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Your Culture is at the Heart of Telling Great Volunteer Stories

16 May 2017 at 8:35 am
Richenda Vermeulen
Following Volunteer Week, Richenda Vermeulen, CEO of ntegrity, shares why profiling volunteer stories online at Vinnies has helped them achieve incredible digital results, and how they made it happen.

Richenda Vermeulen | 16 May 2017 at 8:35 am


Your Culture is at the Heart of Telling Great Volunteer Stories
16 May 2017 at 8:35 am

Following Volunteer Week, Richenda Vermeulen, CEO of ntegrity, shares why profiling volunteer stories online at Vinnies has helped them achieve incredible digital results, and how they made it happen.

Not for profits have a goldmine of content available to them. Stories that span their unique work, the everyday impact they have, issues they fight on the frontline for, and their volunteer heroes.

However, these hundreds (if not thousands) of pieces of content can only be uncovered, curated and shared online with the right internal culture.

At ntegrity, we call this a “content culture”.

An example of organisations that have built an incredible content culture are our clients: Vinnies Australia and Vinnies Victoria.

In just three years, they’ve been able to grow their Facebook page to over 120,000 likes, achieve a 125 per cent increase in traffic to their website, and turn themselves into an online leader. That’s because, every store, service hub, and Vinnies staff member across Australia is aware of the power of narrative, and are actively on the lookout for great everyday stories.

Here’s how you can learn from Vinnies…

Find out what brings your audience to life

First, you need to understand what content inspires and ignites your audience. Through a process of testing, learning and looking for patterns in the data, Vinnies found that volunteer stories were by far their most popular posts.

Here’s why:

  • Volunteer stories gave Vinnies a human face when most people saw them as a traditional legacy charity.
  • They elicited an emotional response in readers which was seen through the hundreds of likes and comments.
  • They instilled a sense of trust and loyalty in Vinnies’ efforts because the volunteers were real, everyday people just like them.
  • They encouraged others to volunteer or donate because it was easy to see the impact they could also make.
  • They demonstrated the tangible difference Vinnies made in the community through the eyes of others.

Vinnies volunteer stories

Lesson: What are the stories or content that inspire your audience? Maybe it’s stories about the simple, everyday impact you have, “where are they today?” success stories, or profiles on your staff. Make sure you use metrics to quantify success and analyse insights to find those unique pieces of content that move your audience.

Encourage everyone (not just your content team) to be on the lookout for great content

In 2016, Vinnies Soup Van Man video, telling the story of Frank Mullins who has been a Vinnies volunteer for 40-plus years, won bronze in the Mumbrella BEFest awards and has amassed over 37,000 views on Facebook. This video was created by a small team, with a small-budget, who simply prioritise time, look for volunteers, listen to stories and unearth beautiful moments.

Lesson: Finding great content doesn’t require big budgets or big teams. Neither should it rest on the shoulders of one content curator to source, create and produce all online content. What it does require is a whole community of people who have open eyes and open ears to what is going on around them. Does your team know it’s their responsibility to be on lookout for great stories?

Ensure your content culture is supported by great tools and processes

At Vinnies, all staff members are able to document volunteers’ stories on a universal document. This document has a checklist of questions to ask, details to get from the volunteers, and creative needed (eg their photo). It is then sent to a central location so it arrives back in the content curator’s hands to refine and publish online.

Lesson: Your team should be empowered via your culture and then equipped via organisation-wide processes and tools to get the content back to the right team or person. Like Vinnies, these processes and tools can be basic and free (eg a simple word document) or you can use more advanced communication and project management tools out there  –  some of ntegrity’s favourites include Slack, Yammer, Trello or Asana to name a few.

Always, always ensure content is working towards your vision

Lastly, but most importantly, the Vinnies volunteer stories are constantly pointing back to it’s vision of empowering and equipping society to give hope to all people they assist  –  whether that’s online and offline.

Lesson: Our new research, the Australian Company Digital Confidence Report finds that having a digital vision (along with leadership, skills and resources) means you are 29 per cent more likely to  track your investments, 25 per cent more likely to feel confident in your organisation’s digital marketing proficiency and will ensure you align the right resources to the right places. Ultimately, with a vision in place you will be able to measure whether your content and processes are contributing to your vision, and make the right changes if they aren’t.

Creating great content online goes hand in hand with your internal culture. To help you get started we’ve created a easy-to-use template to help your team source volunteer stories. Email me here if you’d like one!

About the author: Richenda Vermeulen is the director of ntegrity, a digital consultancy that helps NFPs implement innovative solutions to improve fundraising and communications. Prior to ntegrity, Vermeulen spent 12 years in the not-for-profit sector, from frontline social work to launching social media marketing at World Vision Australia and World Vision USA.

Richenda Vermeulen  |  @RichendaG

Richenda Vermeulen is the founder and CEO of ntegrity, a modern fundraising agency that works with hundreds of Australian and global not for profits and for-purpose organisations.

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