3 Ways to Attract More Volunteers


“To help people be altruistic, we need to help them be selfish.

The selfish volunteer is not a bad person, or part of an unwelcome trend –it is at the heart of the future of volunteering.”

(The 21st Century Volunteer) 

Have you noticed that it’s getting harder to attract volunteers? Gone are the days of sticking a card in the newsagent’s window and being inundated with willing workers.  Volunteer recruitment has become a full-time slog, presenting almost as much pain as the dreaded funding search.

So, what’s going on? 

Do people have less free time now? Is there too much competition for volunteers (there are 2500 registered charities in Bucks alone)?  Or is the world just getting more selfish?

In reality, the answer is probably ‘yes’ to all of these questions.

According to researchers, we are now in the age of self-interest, where altruism takes a backseat and experience-seeking is king.

We might be a Not-for-Profit and we might be changing the world, but that will only take us so far. No matter how worthy our cause, at some point we need to accept that not everybody cares as much as we do and what people actually want to know is what volunteering will do for them.

People really don’t want to be seen as do-gooders, anymore.  In fact, this is now the number 1 turn-off for those considering volunteering.

So, how DO we attract volunteers?

  • Sell your Story

You know you need somebody to spend 3 hours a week entering data in your back room, but how appealing does that sound?  Think bigger than that – what does your organisation do? How many lives are benefited as a result of the data entry and what would happen if that person wasn’t there? Volunteers want to experience the spirit and mission of an organisation and feel like part of the solution.

  • Think ‘Intrinsic’

Not all volunteers are the same. Some people volunteer for extrinsic reasons e.g. they need the experience to get into uni, or they want the time credits, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Yet, according to motivational expert Daniel Pink, ‘people who are internally driven to succeed are significantly more effective in the long run than those who are motivated by some carrot or stick’.  So, before you post your latest volunteer role, take a moment to think how it might also benefit their life.

  • Inspire your Volunteers!

If you want to know how to put all of this into practice and set your organisation up for the next-generation of volunteers, then come along to our Inspire Your Volunteers masterclass THIS THURSDAY in High Wycombe.

This is the most comprehensive and practical training you’ll find and is designed specifically for those managing or coordinating volunteers.

Professional training of this kind would usually cost £250, but as a member of the Community Impact Bucks network, it’s available to you for just £35 (full day including materials & refreshments).

If you’d like to inject some magic into your volunteer team, book your place here.


Charity Performance Measures Worth Tracking for Improved Impact Measurement


Guest Blog – By Mark Kemp, Director, The Gallery Partnership

Impact measurement often strikes fear into charities, large or small. It is something that organisations are increasingly expected to do, yet it can be difficult to know where to begin. As impact began to gain traction in the social sector a decade or so ago, interest in and activity around tools and techniques to measure it also began to grow.

To demonstrate that your charity is really changing people’s lives, you need some way of assessing your work. Government and private funders are increasingly concerned with getting maximum value for their money, targeting their funding to the charities which achieve the most change. Charities who can show clearly what they are achieving are at a real advantage. Furthermore, charities who address a need for impact measurement by proactively opening up conversations are likely to impress funders. Proposing sensible ideas on good impact measurement show you take it seriously, and that you are doing it for the right reasons.

For some charities, performance measurement can serve as the answer to many of their prayers. In these cases, data can provide the critical component that will allow them to showcase their efforts and successes to their funders and other constituents while also helping them increase capacity and improve return on investments.

If you’re a charity CEO who is rolling your eyes while reading this, you’re probably not alone. This vision of non-profit utopia seems far removed from the actual reality of effective charity performance management and finding charity performance measures that are useful and attainable is not easy. However, it is possible to find performance management metrics that enable your organisation to both prove that you have effective management in place, are experiencing successful financial performance, and that the efforts your staff and volunteers are exerting are truly moving towards meeting your mission.

If finding performance measures has been keeping you up at night, keep reading to learn the secret to developing your own performance measures worth tracking.

The first metric charities need to consider, is how efficient they are at mobilising their resources. Because charities range drastically in size and scope, sometimes simple metrics like pounds raised or members served can be red herrings, drawing attention away from the actual issue at hand. These metrics could include fund-raising performance, membership growth, and market share. The current standard of categorising expenses into programs, fundraising and administrative/overhead speaks to this kind of metric, and the idea of a common outcome framework is already becoming more visible and solidified within the charity arena.

Staff Activity
The second kind of metric is probably the most straightforward; measure what your staff are doing with their time. Understanding the organisational inputs, not just in terms of money but also in terms of time, is critical for being able to draw the connection between efforts and outcomes later on. Thankfully, as management software has improved, collecting this kind of data has become substantially more straightforward. Employees can now track their output immediately, increasing effectiveness and accuracy. Tracking these kinds of charity performance measures is a no-brainer.

