Cambrian: Opinion

Inspiration makes ordinary people do extraordinary deeds

Inspired volunteers made a difference during recent beach cleaning efforts.
Inspired volunteers made a difference during recent beach cleaning efforts.

Your nonprofit’s 2017 reports and reviews are written and under review. While wondering how 12 months could pass by so quickly, you well know that the new year will bring new challenges and new success — emphasis on success.

Whether your nonprofit measures success by the positive number of clients treated, or goals successfully achieved, or by the amount of funding brought in over the year, it’s the volunteers who made the real difference.

And now it is time to inspire. Inspire your longtime volunteers to continue their efforts on behalf of the mission statement. Inspire your leaders to continue taking the lead. Inspire new volunteers to join the effort.

Moving beyond platitudes for your longtime volunteers is essential. They’ve heard just about every slogan in your marketing or HR tool box.

Be exacting in inspiration.

“Your 50 hours of service last year helped our nonprofit to treat 10 extra clients. We could not have done that without you. Now 10 clients who needed help are back on their feet and productive citizens again. Thank you.”

“Because you were one of the volunteers who greeted people at the door and answered their questions about our project, we received about 5 percent more in donations than in previous years. You are an excellent communicator and deeply appreciated by our board of directors.”

“When you helped stuff over 500 envelopes during our plea for funding, you performed one of the most essential jobs within our organization. Our goal was met, thanks to you.”

Nonprofit sub-leaders, be they committee chairs or project chairs, are the likely volunteers to call it quits first. These are stressful jobs that come with rewards but also come with a bucket full of energy-zapping, time consumption responsibility. Keeping their organizational and creative talents productive requires a certain kind of inspiration.

Sub-leaders already know how their efforts make a difference, otherwise there would be few reasons to give that much effort to a cause. Vince Lombardi explained, “Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.” So, you as another arm of leadership have a big job ahead.

Can you send your sub-leaders to workshops? Can you bring in motivational speakers to your sub-leadership team? Be sure to support their ideas. Be mindful of avoiding shadowing and micro-management with your sub-leaders. Fuel their creative spirit and listen to what may well be fresh and innovative ideas. Small appreciative acts and words can create inspiration in all caps.

Third, you must continually inspire new people to volunteer. Social media is a gift toward this effort. Even if you must pay a person to manage your social media accounts with one of the primary goals to attract new volunteers and donors (of course), it’s well worth the cost. Social media is where you can expose how your nonprofit benefits the cause. But, it must be done well, scheduled and artful. This includes no grammatical errors, positive language skills, good videos, humor, apolitical, and quality photography. Know your market and target it directly.

When a new prospect responds, be ready to set up a time to meet, don’t scare them away with a ream of paper forms to fill out. Smile, and have plenty of printed material for the prospect to take home. Inspire them from their kitchen table. Follow up once you are sure this is the perfect volunteer for your nonprofit.

Make 2018 your nonprofit’s year of inspiration. Inspiration makes ordinary people do extraordinary deeds.

Charmaine Coimbra’s column appears the fourth Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian.