Volunteers Want to Know Their Time is Valued

Don’t Overlook a Simple Thank You

April is National Volunteer Month and this year SPRYTE had the opportunity to interview amazing volunteers and spend hours writing blogs about them for our clients.

The majority of generous souls we talked to volunteered as companions to seniors.  Their dedication and compassion are humbling.  And, the amount of time they contribute and that they actually have to contribute, is substantial.

Unknowing organizations are too often shocked to know that many wonderful volunteers resign because of their interactions with professional staff and other volunteers.

Taking Advantage of a Volunteer’s Generosity

My own Mom abruptly quit her volunteer job a few months ago with no notice.

She was making an incredible weekly contribution to a respite program for spouses at her continuing care retirement community.  For two hours once a week, she led afternoon activities for a small group of elderly women suffering from dementia. Their husbands would drop them off for five hours total, which included lunch.

After lunch is when the fun began.  My Mom put a lot of creativity and planning time in to the sessions and the feedback all around was stellar.  The participants were fully engaged and the stretched-thin staff social worker was thrilled.  She got a lot of positive feedback.

But one day she accompanied the group to a musical program in a different location on the campus and a staffer ordered her to take one of the participants to the Ladies room.  That one simple, inappropriate request was a trigger.  It crossed the line.  Without belaboring it, my Mom resigned from the program.  What a loss to the participants. Instead of being engaged in well thought out group cognitive activities, their time will be more custodial until a new resource is found.

My Dad is quitting his volunteer job at the continuing care retirement community too.  A retired PhD think tank economist, he has volunteered for the IRS at tax time for nearly 20 years.  He helps seniors file their tax returns.

Apparently, the foreman at his volunteer location is a miserable bully.  He barks out people’s last names and requires the volunteer to trot up to his throne when called.  My Dad finds it demeaning and distracting when he’s trying to complete as many returns as possible for the helpless seniors.

Tax Day Was His Last Day

Anyway, the week before last my Dad was in the community bank branch as was the IRS volunteer foreman.  The gentleman ignored my Dad, he didn’t say hello, there wasn’t any gesture of recognition.  My Dad stuck it out through Tax Day but now he’s quitting because the volunteer environment is so toxic and besides a horrible volunteer boss, no one has ever thanked him.

SPRYTE’s Operations Manager Steve Ehrlich, a prolific volunteer photographer, said “Volunteers need to be thanked.  Volunteers do not work for money. They work because they believe in the cause.”

Steve shoots loads of community and charitable events.  He reminisced, “I just recently photographed a major event. I delivered the finished photos very quickly (event was Sunday night, photos delivered late Monday night.)  I did not get a thank you reply to my email.  I did get recognition in the program and my photos were posted on Facebook with a credit, I just did not get a personal thank you.”

Steve summed it up, “Most volunteers want to know that their work is appreciated after they have completed it.”

This is a good time to remember how the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines public relations in 2019:

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

Non profit organizations and other industries like hospice that engage volunteers must remember that volunteers are an important public.  Their experience can contribute greatly to an organization’s reputation in the marketplace.  Many volunteers who contribute their time also contribute money to the causes they love.  Do you agree?  Volunteers’ experiences must be as positive as possible.  Anything less has potential to reflect poorly upon the organization.

-Lisa Simon.

 

How Are You Celebrating Volunteer Week?

At SPRYTE, We’re Blogging

It would be hard to find anyone in the nonprofit arena who doesn’t know this week is National Volunteer Week. Our country’s tradition of service to others is truly something to be proud of and it dates back to Colonial Times, according to VolunteerMatch’s article “Volunteering: History of An American Value”.

Back in the day, on behalf of corporate social responsibility and nonprofit clients, we used to publicize outstanding volunteers and their good deeds and contributions to charities and society in local weekly newspapers during National Volunteer Week.

Does anyone remember the Ambler Gazette’s “Citizen of the Week?” column? Even daily newspapers used to have more real estate for feel good stories about people doing extraordinary selfless deeds for others.

We know those happy days are over. As SPRYTE survives a commoditized marketplace with less real estate for earned media placements, we’re increasingly suggesting that we put our outstanding interviewing and writing skills to work by contributing high-level, high-energy digital content to our clients.

