Orient your volunteer marketer

Your marketer will most likely have marketing experience in the for-profit industry.  Give them Orientation Tips.  It will help them get up to speed on how to market in the non-profit industry, how to customize the advice to help you and how to be a consultant.

Approach from a position of strength

You are offering a marketer a great opportunity.  A typical marketer spends most of their time dealing with implementation issues.  Only a small part of their day job concerns strategic development, and this is usually the most fun.   You are offering this marketer a chance to work on the “fun stuff”.

Don’t expect marketers to be emotionally tied to your cause.

Marketers love marketing and adapting to new challenges.  It is important for marketers to gain lateral experience in other industries, but in Canada there are only a few industries.  Helping you out part time is a great way to gain new experiences with no down-side risk to their career.

Don’t expect marketers will want to be Board members

Certainly you can offer a Board position if you discover that your marketer wants to expand their skill set beyond marketing.  However, if your marketer wants to focus on honing their marketing skills, keep them on as a coach.

Expect marketers to work faster

Marketers will expect work to be completed quickly, so prepare your staff.  Marketers typically operate in a hierarchy, where decisions are made faster than in a consensus environment.

Help them learn to be consultants

Most generalist marketers are employees of large corporations, with no consulting experience. They know how to do marketing;  they may not know how to do consulting. Structure the relationship to help them adjust to being a volunteer consultant.  Give them an initial contract.  At the end, the final close form is important because that is how you “pay” your volunteer.  It contains your results and your volunteer needs this information for their resume. Every marketer needs a resume that contains concrete accomplishments but in a large corporation it is hard to measure the impact that one employee makes.

Remember that good marketing is deceptively hard

Marketing done well looks easy and obvious.  It takes a lot of experience to make things look easy.  It requires an outside perspective, to see you how your donors see you.   It also requires tact, to tell you the uncomfortable facts that your employees can’t.

Allow the relationship to stay temporary or become permanent

After the initial tasks are complete, you may wish to keep the marketer “on retainer” so you don’t have to recruit and orient a new marketer later.  It is really convenient to telephone an outsider who already understands you, for a second opinion on opportunities presented to your non-profit.  Here is an example:  with 24 hours notice, a local newspaper offers you free space and you are wondering if it is worth your time to create an ad.  The conversation with your marketer could cover: what is the objective of the ad? does it fit with your strategy? Is the target audience correct? How beneficial is this opportunity vs your other marketing projects?   And if you decide to ignore their advice, there are no politics (unlike advice from board members or employees).

Be sensitive to the distinction between marketing and fundraising

In large corporations, sales departments (ie fundraising departments) are completely separate from marketing departments.  Separate but equal.  Sales people and marketers differ in personality type, skill set, emotional triggers and time frame for projects.  A sales person would not be expected to handle a marketing assignment, any more than an accountant would.  And a marketer would not be expected to do a sales job.  In large non-profits, the marketing and fundraising (ie sales) departments are also separate and equal.  In smaller non-profits, there appears to be an expectation on fundraisers to also do marketing.  This sometimes causes a sense of unease.   See this link that explains marketing vs fundraising.

Select carefully the other employees who will work with the marketer

emojiDon’t necessarily assume that your Director of Development should be involved, when in fact, they may feel threatened.  Select employees based on knowledge of the database, experience with clients, open to new ideas, etc.  Expect your employees to spend the same (or more) time on a selected project because they will be working together with the volunteer consultant.

Sensitize your employees that the volunteer may use for-profit language

Marketing concepts in the for-profit and non-profit industries are similar.  The language used to discuss those concepts is different.  Despite their best efforts, there is a strong probability that your volunteer will inadvertently use business terminology.  Prepare your employees to expect the occasional mixup and focus on the underlying concept the volunteer is communicating.

Volunteer consultants report to one person, not to a committee

You recruited this volunteer to give you objective advice.  It is your job to communicate the advice internally, convince your colleagues and build consensus.