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Top 5 Blog Posts Of 2018

Wow, I feel like I have a little whiplash from 2018. It feels like I’m just getting started, and yet, here it is December again!

My year was full of twists and turns, highs and lows, bumps and bruises, tears of laughter and tears of joy—much like I’m sure your year was. On one hand, I checked multiple locations off of my travel bucket list, including England, Ireland, and Scotland, as well as a cross-country Amtrak trip. I was also a guest on multiple podcasts and featured in several interviews. And I worked with some amazing new clients, along with some old friends.

On the other hand, while I launched two digital products, I was hoping for at least three. I also didn’t meet a few big numbers I set for myself, including the coveted income goal. And my health didn’t improve as much as I hoped it would.

So, my 2018 was a bit of a mixed bag. I’m trying to hang onto the good stuff and learn from the less-than-good stuff. Both of those things will help propel me in 2019.

But before we get there, I wanted to circle back to my five most popular blog posts of 2018. Since I publish a weekly blog post and you’ve got a lot on your plate, it stands to reason that you might have missed one or two along the way.

No worries! I’ll share what others found to be the most helpful in the hopes that it’ll help you succeed as well. Looking forward to a wonderful New Year with you!

Signify’s Top 5 Blog Posts of 2018

1. The Key to Your Success May Be Staring You in the Face (Literally)

Not only are you a human with a life and responsibilities, but you are also at a cause-focused organization, either for- or non-profit. So, whether your work deals with extremely sensitive and dark subjects like human trafficking or not, you still feel the pressure to succeed because there’s a social problem you’re trying to solve. There is a different kind of gravity to your work that few understand.

This can certainly wear on you over time, and without checks and balances, can lead to burnout. And burnout would be a terrible situation not only for you, but for your cause. The world needs your work!

So, what’s the answer to combating the fatigue and burnout? Community.

Read the full post . . .

2. 4 Insider Reasons Interns are Motivated to Help You

I made a couple of big, small 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. 

Read the full post . . .

3. How to Share the Love with Your Amazing Volunteers

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.

Read the full post . . .

4. How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

I don't know about you, but I love events. I love attending them, of course, but also working on them behind-the-scenes. When I was an event marketing director, I was able to help create a dynamic experience for almost 8,000 people. And with my nonprofit and social enterprise freelance clients, it's still a blast to see an event go from concept to completion, resulting in smiling faces, sales earned, and money raised.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of working with one of my favorite local organizations, Atlanta Dream Center, on their annual benefit dinner. I had been volunteering with them for three years at that point, and they were Signify's first, official client, so they'll always have a soft spot in my heart. Understandably, I was thrilled to be working with them on a professional level now, too.

At the end of the evening, we had quite a surprise—we had not only met the fundraising goal, but we had quadrupled the previous year's total! High fives all around!

However, I don't think it was an accident. After working on so many events over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.

Read the full post . . .

5. What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List

Everyone wants to talk social media all the time, but it's not the most important thing when it comes to engaging with your current donors and customers. That's right I said it—social media is NOT the most important thing. Breathe that in, people.

Don't get me wrong, social media is an important (and unavoidable) part of marketing, especially when it comes to finding new prospects, but it isn't the top priority for those currently in your circle of trust. I'd rather you stop focusing on social media, and start focusing on your email list. 

I've had many, many conversations with friends and clients about this topic. I get some slow head-nodding, blank eyes, puzzled looks, and then a question or two usually follows. Something along the lines of, "Why is email marketing so important?" or "Ok, but what should I send to my email list?" I usually also hear that people do send emails to their fans and supporters, but it's been a few...months.

Sending emails just sorta happens when they get around to it. Maybe they'd planned to send out an email blast, but there was yet another fire to put out. Or, they'll email again when they have something "important" to say. 

Any of this sound familiar?

I'm here today to tell you what and why you should be emailing your list. Because it's vital to the health of your organization. Yep, it's that big of a deal.

Read the full post . . .

Looking for more popular options? Here are some of my readers’ all-time favorites:

12 Unique Launch Ideas You'll Want to Copy

What You Need to Convince Potential Sponsors and Partners

A Comparison of 13 Popular Social Media Scheduling Tools

5 Must-See TED Talks for Nonprofit Leaders

10 Tools to Make Your Small Business Look More Professional (Most Are Free!)


PSST: Don't forget that you only have a few more days to enter to win a Communications Strategy Session, valued at $500! Details here. Resolve to make your marketing better in 2019.



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Resources, Tips, and Ideas for Your Nonprofit or Social Enterprise

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations 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 Build a Team of Dedicated Volunteers

Volunteers are an essential part of any cause-focused organization. They’re often the extra hands and feet that nonprofits and social enterprises need to make their mission succeed, especially in the early stages.

But building a team of dedicated volunteers isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and a steady flow of communication to ensure that you’re getting what you need, while giving what they need in return.

This week’s post comes to us from Faitth Brooks, who manages social media for one of my clients, Be the Bridge, as well as serves as the Director of Women’s Empowerment for Legacy Collective. Both organizations have not only relied on volunteers to make their work happen, but entrusted volunteers with being ambassadors for their brand with great success.

Faitth knows a lot about organizing, engaging, and empowering volunteers, and I hope her wisdom will help you build your team as well.

How to Build a Team of Dedicated Volunteers

In the nonprofit world there are numerous tasks that often cause employees to wear several “hats.” And if you’ve worked in the nonprofit sector, you know all about the hustle to save money and raise money in order to fulfill the mission and vision of your organization.

I've worked for nonprofits most of my career and I've learned that volunteers are invaluable to any organization. They give of their time and energy to work alongside staff members and help make everyone's job easier. It’s also common for nonprofits not to have the funds to hire a robust staff, especially small ones, so volunteers help fill in the gaps.

Many of you may be thinking, “Faitth, that’s nice, but how do I build a dedicated team of volunteers for my organization?” Well, I’m glad you asked because I’m going to tell you all about how I’ve done it over the years.

In order to maximize your time and energy, it’s essential that you build a committed team of volunteers. There are three important steps I’ve implemented in organizing volunteer teams, and I am going to share them with you today.

Step 1: Share The Vision

First, know the vision for your organization and articulate it to your volunteers. It’s important that the volunteers begin to embody the organizational culture and values in the same way the staff does. Your volunteers should be able to share the mission and vision of the organization to anyone who asks.

Hosting a training for the volunteers is essential, as well as developing a volunteer manual that states the mission and vision, expectations, and assigned tasks. The volunteer manual offers people a clear road map for how they will be utilized by your organization. When volunteers do not have direction, it’s easy to chart their own path away from the mission and vision of your organization.

Once training is complete, volunteers should shadow a staff member. It is important for the staff to model how to serve clients, respond to correspondence, and answer the phones. If your staff works remotely, the volunteer can be cc’d on correspondence, shadow you during video conference calls, and join collaborative projects to watch how the team operates together.

Step 2: Assign Specific Tasks

Second, assign your volunteers specific tasks. Have a list of the particular areas you need help with and instructions on how to accomplish those tasks. Volunteers need direction and they need to feel like they are making a valuable contribution to your organization. It's important to know what your volunteers have experience in so you can assign them to areas where they will thrive. You want your volunteers to feel empowered and excited to work with your organization!

Avoid making something up for them to do simply because you do not want to lose their help. If nothing is immediately available that is suited for them, honor their time and let them know that you will reach out again when you need help with another project.

Step 3: Communicate Regularly

Third, maintain open lines of communication and remain available to answer questions. Your availability as a leader will develop trust between you and the volunteer.

