strategy, so prepare to become a PR expert!

How To Improve Public Relations Through Social Media

By some miracle, I’ve been doing freelance public relations for almost 12 years now. The year I started, 2006, just so happened to have been the first year that Facebook was opened up beyond the world of college students.

Gradually over time, my clients began requesting more and more help with social media. Though I grew up entirely without it, social media has been present throughout my entire career. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don't love social media, but it is the single largest space where the public exists. So for the time being, PR and social media are irrevocably linked.

So, here are some big picture things about public relations with a few, specific steps you can take to apply them to the world of social media.


Real Life Connection

My passion for public relations comes from a heart to let people know that they are seen, that they are heard, and that they have a place in your space. Good PR creates spaces for people, welcomes them in for conversations, and invites them to come back.

Conversations and real life connections are critical on social media, and even more so now with the recent changes in algorithms. If you aren’t creating content that is engaging people in conversations, Facebook will not show your posts to people.

Social Media Tip: Test asking questions and Facebook Live. These are generating comments and conversations with the current algorithm.

Maintain Positive Communication

Good public relations maintains a positive flow of communication. Open up the channels of communication to foster real life connections and trust. In the face of anything negative, you shouldn't remain silent. You positively state what you can, while not affirming what you can’t, all while remaining honest.

No news is assumed to be bad news…or even, the worst news possible. So say something! If you’re the one who puts your message out there first, then others don’t get first dibs to spin it against you. Good PR is not afraid of a conversation.

Social Media Tip: Allow reviews, allow direct messages, etc. Communicate positively immediately on social media any time there are changes happening.


Answer Everything

Maintaining a favorable image in the public is closely tied to letting that public know that you like them. Think about it, if you know that someone likes you, you’re probably going to like them in return. And if you know that someone listens to you, you’ll want to talk to them. It's also possible that you'll go to them when you need something. Public relations is no different. Show the public that you like them and they’re more likely to think favorably of you.

On social media, one of the biggest ways that you can let people know that you like them is to engage with them.

Social Media Tip: Like every comment or mention. Reply to every comment and directly mention that person. Respond to every direct message.


We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—we should listen twice as much as we speak. Excellent PR specialists understand and know their public. You can’t relate with a public that you don’t take the time to know. This does not mean that you sacrifice who you are, but present who you are in a way that is meaningful to them. This is to tie things together and make connections.

Social Media Tip: Post less this week and engage with your followers more. Respond specifically to their post, story, latest blog, bio, etc. If you dare, spend half as much time posting as you do engaging and listening.


Feed Your Creative Soul

Take time to feed your creative soul. Read something not related to work like a classic novel or a young adult fiction book. Go to a concert, gallery, or play. Pay attention to what is resonating more than just what’s merely popular.

Social Media Tip: Post something to inspire your audience this week. Don’t sell anything, just add value, beauty, or humor to their lives.


Be A Learner

What makes public relations impactful will never change, but the world in which we do it constantly changes. People are people, are people…the world over, for all time. But the tools and contexts in which we can reach them are continually ebbing and flowing. So be a learner. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you think you should already know the answer to.

Social Media Tip: Read reliable blogs such as SproutSocial or get in touch with us at SocialLion.

Meleah Smith, public relations and social media expert

Meleah Smith loves making space for people. She does freelance public relations mostly in social media through SocialLion, manages her brother’s band called As Isaac at home and on the road, and volunteers mentoring students and youth leaders through her church.

She grew up in South Carolina, but has called Chattanooga, TN, home for 16 years.


How To Improve Public Relations Through Social Media

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.

Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

Last week, you heard from my intern, Megan, on four reasons why interns are motivated to help you. Are you convinced? I sure was! (And if you haven't check it out yet—yes, she does address the question of money!)

This week, you're getting the follow-up by my second intern, Michael. We've talked about the WHY, and now we'll hit you with the HOW. I'm not sure which of those two questions resonates with you when you're thinking about an intern, but hopefully, we'll provide you with the answers needed to take that next step.

I've only had Megan and Michael for about a month, and am already so thankful for them. So, do yourself a favor and go get an intern (or two). Not sure how? Just keep reading!

 Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

It’s the end of February and the New Year has already gifted us all with a handsomely exhaustive list of responsibilities…

Social media drafts are long overdue, email updates stack a mile high, and blog posts eagerly await an obligatory glimpse. Somewhere in the sewage of this chaos, you also discover that your most urgent and time-sensitive tasks are often the very ones which you’ve neglected.

