Laura, Joy, and I hit the road last week. We are beginning the initial in-person visits to agencies that are working with Volunteer Maryland for this service year. It is inspiring to witness the service that occurs in our communities as a result of our partnership. I’ve had the privilege of visiting several agencies as a volunteer over the past month but, that is not the purpose of these visits. As Joy mentioned last week, these visits are scheduled so that we can have a face-to-face dialog. Modern technology is efficient and often cost effective; however, nothing can replace sitting down and having a conversation. We split the visits based on regions. For Laura and me, the first stop was Volunteers of America Chesapeake (VOAChes). The VMC at VOAChes, Lynelle, is establishing a consistent volunteer program across several disciplines.
Laura and I were warmly greeted and ushered into a conference room. Before we had taken our seats, James, the Site Supervisor, presented each of us with pens imprinted with the Volunteers of America Chesapeake logo and business cards with contact information. Some of the current volunteer materials reflect the VOAChes brand and others don’t. During our conversation, he noted the importance of name recognition, especially for the local chapter of a national program. Volunteers of America is in 46 states and the District of Columbia so they probably have a program near you. Like many nonprofits this time of year, Volunteers of America Chesapeake is in the midst of their annual giving campaign.
Our next stop was Drew-Freeman Middle School. Volunteer Maryland is partnering with the Suitland Family Life and Development Corporation (SFLDC) to develop an urban agriculture program at the school. You are probably aware of the effectiveness of these programs in combating childhood obesity. Brandon, the VMC, showed us the beautiful, ample courtyard where students have already begun constructing raised beds. One of the things we learned in our conversation with Brandon and Kendra, the Site Supervisor, is that the leaders of SFLDC are considering changing the name to better reflect the mission of their program. The new name is: STEER Center, Science-Technology-Education-Engagement-Resource Center. On my way home I reflected on how the common theme of branding had come up in two very different conversations that day. In fact, Volunteer Maryland renamed the title of the position that Joy and I have this year, “Peer Leader,” to better reflect the roles we serve.
I am a novice when it comes to marketing, branding etc., except as a consumer, of course! Over the past year of service I discovered a few people I think have a down-to-earth approach to this topic. Last month a local PR firm, Galley Creative, launched a digital branding promotion. Each installment arrived in my inbox and offered basic, no nonsense information along with great examples. Who is doing it right? Well, do you know anyone who doesn’t recognize COKE, TARGET or STARBUCKS? These are brands are recognizable and they engage their customers. In October Starbucks invited their Facebook fans to carve a pumpkin in their likeness and post it on their own Facebook page!
Another local favorite of mine is Corrie Davidson of Captico. She generously passes on useful information and is never too busy to answer questions or share resources. Corrie even hosted an introduction to social media for the Severna Park Chamber of Commerce. Capitco is a leader in using technology as a marketing tool. Also check out Inbound Zombie, John Haydon and the crew at CharityHowTo. Their webinars cover the gamut from novice to experienced; some introductory ones are free! Beth Kanter and her guests regularly offer suggestions in Beth’s Blog.
What branding techniques or tips do you use? At Volunteer Maryland we bring a banner emblazoned with our logo and mission statement wherever we go. Our VM gear is the attire of choice when appropriate. At a recent networking session we hosted with Business Volunteers Unlimited one of the attendees shared the great conversations she has started by wearing a branded shirt to the grocery store!