Also, establish regular meetings with your volunteers. They want to stay in the loop and feel included. Make sure you ask about their experience volunteering for your organization and what you could do better. Feedback from your volunteers is priceless because they have nothing to lose, and are more likely to tell you the truth about their experience working with your organization. This can go a long way in building and scaling your organization in the future.

Now, it's your turn to go and build a team of volunteers! Write your vision, create the manual, mobilize the people.


Faitth Brooks

Faitth Brooks is the Director of Women’s Empowerment for Legacy Collective. She engages in community organizing and activism. Her passion makes her a relentless spokesperson for racial reconciliation.

Faitth is also a social media strategist for Be The Bridge, and a blogger who writes at Faitthbrooks.com. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @FaitthB.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Building a team of dedicated volunteers isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and a steady flow of communication to ensure that you’re getting what you need, while giving what they need in return.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations 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.



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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.

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.


5 Quick Ways for Meaningful Connections with Volunteers

Today's guest post comes from Jen Guynn, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pebble Tossers, Inc., a youth development organization which empowers and develops youth into responsible citizens and lifelong volunteers. So, when I wanted to talk about the subject of working with volunteers, she instantly came to mind. Pebble Tossers holds multiple activities every month, which means she's used to a steady stream of do-gooding volunteers.

Buckle up—you're going to learn a lot from her!

5 Quick Ways for Meaningful Connections with Volunteers

One of my favorite quotes from General George S. Patton says, “Do not tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their ingenuity.”

This idea can be a great way to connect with volunteers in your organization. Whether you run a nonprofit, a faith-based organization, or a social enterprise, you will need champions and advocates for your cause. You need volunteers.

When first reaching out to anyone outside of your immediate circle of trust like your roommates or family, it helps to have a few guidelines in place:

 

1.     Have a Clear Vision

Have a clear vision for what you want done or need to accomplish. If you need volunteers for a specific project, take the time to set some standard operating procedures (SOPs) and think through all the nitty gritty details of possible mishaps or misunderstandings. When you share your vision, your mission, and why this project is important, you engage volunteers on a different level. You bring them along with you on your journey and enable them to help you reach your goals. Allowing them to see themselves as a part of helping achieve that mission empowers them to be even more meaningful volunteers.

 

2.     Communicate Effectively

If you need five volunteers to show up a 5:45 a.m., be specific and tell them why.  Also tell them where to park, what to wear, what the weather will be, and provide a job description or project overview. I have learned that volunteers appreciate you anticipating their questions and providing the answers in advance. This makes their experience easier and allows them to be more effective.

Also, double check emails and social media posts. You may think that post looked fine at 1:37 a.m. when you wrote it, but trust me—it’s best to double check each darn line for accuracy and clarity.

 

3.     Don’t Micromanage

This can be tricky if you do not have a set plan of action in place. The quote from Patton comes in to play here—allow for some ingenuity when people attempt to complete a task.  Provide your volunteers with a comprehensive orientation or training of the task at hand, but allow for creative execution of those tasks. You may learn that there is a new way to spread mulch, write code, or play “Jeopardy.” 

It is key that volunteers enjoy what they are doing. Allow for those fun moments to happen. Your volunteers may not completely finish the task at hand, but if they had fun attempting it, they may come back another time to finish! If you bash their efforts, you will lose them forever. Understand that their help moves the mission needle, and gets you one step closer towards meeting that mission.

 

4.     Bring Snacks

Do not anticipate that people will have eaten before arriving to help. Life gets in the way and, if you live in Atlanta like I do, you know that even 20 minutes sitting in traffic can make you “hangry.” Have something healthy like protein bars or apples. However, know your audience! If you have youth volunteers, add Munchkins, a box of clementines, and hot chocolate. Or if you have a Millennial crowd, add happy hour fare or make arrangements to meet afterwards at a local establishment. (Cheers!)

