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.

Your Blog Could Easily be an OpEd

Repurposing Strong Content Yields Additional Results

Doesn’t it seem like everyone has a Blog these days?  If not, we should because by now we know that content rules.  Content is also what drives thought leadership earned media strategies.

Many Blogs are well-written and present provocative, timely ideas.  These Blogs can be repurposed as OpEds and placed in print media including newspapers, online e publications and trade magazines.

SPRYTE client David Griffith, Executive Director of Episcopal Community Services, regularly blogs on his LinkedIn Blog Site Muddy Boots.

A blog Griffith posted in January was repurposed and placed in this week’s edition of the Philadelphia Business Journal.

It is the first OpEd in an ongoing series, “Poverty:  Finding Solutions in The Business Community.”  Griffith’s opinion article also introduces a highly-anticipated brand new Episcopal Community Services workforce development program, MindSet, “based on the most current brain science available that provides coaching and financial assistance to help individuals navigate the system and access opportunity that many of us take for granted.”

As the first cohort of MindSet reaches the mid-point of the first phase of the program, Griffith will continue to use his voice as a blogger and social services thought leader to encourage the business community to create the jobs that pull individuals out of poverty.  The readers of the Philadelphia Business Journal are an excellent audience for his platform.

Recognizing the Wonderful Work of Caregivers Each February

National Caregivers Day recognizes the wonderful work of caregivers who tirelessly give of themselves for others.

Last Friday, National Caregivers Day was observed, as it has been, on the third Friday in February, since it was created just four years ago in 2015 by the Providers Association for Home Health & Hospice Agencies.

SPRYTE was lucky to be introduced and retained by a wonderful national home care company, Griswold Home Care, by mentor and friend of the agency Lonny Strum. He’s our guest blogger this week. Lonny’s blog in appreciation of caregivers is very personal but it also sheds light on the huge numbers of individuals receiving care in our country.

Read Lonny Stum’s Blog here.

The Media Advisory is a Critical Tool

Healthcare Providers in Pursuit of TV Coverage Need to Nail Them

What we refer to as a Media Advisory at SPRYTE Communications is also sometimes called a Media Alert or a Calendar Alert. Whatever you call it, the Media Advisory is a critical media relations tool for encouraging television news coverage of a single event or function.

For many healthcare communicators, in large and small media markets alike, winning television coverage can be elusive.

You have to think like a producer and succinctly present the opportunity for the cameras to shoot very strong visuals, the kind you see every night on TV news. The following factors are also important and can make or break a TV opportunity:

  • Day of the Week: SPRYTE likes a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday.
  • Time of Day: We like mid late morning.
  • Proximity to News Station: If it’s more than a 30-minute drive, that adds challenge.

Here are some of the shortcomings of Media Advisories I’ve seen written at SPRYTE over the years:

  •  Visuals aren’t mentioned.
  •  Headlines lack creativity.
  •  Dispassionate.
  •  A specific time for the main “moment” isn’t given.
  •  Longer than one page.
  •  Written like a News Release.
  •  Lacking parking and entrance instructions.

We do a lot of Media Advisory training actually, more than I would have expected for both seasoned and more junior pros with media relations responsibilities. The reasons these folks need training?

  • Don’t ever watch television news.
  • Don’t sell it.
  • Value print over broadcast coverage.

When You Hear the Anchor Use Your Words

When the TV Anchor uses your words to accompany the video their cameraperson shot at your event from the anchor desk, you know you wrote good ones.

That was the case in December when SPRYTE reached out to televisions news assignment desks in pursuit of their coverage of an intimate and humble graduation ceremony for a large faith-based social service agency it represents in Southeast Pennsylvania.

Two adults completing Episcopal Community ServicesRISE Initiative were celebrated at a non-traditional recognition ceremony.
SPRYTE’s Media Advisory  enticed Philadelphia’s number one rated local television news station, 6 ABC, to send a cameraman to cover the program.

The resulting television news segment included favorite local anchorwoman 6 ABC’s Monica Malpass including words from SPRYTE’s Media Advisory headline.

Part of our earned media strategy for Episcopal Community Services includes attempting to win coverage of key milestones in their program year including RISE Initiative completion recognition programs for the following reasons:

Reasons to Pursue TV News Coverage

  • Shows (rather than tells) their great organization in action.
  •  Simplifies a multi-faceted mission by focusing on one great, visual moment.
  • Covers a wide geography.
  • Affirms donors’ good decision to support you.
  • Boosts morale of program participants and staff alike.
  • Builds the organization’s brand in the community in a visible way.

Remember sometimes the cameras don’t show up to even the most inspiring, visually-charged and meaningful events. We all know that can happen. But if we think there is potential for a great TV story that will be enjoyed by viewers throughout our media market, we will try at all costs to get the coverage again next time too.