Mission-Based Measurement
Saving the best for last, we all know that tracking progress against a mission is an absolutely key component of effective management for charities. But that’s usually easier said than done. While it might make sense to narrow or reframe one’s scope to make it more quantifiable, this is often not practical or reasonable to expect of charities, especially those whose goals are around affecting significant social change.

Another possible tack here is to collect evidence, usually on a large scale, that demonstrates there is change in the world that is correlated with the mission of the charity and has some plausible connection to their efforts. This leaves much to be desired as a standard of measurement. Correlation is not as valuable as causation as a form of proof, and even this kind of research could come at a large cost, both in terms of time and money.

So what’s a charity to do? While some organisations suggest utilising micro-goals to help break down one’s mission into measurable pieces, there is another part to the puzzle that is often overlooked. Creating measurable, actionable micro-goals is important, but having the right tools and strategies for measuring these outcomes, connecting them directly to efforts, and being able to pivot the organisation in order to stay in alignment with the broader mission are all absolutely critical for success. Selecting key performance indicators is an important first step, but it’s the moment when these measurements are brought into alignment with the big picture that actually signifies change.

Hopefully by now it’s clear that no single metric is going to solve all of your organisation’s operational challenges. Finding the right performance measures can take some time and effort, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the challenge. However, with the right technologies, such as Apricot Software and an ability to keep an eye both on the end goal and on the smaller, more attainable steps along the way, your organisation can thrive in both improving efficiency and continuing to attract valuable funders to the cause.

A note about Apricot by Michelle Dawson, Living Life Service Manager at Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind

“Apricot software goes beyond case management needs and gives us the ability to clearly communicate the impact of our organisation. Apricot offers a variety of services giving us the ability to put a large focus on outcomes and community impact. We can better understand what goes into a successful outcome plan and how to increase our successes each year. By receiving these insights, we are able to make better-informed decisions about where we should allocate our resources for future programming. Apricot allow us to understand fully who we are working with. We can compare data across projects. We can mix and match outcome strands in line with our seven organisational outcomes. We are better able to identify strategic operational, technical, and outcome-based objectives, so that we can maximise our technology’s capabilities to meet our organisation’s outcomes, data collection, and reporting needs.  And finally all of this saves us money.”

Mark Kemp is Director of The Gallery Partnership, which has provides professional IT support services and reliable software solutions to charities across the UK.

Gallery’s Apricot is a cloud based database for charities, which allows you to monitor your outcomes and prove your impact.

Strive to be a Brand Champion and Protect your Reputation

Guest Blog – by Giles Robertson

The last few months have given those of us working with charities good food for thought as to why it is critically important to have a rock solid brand and a clear unique selling point (USP) in place.  I have experienced this media anti-charity maelstrom from three very different perspectives – as a Trustee for the Marine Conservation Society working to help protect our seas and sea shores, running my company Green Banana Marketing working solely with charities and public sector organisations and finally, as a consultant working within UK charities.

Anti-charity maelstrom

camilla newspaper

It’s certainly not happy reading. The negative media around how charities operate in getting their vital funds has definitely been provoked by a less than philanthropic side of the media – out for a good old fashioned kill. We’ve now seen just how easy it is for the charity sector to attract criticism, much like any other sector, from the debacle of the Kids Company closing (after 19 years of what looks like good work) to the charity ‘cold call sharks’. Having worked in the charity sector for the best part of two decades, it’s the worst I have seen.

And this has been reflected in the Edelman Trust barometer 2012-2015, which shows trust in charities ‘to do what is right ” went down from 67% in 2014 to 50% in 2015- this figure is actually now just 2% below trust in business!

Charities creating value

Most charities have limited budgets but many have also become more professionalised over the last few years. Fundraising is of course big business for charities and the ‘value’ of what members and supporters get from their relationship is key. Some charities have actually managed to maintain / increase the perceived value of their supporter relationships. And of course new partnerships are a good way to bolster income and profile, but these can also be a risk, and there are many examples of partnerships which have upset supporters, who may walk away from their chosen charity. With more government cuts to our essential services, the essence of big society still creeping through our organisations, the market is only going to get tougher for those involved in supporting communities, youth engagement, homelessness, the environment, education, health and well being.

Tensions between divisions

So it stands to reason that charities should make sure they have a rock solid basis upon which they operate. Divisions and tensions within the internal ‘family’ structure of charities are often all too apparent. Many commercial organisations and sectors have long-suffered such acute internal tensions, for instance in retail and fashion (between the design and sales teams – epitomised by Steve Jobs’ evangelical belief in all things Apple design-led. But also in the media, fisti-cuffs between editorial and sales teams over the soul of magazines are very common.