 

5.      Recognize Your Volunteers

We have seen that there are now “national days” for anything! Well, there are actually 15 days that are dedicated to thanking volunteers. Even though many volunteers do what they do for the good of it and not for the recognition, this is still a key element for managing and retaining your volunteers. Taking the time to sincerely thank each person validates their efforts and helps them feel appreciated. No one likes for their work to be summarily dismissed. 

Volunteer retention is highest with organizations where volunteers feel wanted, cared for, and appreciated. Pebble Tossers used to present a Youth of the Year award, but we learned that volunteers (and their parents) did not want to self-nominate. They did not want to seek attention or seem boastful. So, we have found that recognizing volunteers with the President’s Volunteer Service Award is subtle and private, yet very meaningful. Volunteer recognition should be honest, sincere, and frequent. The recognition can spark conversations, create new connections, and build new brand ambassadors for your organization. 

 

These five tips help connect volunteers with your mission. You are gifting to them your organization’s vision, and inviting them to take that gift and create ripples which share that mission throughout their communities. This may be the reach you needed to grow your organization or solidify your reputation. This reach, when coming from people other than yourself, not only validates you and your mission, but the effort of all the other volunteers as well.


Jen Guynn of Pebble Tossers

Jennifer Guynn is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pebble Tossers, Inc., a youth development organization which empowers and develops youth into responsible citizens and lifelong volunteers. In 2016, she was appointed by Governor Deal to the Commission for Service and Volunteerism for the State of Georgia.

An Atlanta native, Jen attended St. Pius X High School, graduated from Furman University, and resides in Dunwoody with her husband, Mike, their three children, and two rescue dogs. Find Pebble Tossers online, and via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can find Jen on LinkedIn and Twitter.



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Whether you run a  nonprofit , a faith-based organization, or a  social enterprise , you will need champions and advocates for your cause. You need volunteers.

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.


Why Free Help Isn't Always the Best Option

Whether you are just getting your organization off the ground, are in a growth phase, or are trucking along at a good pace, today's topic has probably hit your radar at some point. So far this month, I've covered the lessons I learned from my first year in business, 10 tools to make your small business look more professional, and my favorite tip to get people to spread the word about you. But now, I want to address how you should approach a situation in which you're asked for, or offered, free help.

No matter from what perspective you're reading this post, as a "do good" organization, you likely have a love-hate relationship with free help. You're either at a nonprofit or purpose-driven, for-profit who has taken advantage of long- or short-term volunteers, or you've been asked to do something for free for which you'd normally charge. 

And you likely have both good and bad experiences. I know I do.

Here's why free help isn't always the best option for nonprofits and social enterprises.

Volunteers and interns can either be the best thing that ever happened to you, or the worst. Nonprofits often heavily rely on volunteers to keep the doors open. And social enterprises, especially just starting out, may be in the same position. Sometimes these people are even called interns, and become more of the process. You, like me, may also know fully-functioning businesses that are solely run by volunteers. Any of these can be a great strategy. But, it just depends on who these people are, and how hard they're willing to work. Regardless, a system should be put into place to account for any "bad eggs" that do come along. In these situations, people rarely have bad intentions. They may, however, have a bad work ethic. Or the scope of the position may change, or it was never adequately explained. There can easily be fault on both sides.

On the flip side, there may be times when you or your organization is asked to do something for free. It could be offering your service at an event, like providing free coffee at a conference. Or it might be giving away your product, such as samples in a goodie bag. As before, neither is a bad option. In fact, they could lead to other revenue sources or exposure you might not receive otherwise. But every opportunity should be carefully thought out. I don't think there is a blanket response. Value is measured in more ways than one.

In today's post, I shared with the folks over at Horkey Handbook all about the pros and cons of either being approached by someone who offers their help for free, or how to handle being asked to do something for free. 

READ THE FULL POST HERE.

 



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There are both values and costs when it comes to volunteers and interns. Social enterprises and nonprofits must weigh the pros and cons when either offered free help, or asked to provide their service or product for free.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

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.