Volunteers are often the first voice of your association, the first introduction outsiders have to your organization, and the first opportunity to make a great lasting impression. They are the people on the front lines of their industries day in and day out and how they go tell the story of your organization can truly make or break public perception.
1. Tell your story
Make sure your association’s story is communicated well in everything you produce. Teach your volunteers how to tell your organization’s story subliminally by telling your impact story with every communication you put forth. From press releases to social media posts to monthly newsletters, provide facts and figures to go with each of your stories. Those easy-to-access figures will stay in volunteers’ minds long after they’ve read the newsletter.
2. Provide collateral
Volunteers usually have ample opportunity to present the story of their association, whether in casual conversation with colleagues, or in the front of the room at events. Be sure you’re providing them with everything they need to be successful. Elevator speeches are a great way to introduce the organization in casual conversation. Provide a few quips on the mission and goals of the association, a handful of benefits one can gain from joining the association, and finally a call-to-action statement at the end.
If your volunteers are presented with the opportunity to speak on behalf of the association with a larger crowd, prepare a presentation for them. Include easy-to-read infographics, member benefits and a call to action. Also encourage your volunteer to provide time following the presentation for Q&A whether in front of the audience or one-on-one.
Finally, offer takeaways like handouts or promotional items that will jog audience members’ memories well after their initial introduction to the organization.
3. Help volunteers find their own stories
Each member of your organization has a unique and personal reason for being a member. Encourage your members to share their own reasons why the association means so much to them. Have them focus on the rewards they have experienced, whether through connecting with colleagues, giving a helping hand to a task force or committee, or mentoring somebody in the field. Those stories of personal connection provide an introduction for others to build relationships with them and the association.
4. Provide teachable moments
Some volunteers might need a bit of coaching when it comes to speaking publicly and relaying the voice of the organization. Offer training during events and board meetings or send volunteers quick tips and tricks by email on how to make the greatest impact for the association.
These steps can help to change the conversation when it comes to how volunteers share the story of your association, but don’t forget, you are the professionals representing your association and volunteers can’t, and shouldn’t, take on the role of full-time communications person for you. A skilled communications person will understand the ins and outs of association management, legal obligations, and the ability and bandwidth of the entire staff to complete projects.