When you list the many things volunteers add to your organization, do you list their impact on your reputation? If you don’t, or aren’t framing volunteers as a potential asset to your organization’s reputation to senior management, you’re missing out on a powerful way to reinforce the value volunteers can bring to your organization and consequently, the work you do.
Too often, we talk about what volunteers are not and struggle with articulating what they are in really tangible terms that resonate with others. One of the most undervalued assets volunteers can bring to your organization is an enhancement of your organizational reputation.
Reputation can flow both ways- negatively and positively, and there can be circumstances outside your control for the direction of that flow. But take a moment to consider what difference it could make to your organization if every one of the volunteers connected to you acted as a positive ambassador, singing your praises publicly to their networks, or conversely, damning you. What difference would it make to your fundraising, programs and partnership efforts? Perhaps you’ve seen the impact of a very happy or disgruntled volunteer- now multiply that.
When we ask volunteers to be part of our organizations, we’re letting them in behind the curtain. They see the good and the bad. I refer to this as the double-edged sword of volunteer involvement. Some use this as a rationale for keeping volunteers on the edges as ‘external’ people, however that’s a counter intuitive attempt to ‘manage’ volunteers and almost always results in low levels of engagement.
There’s a saying that no one volunteers to do a bad job and I think it’s also fair to say that volunteers come to your organization wanting to support it and contribute to your mission. They’re already inclined to grow your organization’s positive reputation- it’s really up to you, and the experience you help curate that determines whether they continue being your organization’s reputation asset or not.
So what are you doing to keep volunteers on the asset side of your organization’s reputation?