But, SUDDENLY, you have an epiphany—you don’t have to do this all on your own! What if you had a helping hand? After all, for every Batman exists a Robin, for every Scooby a Shaggy, and for every Cher a respective Sonny.

What if . . . you had an intern?

You may not be able to offer your intern a salary, but you have compensation in the form of experience that they desperately desire. They can serve as more than a glorified coffee runner, and even play a crucial role in keeping your small business or nonprofit operating at optimum speed.

Finding an intern is actually less complicated than one might assume. There’s not one algorithm that will do the trick or one method superior to others, however, let’s explore three, overarching avenues that will aid your search.

Finding the right intern for your organization lies at the intersection of three avenues:

  1. An understanding of the qualifications for your intern role
  2. A correct and detailed intern position description
  3. An idea of where to find the best interns for your nonprofit or social enterprise

1. Outline your requirements for potential interns.

Think of the search for an intern as paving a yellow brick road that will steer the right candidates to the doors of your organization. If that’s the case, you should to be clear from both an academic and professional perspective so that the right person rings the doorbell.

This begins with you carefully outlining prerequisites including educational achievements (high school, GRE, undergraduate and graduate), portfolio samples you may want to see, and prior work experience. One company might be looking for tenured university seniors with previous agency experience, while others are looking for malleable minds that are eager to learn. The choice is yours, however, you cannot expect more, and receive less, without setting expectations. In turn, you might also discover that you have hired an intern whose skills and talents far exceed the amount of work you have to offer them.

Just remember that it’s okay to be selective. An internship needs to be the right fit for both parties.


2. Create a clearly defined intern job description, including the benefits they’ll receive.

No one likes to be exclusive, however, in terms of finding the perfect intern, a certain degree of exclusivity needs to be shown. And just so that we don’t parallel the clique from Mean Girls, let’s put it this way—it’s not them, it’s you.

Be open to students with skills and attributes that may be uncommon for your line of work, however, don’t be deceptive in a job description. If they are looking for a for-profit sales role and you work strictly in nonprofit fundraising, they might not be the right fit. Again . . . that’s okay!

So how do you ensure that your role or program is a right fit for the applicant? Before you begin soliciting resumes, clearly define and outline job standards and provide candidates with an overview of the program in which they’ll be participating. And if your internship provides certifications, credits, or payment, be sure to list these in the job description, too.

Finally, be specific in the language you use to describe the internship. Good candidates don’t often migrate toward listings that use generic language. Because internships can last a series of months (even entire semesters), potential interns want to know exactly what it is that they’ll be doing.

You may even want to look at other intern postings online to help you decide what to include.


3. Use the Internet and your existing network to help you find an intern.

Most of the individuals searching for an internship experience are students and young alumni. Because it’s likely that these individuals haven’t had extensive amounts of career experience, it’s easier to mold their talents and help them hone in on those they haven’t yet developed. And that should be exciting for both you and them.

To find your young Padawan, it’s essential to utilize the correct platforms. For now, we’ll focus on three outlets to aid your search: career centers, online postings, and personal networking.

Career Centers

The vast majority of large universities and colleges are outfitted with programs and facilities that provide their students with professional working opportunities. Some universities might call it a career centeror “services/development program. The jargon’s all a little different, but globally, the mission is the same—to find work experience, internships, and jobs for students and recent graduates.

Cast your eyes on the example of New York University, which operates the Wasserman Center for Career Development. This career center provides extensive lists of internship opportunities, jobs, and sound advice in the sojourn of career discovery.

My advice to you is to shoot for the stars! Contact every university career center in your respective city or state, and use those centers to network your way to great candidates. They can provide you with potential career fair dates, ensuring that you can speak with students in person, or potentially provide listings or direct links for your internship on their website.

As you build relationships with students and career centers, you’ll develop a steady stream of candidates through pre-existing relationships. And when students provide positive feedback about you to their career centers, you’re more likely to receive continuous and high-quality candidates. The other benefit of going through career centers is, of course, that they’ll often do the regular work of searching for your intern so that you don’t have to!


Online Postings

Remember, the interweb is a friend not a foe. This is an essential element to the success of finding your intern in the haystack.

To get even more specific, when looking for interns in university-level programs, go to the places they would go. Posting ads on Craigslist won’t aid you in the process of searching for an intern if the population you’re searching for isn’t using Craigslist.

Students and recent grads alike utilize a multitude of websites, some of the most popular being LinkedIn and Handshake. LinkedIn proves to be a necessary networking tool for the duration of careers, as you probably already know. To ensure that you are fully utilizing LinkedIn, make sure to join groups with similar missions to promote your business and discover talent. I found this article particularly useful.