The equivalent in charities is the tension between fundraising and operations, who don’t always sing from the same hymn-sheet. Whilst the need to fundraise is inarguable, fundraising and the marketing efforts that support it, are often seen as merely support services to the actual business of doing charitable work.

The problem is – we all know, that fundraising creates a strong brand message, which can sometimes seem at odds with the charities core vision. And so when difficult questions are asked, it is perhaps not surprising that a joined-up response isn’t immediately forthcoming.

It’s not been great for those of us working in the sector to see the internal / external tensions grow.  But rather than respond in a constructive and strategic way, many charity brands have dug themselves even deeper holes.

Your brand should be your shield

I think attacks on charities over the next few years will continue to increase because there are so many charities and because they are now seen as being too powerful. Look at what Greenpeace can do with their  ‘Tell Lego to dump Shell’ campaign– they can mobilise millions globally to stop a partnership.  It was good to see Greenpeace in action (and succeeding in stopping the Lego Shell partnership!). Without Greenpeace, life would be much less interesting (and less organisations would be kept in check).


And not to mention the collective campaigning might of Change.org, 2Degrees and Kiva, and crowd funding sites like Indiegogo which raised 1.9m Euros from 108K people to help the Greek Deficit. OK, it is some way off the 1.6 billion target, but the sense of charity from the community is of great interest. There has also been a huge increase in charities and NGOs over recent years.

greek bailout

But I want to return to our central theme of having a robust and clear brand / USP, and acting as a shield for your reputation (and maintaining ‘trust’ in challenging times). I’d like to present a checklist of the things I think charitable organisations could do to be one step closer to dealing with challenging times (and the odd poorly selected partnership).  A clear brand / USP should:

  1. Protect you and keep people trusting in you during the bad times – when the going is not so good
  2. Get that bit more out of people who get out of bed for the cause, sometimes for no/low money, such as volunteers and Trustees. I think of the brilliant words of Barbara Cassani, who founded Go Fly under British Airways. She talked about inspring the cabin crew in the low cost airline by saying they were the in-flight ‘champagne’. Your brand vision and brand message should inspire and be the organisational in-flight champagne.
  3. Make delivery more efficient (and effective) when working with limited resource
  4. Appeal to new partners (staff, alumni and new staff and Trustees)
  5. Add a certain vibrancy and chutzpah

It’s important to have the right tools in place to enable people to be able to express / interpret the brand vision and USP in their own words. A well defined brand strategy should have the following elements:

Brand strategy

A. An outline of your purpose
– How it works
– What it does very well

B. The vision and values

C. Benefits
– What you do better than anyone else

D. Objectives for growth
– Benefits and opportunities

E. The main audience and stakeholder messaging (and the shift you may need with each)

Brand guide
A. An outine of what’s on and off brand, words, images, logo use, strapline

B. How the various sub brands work together
– The common thread which guides and unites key functions like fundraising, operations, programmes, advocacy, marketing, comms; commonalities and unique messages

C. How different comms channels should be used
– Guides for each type of comms material
– Guide for use on website and intranet

D. How the brand should be used on social media (including Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and Flickr as well as a guide for working on partner sites)

E. A written content guide is useful; the National Trust do this very well, see here
https://youtu.be/mVfCyejm4cQ (a written content guide is sufficient, but a film guide is very useful)

F. Great written case studies showing a slice of work, through one persons perspective, communicate the story well (how it works and what it does). Organisation and places can be complex for people to understand, people can only really take in a handful of messages at a time, so producing a handful of case study films would be a good asset. Mario’s personal battle with cancer and the support he got from Macmillan Cancer Support hit me hard in this film – Mario’s Story and I “get” exactly what he went through and what the charity did for him – even within this small focus of their work

G. Effective corporate partnerships; checklist for sectors and approach

H. A brand crisis team / crisis outline, with staff trained and prepared for “an aggressive and fast-moving” news cycle, should negative stories arise

These are just some of the ways you can help build your charity brand. People are a charity’s main asset and a few well-placed guides can make all the difference.  It’s important to have the right tools in place to enable people to be able to express / interpret the brand vision and USP in their own words. A well-defined brand strategy will not only serve you well when the media are in a less charitable mood, but also help you define value to all your supporters and ultimately help you grow. My advice to you would be to complete an audit of what your organisation has in place and strive to be a brand champion.

Giles Robertson is Managing Director of Green Banana Marketing Ltd and  independent Marketing Consultant, Marketing Society Fellow, Charity Group chairman, Trustee of Marine Conservation Society and proud member of Bucks Business First.

You can meet Giles at our Big Impact Not-for-Profit Conference on 29th Sept, where he’s delivering a Brand Building Essentials workshop.

Follow him on twitter @gogreenbanana and Linkedin or email at Giles@greenbananamarketing.com