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How to Build a Great Volunteer Marketing Committee

Michael Reynolds

Posted by Michael Reynolds on 6/27/13 11:09 AM

HandsWe do a lot of work with non-profits andassociations and we absolutely love helping them reach their goals using web and marketing strategies.

However, non-profits often have unique challenges, and the number one challenge we hear about it (you guessed it) –– budget.

Our non-profit clients often have a great understanding of how bloggingsocial mediacontent creationSEOvideo, and a good inbound marketing plan can help them. However, for whatever reason they have not been able to set the budget necessary to make it happen.

When this is the case, what's the solution?

A good path to great marketing as a non-profit can be a great volunteer marketing committee! A great marketing committee can manage the website, create content, set strategy, engage in social media, and optimize the process. This means your organization can get closer to your goals (because great marketing works).

However, if you've ever served as a board or committee member for a non-profit you know that marketing committees are not always wildly successful. Here's how it usually goes:

  • Marketing Chair: Hey! I need some committee members. You've got some marketing background. Want to join?
  • Committee Member 1: Sure! Count me in.
  • Marketing Chair: Hey! I need some committee members. You've got some marketing background. Want to join?
  • Committee Member 2: Sure! Count me in.
  • Marketing Chair: Hey! I need some committee members. You've got some marketing background. Want to join?
  • Committee Member 3: Sure! Count me in.
  • Marketing Chair: Ok... we'll have monthly conference calls where we talk about marketing things. Cool?
  • Committee Members: Cool!
  • First Call: We need to do some marketing things! Talk talk talk (insert some great ideas here). Ok... let's follow up on that next month.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Does this looks familiar? This is a very common format for non-profit marketing committees and as you can see it doesn't aways lead to results.

So how do you build and run a successful marketing committee?

Define general strategy in advance

The problem with most marketing committees is that they start recruiting volunteers before a strategy is defined, which means it happens before roles are defined. Step one is to decide what your general strategy will be. This can be a board decision or it can (and probably should) be delegated to an expert. Often this expert will be a board member who has professional marketing experience or your marketing committee chair (often the same person). An outside consultant can also be utilized.

For example, do you plan to utilize inbound marketing as your approach? SEO? Video? More traditional PR? A mixture? How will you map out your process? Getting some clarity on how you want to approach your constituents will help you with the next step. Don't over-think this step but do get a basic sense of what direction you want to go.

Define roles in advance

Another mistake that non-profits make is that they use the "mirror test" to decide who to recruit. If you're breathing, you're on the committee! This is not ideal. Before you decide who to recruit to your committee, you need to define roles. For example, if you're planning to create an inbound marketing campaign, you'll want to recruit for the following roles:

  • Project manager (marketing committee chair)
  • Blogger(s)
  • Social media community manager
  • Content developer(s)
  • Designer
  • Video expert

A good inbound marketing campaign requires these roles to be successful. This allows you to create clear expectations for potential volunteers. It also helps you effectively break out the workload in your committee.

The committee chair should be taking over at this point to define these roles and move on to recruiting (the next step).

Recruit experts

Once you've defined your roles, it becomes much easier to recruit volunteers. Instead of vaguely searching for "marketing people" to join a non-structured committee, you are now filling specific job descriptions. You are now able to ask your network for experts in a specific tactic like social media management, design, or video. If people know why they are being recruited and what specific skill they are being asked to share, they can get a better grasp of what's expected. It also subdues the fear of being overworked... instead they can see that they are part of a team.

As you recruit, be sure to look for true industry experts. The best marketing committee members are often professionals with full-time jobs who are very successful but who are looking for a way to give back and share their talents with a good cause.

Create a process

Nothing discourages volunteers more than a disorganized committee. Make sure you (as the committee chair) create a clear process for getting work done. Meet monthly to define strategy and then delegate tasks to your committee. Use a project management system like Basecamp to make sure things stay on track. Set a tone of action for your committee so everyone is focused on results.

Be specific when assigning tasks. Rather than give vague instructions like "look into video for upcoming events," try "create promotional video for 2013 convention using testimonials from last year's event." Then set deadlines and follow up.

Set a real budget

9 times out of ten (made-up statistic) non-profit marketing committees operate with no budget. The conversation often goes like this:

  • Marketing Committee Chair: What's our annual budget? I've got some ideas but I need to know what I can invest.
  • Executive Director: Budget? Ha ha... we've never had a marketing budget! Do what you can for free.

This is insulting to your volunteers. Don't set them up for failure by ignoring their need for funds and parameters. A great marketing committee can accomplish great things with a limited budget but don't under-invest or ignore it completely.

Invest in the right tools

Plenty of marketing committees operate with no budget (see above) but this is not ideal. Non-profits should consider in investment in the right tools to help their marketing committees succeed. There are a number of tools than can help your volunteers make the most of their time. We are fans of HubSpot but there are plenty of options. Set your marketing committee up for success by giving them the right tools.

Measure results

As your committee executes campaigns and optimizes their efforts, keep an open line of communication between them and the board, as well as between other committees. The marketing committee should be thought of as the "marketing department" of your non-profit which means they need to be in communication with sales (a.k.a. fundraising) and other groups so that everyone is in sync.

This will also allow the marketing committee to get real-time feedback on what is working and what it not. Looking at website analytics is super important but it's also incredibly valuable to supplement it with human stories and feedback.

Build a great marketing committee

I hope this has helped you as you consider making use of a marketing committee within your non-profit. Having served on many boards and committees, I've seen some great things happen as a result of following these guidelines.

Here's to all the great non-profit organizations out there who are making the world a better place. Let's do our best to support their marketing committees so their work doesn't go unnoticed.

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Topics: non-profits, marketing

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