Additionally, in searching for interns, I’d insist on using a website called Handshake, which directly targets college students and young alumni. Handshake specifically has access to over 8 million students and young adults, and more than 475 career centers. Convenient, eh?

And should you wish to cast your net wider, many standard job posting sites like Idealist and Work For Good also allow for internship listings.

Personal Networks

Last but certainly not least, don’t underestimate the potential of your personal network. The people you already know may help you find your best interns.

It’s easiest to start with your friends and family. Put out the word that you’re looking for an intern, and see if they can help you fill the spot quickly. Just remember to include that clearly-defined intern job description, even when talking to people casually.

Next, post about the internship on your personal and professional social media outlets and in groups. This is a great, and fast, way to spread the word about your opportunity.

And a final example is the connections you have with clients or peers in the same field. More than often, students and young alumni are looking for more than one consecutive internship. One summer they might work for a for-profit manufacturer that produces burlap supplies for a local, nonprofit coffee shop. But next summer, that same intern wants to work at the coffee shop itself. So, reach out to your partners and colleagues for contacts.

With a little preparation and planning, you’ll find your dynamic duo. The Robin to your Batman. The Sonny to your Cher.

By the way, did you miss the first post on why an intern might want to help you? You can read it right here!

Michael Banks, Intern at Signify

Michael Griffith Banks is a fourth-year Public Relations Major at the University of Georgia with a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, most recently serving as an Orientation Leader for the University.

Michael also operates as the Executive Director of Marketing and PR for Breaking the Shackles, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to fighting human trafficking. He is interning at Signify this spring and will graduate from UGA in May 2018. 


 Finding an intern can actually be less complicated than you might think.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.

4 Insider Reasons Interns are Motivated to Help You

I've already made a couple of big, business decisions in 2018, and one of those was to hire interns. I'd know for a long time that I eventually wanted to bring in some spry, young talent, but a couple of things were holding me back.

First, I didn't feel "successful" enough to bring anyone else into the mix. I still don't know what "successful" enough meant/means to me, but I finally decided it was time to put that thought to bed. I had valuable lessons to teach someone, and it was time to start imparting.

Second, I knew it would take some legitimate time and effort to get things in place and delegate. Most of us feel like we move at the speed of light, and slowing down isn't an option. But, again, I needed to take a step back. The reality is that I needed extra help, and there were people available to assist. And once I got things up and running, the hard part was over. So, in the end, I got over myself and found two, fantastic interns. 

So, here's the first of what I hope will be many blog posts from Megan Westbrook:

 4 Insider Reasons Interns are Motivated to Help You

February is rapidly coming to a close (I know, I can’t believe it either) and amidst all of your New Year’s resolutions and scrambling during the busy, first few months of the year, you may have started feeling a bit overwhelmed and stressed. You know what might help you? Interns. And who better to talk about interns than an intern?


Internships not only benefit interns but also benefit you, a business owner or employee.

I know it may seem daunting at first, and you might feel like you’re only adding more to your plate by having to create an internship program. Yes, it does require some extra work to get a program up and running, find interns, and then get them acclimated. However, once it’s in place, you’re set, and you will continue to reap the benefits of having one or two extra sets of hands.

Interns take some of the weight off of you by helping to alleviate the day-to-day, back-end, or miscellaneous tasks that can take up too much of your time. Interns allow you to focus on the bigger picture and your larger projects, instead of freaking out over a mile-long to-do list. For example, those of you who hate technology, social media, and/or emailing (understandably so) should know that interns are more than likely to be knowledgeable and more interested in doing these kinds of tasks. Score!

Although many businesses are starting to pay interns now, there are still plenty of internships that are unpaid, and that’s totally ok! You can still secure interns without breaking the bank, so all you entrepreneurs with new businesses can breathe easy. I guarantee you that there are people out there who will still be willing to help you, so don’t let that hold you back from seeking them out! This is especially true when they believe in your cause.

Now you may wonder what an intern gets out of all of this. Why would someone be willing to help you and your business, possibly without pay? There are actually several reasons why someone may seek out an internship, and it really is a win-win situation.

The easiest and most common source of motivation is to fulfill a college requirement or credit.

Often times, colleges require students to have an internship during their last semester or last few semesters in order to complete their degree plan. I know it was required for me during my final semester as a journalism and public relations major, and I know it is considered a required credit for many areas of study.

Universities will usually assist in the internship process, either already having established relationships with businesses, or helping students find opportunities. And even if it isn’t required, internships are still highly recommended, as they allow students to apply what they learn in class to real life situations. Which brings me to my next point . . .


