Earn credibility. Anyone can call themselves a marketer. Anyone can say they have HR experience. Everyone thinks they are an expert in strategy. In the past, your non-profit may have been disappointed with promises from previous volunteers, which will make them hesitant about you. Under promise and over deliver.
Expect resistance to your ideas and to you. A for-profit marketer can be very intimidating to a Director of Development. This reaction is typical in consulting. For example, strategy consultants experience resistance from EDs who feel that external advice is a sign of their own weakness. Governance consultants experience resistance from Chairs and founders who don’t like change. Don’t take it personally.
Obstacles that you encounter in the for profit sector (eg age, gender, disability) tend to be less of an issue. The non-profit sector is very accepting of diversity.
A “professional volunteer” is who you are. A “volunteer consultant” is what you do. Two sides of the same coin.
Professional volunteers may be hard for non profits to manage. Professional volunteers are a relatively new concept and are managed by senior staff who are juggling other responsibilities. Typically, non-profits obtain volunteers for events and operations and are managed by a mid-level employee called a Volunteer Administrator. Volunteers who are board members are managed by the ED and Chairman.
Price is a signal. People expect to get what they pay for. So as a volunteer, how do you replace price? Quantify your contribution in hours. See the project close form.
You cannot receive a tax receipt for the equivalent value of your donated time.
Dress in Friday casual clothes.
Expect to learn, from the non profit sector, how to motivate employees without using salary or benefits as a motivator.
Expect to feel good. Helping others can give you a sense of vitality and improve your mood. The book “Healthy Pleasures” compares a “helper’s high” to a “runner’s high”.
by Lelia MacDonald