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Volunteer Power!

Volunteer Power News — Number 26
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2005 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

A warm welcome to all volunteer managers—those of you who recruit, motivate and mobilize volunteer workers.

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Cool stuff that you have never heard before - follow up

This newsletter is the third in our "Cool Stuff that you never heard before" follow up. - Branding. The order you selected as the most important are:

Number One: Motivation -- How to keep my volunteers motivated so that they keep their commitments
Number Two: Recruiting -- How to get quality people to join our volunteer team.
Number Three: Networking -- How to build strategic alliances to find volunteers
Number Four: Branding -- How to establish a well recognized brand such as "Habit for Humanity" or "BMW—the Ultimate Driving Experience" for our organization.
Number Five: Retention -- How to keep our quality volunteers from quitting
Number Six: Managing -- How to juggling multiple projects of volunteer management.

Note: For those of you who have missed the previous newsletters, you can catch up on the "cool stuff" series:
Number 22: Cool stuff you've never heard before
Number 23: Motivation
Number 24: Recruiting
Number 25: Networking
Number 26: Branding (woops-that's this issue)

This Issue: Branding - How to establish a well recognized brand such as Habit for Humanity or "BMW-the Ultimate Driving Experience" for your organization.

Two questions drive the volunteer organization brand:

  • What on earth is a Volunteer Brand?
  • How do I go about establishing a brand that attracts volunteers?

What is a volunteer brand? A brand is what identifies and attracts volunteers to your organization or event. Girl Scouts have a brand. United Way has a brand. Habitat for Humanity has a brand. BMW has a brand. However, your brand does not need to be national or international. In fact, often a local brand is the most powerful Three Pizza stores put signs. One sign read, "Best Pizza in the state." The second one read, "Best Pizza in the Nation." But the third one read, "Best Pizza on the block." Where would you eat?

Eight years ago a local group of Campus Life workers started an event they branded "Extremes". The mission was to bring together the churches in a city-wide youth event. When Campus Life started this event for church youth groups, most youth workers and parents were cautious and somewhat dubious. Ten years later, "Extremes" is an annual event that draws thousands of teenagers on a Friday night. When you mention the brand "Extremes" to local teenagers, parents, and church youth groups-they know what it is. How did they do it? They started small and slowly built a reputation of a safe place where young teens could have fun. They were well organized and followed through on what they promised. They began meeting with local youth ministers to get their feedback, support and ideas to plan activities that would help their local youth groups. Bottom line--they followed the DNA of branding (Dependability, Novelty and Attitude)

How do I create a dependable, novel brand with attitude? The DNA of branding

Dependability: People buy a brand because they can count on it. When people see a brand, they must know they can count on a business that has integrity and quality. The brand adds value to its customers.

Your brand is your reputation for doing what you say you will do. We are often too lax about connecting what we advertise and what we actually do.

It is interesting that how you treat your volunteers and staff are an indicator of your dependability to your customers. If you take care of your volunteers and staff, they will take care of your customers.

That is where to start with a brand.

Novelty: Why is our brand unique? Why is our brand better than any other volunteer organization? With other organizations competing for services and volunteers, what does our brand offer?

I often use the following five questions with my staff or volunteers to develop a branding statement.

1. Who are we?
2. What do we do?
3. Who are our customers (who are we serving)?
4. What value do we bring to our customers?
5. Why are we unique (why are we better than anyone else)?

Have each person write out their answers to each of these questions in seven words or less. Then in groups of about six people, have each group come up with a short statement in answer to each question. The most important question is number four (what value do we bring to our customers?) It points to your reason for existence.

When I think of question four, I am reminded of the young man who collects tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. He is enthusiastic and has a short motivational statement for everyone who gives him a toll. When you pay your toll, he might say to you, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

If you asked him, "What do you do?", I don't think he would say, "I collect tolls." I believe he would say something like, "I welcome people into one of the most beautiful cities in the world." This young man has found a reason for his work. It isn't just a job. He is on a mission.

We are not in business to make money. We are on a mission and that mission is why we exist. Why does your organization exist? You exist for the value you bring to your customers (the people you serve). The answer to that question (question 4 above) is the essence of a brand. Spend time with your staff and volunteers answering that question.

Attitude: Most brands have attitude--the experience people have with a brand. The vision of a company, organization or agency is to be the recognized brand for all customers.

Talk to people who drive BMW's. They have attitude. How about people who shop at Nordstroms. They have passion about that store. How about people who fly United-bad example.

When I speak at a convention, I love to see people with attitude about the mission of their organization. This past year I have spoken with volunteer groups that represent theatre arts, police, mental health, hospitals, recreation, government, and churches. The one thing common about all of these volunteer groups is passion. Each group has a passion for their mission-that is attitude.

So what is a brand?

A brand is the local (or national) positive reputation for a unique mission done well. And it is a key to volunteer recruitment because . . .

People don't want to make a contribution, they want to make a difference.

Next newsletter: Retention - How to keep our quality volunteer from quitting.

Thomas W. McKee
Volunteer Power

Tom McKee is a leading volunteer management speaker, trainer and consultant. You can reach Tom at (916) 987-0359 or e-mail him at tom@advantagepoint.com. Other articles and free resources are available at www.volunteerpower.com.

For more articles by Thomas McKee, visit the Articles section on our website.

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