Internships allow the intern to gain experience in a certain field or explore new areas of interest.

Interning is a great way to find out what you like and what you don’t. If someone is, say, an early childhood education major and starts student teaching at a local school and realizes that they actually don’t have enough patience to deal with 15 elementary-school-aged children at once, they may want to reconsider their career path.

Personally, I got out of college and realized I still had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So I got a regular 9 to 5 job and decided to explore my interests on the side by getting, you guessed it, internships! There’s so many career options to explore. Sometimes it’s best to shop around a bit before investing in one.

Jobs are not one-size-fits-all. Different people will be better equipped for different things. Internships are the perfect opportunity for people to explore new paths and figure out where they truly want to be and what they want to do. Some know for certain exactly what they want to do, and I’m jealous, but interning is still an amazing opportunity to gain valuable experience for future careers. More experience never hurt anybody, and especially not when it’s benefiting you!

Gaining an internship also allows interns to build and expand on their skill set and resume.

This is real life experience we’re talking about. While still important and valuable, lectures can only teach you so much, and let’s be honest, most college students are probably scrolling through Instagram or falling asleep during their lectures anyway. It’s getting out in the field and really working in it that is going to prepare them for a career and for life in general. You have the ability to provide someone with this experience.

Internships teach various skills, from time management to written and oral communication to maybe even operating Outlook at the most basic level. (I used this all through college and only realized once I got a job that there was a calendar function. How? I do not know.) “The more the merrier” applies well here. More internships means more skills means a merrier recent graduate or just someone trying to discover the right career path.

This is exactly what motivated me. I have a variety of interests, and interning helps me explore them and figure out what I am best at and what I would like to do career-wise. I am learning new skills and fine-tuning the ones I already have, so that I can better serve myself and whatever career I choose.

I’m here writing this because I was given the opportunity to learn more about publishing, promoting blog posts, and how to better use other forms of communication like social media. I am learning how to navigate around new platforms and improving my writing skills, as well as exploring new avenues.

Even better, I can add these new skills and experience to my resume. This is vital in finding and securing a job. You need experience, plain and simple. That, and a bit of luck and a few connections. Speaking of . . . 


There are abundant opportunities to network and form connections with different people and business professionals as an intern.

Networking is key. Building successful relationships with people, career related or otherwise, is a beautiful thing. Networking gives interns the chance to pick more brains and connect with professionals who may be able to help them later. All while helping you grow your business.

Being an intern can provide someone with the opportunity to attend more events and/or meetings, which is a great way to meet new people. Socializing, introducing themselves, getting their name out, and making connections is a great way to determine what kind of job they want to move towards. Besides, now you have someone to take to all of your events, and you can instill all of your wise knowledge along the way.

There are various reasons why someone may be motivated to intern, accompanied also by a plethora of mutual benefits. If, as a business owner or leader, you can give someone the opportunity to explore their interests, gain more or new experience, build their skill set, add to their resume, network, and possibly fulfill college credit, all while helping to take some of your workload away, why wouldn’t you?

And if you’re wondering how to go about getting an intern, fear not! Check back in next week and you’ll have all the answers.

Megan Westbrook

Megan Westbrook holds a B.A. in journalism with a focus in public relations and a minor in Spanish from Georgia State University. An aspiring writer, her interests reside in blogging, social media, content creation, design, and photography. She is also a passionate social justice advocate and interested in nonprofit or cause-focused work. Megan is currently a receptionist at Servcorp in Atlanta, Georgia. 


Internships not only benefit interns but also benefit you, a business owner or employee.

Kristi Porter, Founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.

How to Share the Love with Your Amazing Volunteers

This week's post is brought to you by another amazing friend of mine, Amy Fenton. This woman loves volunteers to an extent I've rarely seen before. And one of her favorite things to do with volunteers is celebrate them. So, since today is Valentine's Day, I thought Amy would be the perfect person to tell you how to show your volunteers a little love.

Oh, and you might recognize some similar themes to Jen Guynn's post last week on connecting with volunteers. Believe me, if they're both talking about it, you need to pay attention! These incredible women are subject matter experts on volunteers, and when they speak, you should be taking notes. I know I am!

 How to Share the Love with Your Amazing Volunteers
"People need to be needed more than you need help." – Jim Wideman

My mom recently retired. So far she loves it, but a few days ago she texted me to tell me she had applied for a new job. What?! I texted back and asked her to explain. She quickly told me that she had applied to volunteer at the hospital. As much as she loves her retirement, she needs to be needed. And the hospital needs her!

