Harness the Voice of Volunteers through the Power of Reviews

Volunteer Management E-mail Update (Susan's Tip of the Month)
June 2011

As they say on their Web site, GreatNonprofits is "a place to find, review, and talk about great - and perhaps not so great - nonprofits. It urges anyone with direct experience - as a client, staff member, financial donor, or volunteer - with a charitable organization in the United States, to share that knowledge so that other people can discover that group as well. GreatNonprofits includes profiles for all registered 501(c)(3) organizations based in the United States, but international organizations are welcome to add themselves to the database, as well. The following was written by GreatNonprofits themselves specifically for readers of this Update.

Volunteers play an integral role in the success of our organizations. By donating their time and expertise, volunteers make it possible for our organizations to extend their programs and initiatives far past what budget or staffing restraints might otherwise constrain us to. The potential for volunteers to make a lasting impact on the nonprofits they believe in is monumental and it is imperative that we conscientiously examine best practices for making the most of volunteer involvement. One easy way to increase the impact of your volunteers while also evaluating your organization is to ask volunteers to write a review on GreatNonprofits.

The reviews harness the powerful stories of dedicated and enthusiastic supporters to reach thousands of potential new donors and volunteers. In 2010 more than 650,000 people visited GreatNonprofits to read and write reviews of organizations making a difference around the world. Many of those individuals are looking for opportunities to volunteer with or donate to worthy organizations. Currently, users can rate more than 1.2 million nonprofits directly on our Web site or - via syndication - on our partner sites, such as GuideStar, which in turn uses the IRS database of Form 990 submissions. Users also can write reviews directly on GuideStar that will be published on GreatNonprofits as well.

Reviews will help you:

  • Recruit: Reviews can be a powerful tool to attract new potential volunteers who will be able to relate to the stories and experiences of other constituents who love, support and volunteer with their favorite nonprofit.
  • Motivate: Reviews can promote a sense of community and create an open arena to exchange opinions.
  • Improve: Program managers can use GreatNonprofits reviews as a free tool to gauge what they are doing well, and what can be improved upon. Soliciting reviews from constituents also emphasizes the transparency of a nonprofit's programs.

Most importantly, soliciting reviews from volunteers is both a simple and meaningful way to let them know that your organization genuinely cares about their experience, and is willing to listen and improve in the future. Robert Egger, Executive Director of DC Central Kitchen, a nonprofit with more than 40 reviews on our site explains, "We've [always] asked volunteers to rate their experience. I'm a big believer in our organizational ability to translate what volunteers say into real impact. It allows us to tweak our services, so that we're really doing what we say we do."

Here are some easy ways to get started:

  • Claim your organization's GreatNonprofits profile starting at http://greatnonprofits.org/login. Once you've registered, search for your nonprofit and click the button that reads "Staff-Claim Org" for tips and insights. (If your organization is not listed, feel free to add a profile by going to http://greatnonprofits.org/organizations/add.)
  • Include a link to your organization's GreatNonprofits profile in your next e-blast or e-newsletter to volunteers.
  • Send out a short link to your review page on your organization's Facebook fan page or Twitter profile.
  • Feature GreatNonprofits reviews in the news, links, or media section of your Web site.
  • With every thank-you card or e-mail, add a line about GreatNonprofits badgereviewing your organization on GreatNonprofits.
  • Add a "Reviewed on GreatNonprofits" badge to your homepage or the volunteer section of your website.

Reviews give volunteer managers and all nonprofit leaders a free tool to tell the story of their organization through their most energetic and enthusiastic supporters. The reviews are yours to use in your own marketing materials, volunteer orientations, fundraising appeals and grant applications.

To get started, head to GreatNonprofits and look up your organization. With more than 50,000 reviews of 7,000 organizations already submitted, your organization may have reviews you don't even know about!

Susan notes: The concept of soliciting reviews can work for any type of organization, anywhere in the world - if you are willing to post them publicly.

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