Starting with last year’s National Volunteer Week, we suggested that our client Episcopal Community Services (ECS) showcase a different volunteer (Rosalie RudegeairMary Kate FahyAmy Coburn, Avyanne Osbourne, Josh Bartek) for each business day of the week, five in total on their Blog.

The assignment was delightful on a number of levels:

It was an honor to represent ECS and its fine programs.

  • It was engaging to hear firsthand, on behalf of our client, why their volunteers do what they do and what they gain from it.
  • We had the opportunity to learn about our client and their professional team from a different voice.
  • We implemented a successful, valued tactic that wasn’t earned media.

As SPRYTE progresses with digital communications, we welcome the opportunity to flex our writing muscle on behalf of clients. And if we ever uncover a kernel of an idea that has high earned media potential in our quest to create content, you can rest assured we will escalate it and ask permission to reach out to the media to win coverage every time.

Leverage Patient Successes in the News

Sourcing the Perfect Spokesperson for Earned Media Takes Time

When a healthcare provider launches a new service line or therapy, it can benefit from framing its new, novel offering in authentic human terms. Think about winning news coverage by leveraging the face of a willing patient who has benefitted from your care. In many cases, you can turn a dry pitch or introduction in to a must-do TV segment, or elevate a three-inch business brief in to a front-page newspaper feature story.

But be advised: it will take patience from all involved especially when your CEO, lead surgeon, or department head is feeling pressure to let prospective patients know about that new service or surgical technique so it can start returning the time and financial investment required to bring it on line.

A Happy Patient Illustrates Breast “Air Expansion”

Last October, Dr. William Scarlett, a breast reconstruction surgeon with our client Holy Redeemer Health System, began pioneering a new, noninvasive way of expanding the breast cavity for post-mastectomy implants.

The technology, involving bursts of CO2 delivered via remote control at home through clothes, instead of weekly saline injections in the doctor’s office, was both game-changing and visually friendly, as the manufacturer had provided samples to help explain the procedure to prospective patients., Dr. Scarlett was currently the only physician in the region using the system, called AirXpander®, according to the manufactuer AreoFlow.

The urge to talk about AirXpander® was also fueled by the the fact that it was unknown how long Dr. Scarlett would have exclusivity with AirXpander® in the Philadelphia region.

We knew the first thing a consumer reporter would ask is “Can I talk to a patient?” But initially patients were few and far between. Additionally, as the air expansion process takes an average of seven weeks to complete before permanent implants are placed, there wouldn’t be any immediate success stories.

So we waited. By early 2018 Dr. Scarlett had several successful procedures under his belt, and more importantly, he was still the only surgeon in the Philadelphia area using it, according to AeroFlow. Meanwhile, Dr. Scarlett had the perfect patient case study to showcase.

Miriam, a 69-year-old former Philadelphia resident now living in Florida, had resisted implants until learning of Holy Redeemer’s offering through a friend. She had beaten breast cancer and had just completed reconstruction surgery. She was making occasional trips back for follow-up appointments and to visit friends and her three grown daughters. Miriam wanted other women to know about air expansion, which she felt had significantly eased her reconstruction process. Miriam was truly an excellent patient spokesperson.

The local ABC station, to whom we’d offered the story exclusively, loved Miriam and promptly scheduled interviews to coincide with her next follow up appointment with Dr. Scarlett. In June, eight months after we first had a demo of AirXpander®, 6ABC ran a three-minute feature story. It was the first in an ongoing earned media campaign.

Tell a Great Story, Even if You Have to Wait to Tell It

While not every patient case study will be as perfect as Miriam’s, it’s worth biding your time until you can find one or more patients who have been treated successfully. It’s always more effective to tell stories about people, rather than machines, and if you can get patients to tell their own stories, that is even better.

Waiting doesn’t have to be passive; use the time to gather more information, hone your pitch or entice reporters with information and the prospect of connecting them to a “great patient whose life has changed.” Why not consider offering an exclusive to a top rated media outlet in exchange for their forbearance.

You might not always be first out of the gate like Dr. Scarlett and Holy Redeemer Health System, but if you can present an exceptional patient case study, you’re more likely to earn the media’s coverage of your story.

SPRYTE Insights previously published this Blog on July 31, 2018. We are re-posting it in recognition of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.