I love volunteers.

I’ve always worked in nonprofits, and I've always relied heavily on volunteers to make things happen. Along the way, I have also learned a few things. Yes, people need to be needed. But, the warm and fuzzy feelings that first draw them to you will not always keep them around. As volunteers serve with you, or for you, they will eventually need more. And I’ve found that it is so important to continue to show them the love.

So, here's a list of the top five ways you can continue to love on your volunteers.


1. Inspire them!

Continue to share the vision. Make them an insider who is privy to the future plans of the company, where you are headed, and how they've helped you get to where you are. Show them how key they are to the future. Help them see how important they are. Let’s be honest—nonprofits would cease to exist if it were not for volunteers. 


2. Celebrate them privately.

  • Thank them every time they show up. That seems so simple, but so often we take volunteers for granted. My church has a new pastor, and he has made it his mission to go around and thank every volunteer every Sunday! That’s new to our volunteers, and it has gone a long way to keep them motivated to show up.
  • Feed them. Who doesn’t like a surprise box of donuts from time to time? Bring them a snack, Starbucks drink, homemade cookies, or any little treat. This past Sunday I delivered heart-shaped Krispy Kreme donuts to our volunteers, and they loved it!
  • Write a note when you “catch” a volunteer going the extra mile. What is praised is repeated.  Make a big deal about the little things.
  • Host a yearly volunteer event. Prioritize time and money to host a dinner, breakfast, or some type of celebration event that brings all your volunteers together. Gather data on their collective efforts to again paint the big picture of the impact they are making. When I shared with our volunteer team that they had spent over 10,000 hours serving over 2,000 kids and families in 2017 there were cheers all around! Inspiration is motivation to keep moving forward in their volunteer roles.


3. Celebrate them publicly.

  • Give your volunteers a shoutout on social media. Share pictures of them serving and shower them with praise!
  • Give a weekly award. In the kids ministry at my church, a key leader decided one Sunday morning to begin giving a weekly award to someone who had gone the extra mile. The only problem . . . he made and implemented that plan immediately—right then and there. He quickly realized he hadn’t prepared for this, and therefore didn’t have an actual award. So, he quickly grabbed a red coffee stirrer and gave the first of many “Game Straw Awards.” Funny enough, the “Game Straw” has become a very coveted award each Sunday. We know it’s not really the straw. It is the praise that comes with it each week. It motivates people to look for ways to go over and above.
  • Make your volunteers stand out as a collective group. Give them a t-shirt, bracelets, or something else that belongs only to them. These items make them stand out from the crowd. In my church setting, we ask our volunteers to wear their ministry t-shirt. On occasion, we take the time to ask them to stand so that the bigger crowd can give them a huge standing ovation. When that happens, the volunteers feel super important and proud to serve! 


4. Communicate with them.

Make sure you're always keeping them in the know. This can be an email, a closed Facebook group, or some other form of communication. But make sure to keep your volunteers informed on a consistent basis.


5. Do for a few.

Sometimes you can do for a few what you can’t do for every volunteer collectively. Know your volunteers. Know what is going on in their lives. If you have a volunteer in need, go the extra mile for them. You may have someone with mounting medical bills, a single mom that needs help with Christmas, a volunteer who is sick or lost a loved one. Show them extravagant love and support when you’re able.


I love volunteers—and any reason to have a party. I hope you do, too, because those two things make a great combo in leading and loving on people! Our volunteers deserve all the love, praise, and celebrating we can throw their way. 

Now go wish them a Happy Valentine’s Day!

 Amy Fenton

Amy Fenton works with Orange, a company based in Atlanta providing coaching, support, and resources for churches and nonprofits. She wears several hats as an Orange Specialist, Executive Director of Orange VBS, and Orange’s Live to Serve Conference for volunteers. 

Amy has been in kid's ministry for more than 20 years. She served as the kid's pastor for over nine years at two, different churches. And at each, she led teams of staff and over 400 volunteers.

She has a passion for helping and empowering those who are leading kids ministries around the country, and a love for the volunteers who serve in churches.

Amy's greatest joy in life comes from her three kids, Jadyn, Pierce, and Blaze, as well as the crazy, fun life they live in Franklin, TN.


 I love volunteers. I’ve always worked in nonprofits and relied heavily on volunteers to make things happen. Along the way I've also learned a few things. Yes, people need to be needed. But, the warm and fuzzy feelings that first draw them to you will not always keep them. As volunteers serve with you or for you they will eventually need more.&nbsp;

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.