I was one of the presenters at the National Conference on Volunteering, speaking at a session during the afternoon on Tuesday. My presentation, the value of consistent marketing messages in creating innovative partnerships, utilised Eastern Volunteers as a case study in guiding the development of marketing messages and the formation of partnerships.
I began the presentation by discussing the services and structure of Eastern Volunteers. This helped provide context for the presentation and introduced the organisational areas of transport, volunteer recruitment and marketing, which form the core services delivered by Eastern Volunteers.
After providing this context I was able to discuss the steps required for utilising marketing in creating partnerships.
Firstly, there is a need to identify the strengths of the organisation. Strengths can be identified through a traditional SWOT analysis, which should highlight the areas of high performance within an organisation. These strengths can often be delivered as potential value when forming partnerships.
Once strengths have been identified, there is a need to determine the target market that the organisation wishes to reach. The identified target market should respond favourably to the identified strengths. For example, businesses identified as potential partners for Eastern Volunteers are those that have regional autonomy and an active customer base in the areas serviced by Eastern Volunteers.
It is imperative that value can be demonstrated to potential partners and where possible this should be quantified to demonstrate tangible benefits. While many organisations cite the readership of their newsletters, it is often useful to identify the demographics of your readers and their relationship to your organisation. Likewise, it is useful to include statistics from your organisation’s social media presence and website to further demonstrate reach. Website statistics can demonstrate how long someone spends on your website and how they engage with this content. This can be useful information to highlight how people connect with your organisation.
In the instance of Eastern Volunteers, the organisation reaches approximately 400 community organisations who are listed for volunteer vacancies and over 1000 volunteers who are interviewed on an annual basis.
One form of partnerships is a traditional sponsorship approach to supporting community organisations. Sponsorship is often used to support events and it is beneficial to clearly define sponsorship categories so that sponsors are clearly aware of the benefits and expectations.
Depending on the event there are often opportunities to create multiple categories of sponsorship, such as primary and secondary sponsors. It is imperative that there is tangible value to distinguish each sponsorship category and to make the additional cost difference beneficial to the sponsor. Try to make sure that there are opportunities for sponsors to participate in the event, as this increases the likelihood of future sponsorship and provides opportunities to upgrade the level of support.
Eastern Volunteers has been able to form ongoing partnerships utilising the approach of identifying strengths. In regard to Eastern Volunteers, the longevity, stability and networking ability of the organisation are definite strengths. This means that a partner can reach other community organisations and businesses through Eastern Volunteers knowing that the organisation is trusted and reputable.
This approach assisted Eastern Volunteers in forming an ongoing partnership with the Bendigo Community Bank Branches of Heathmont, Mooroolbark, Mt Evelyn and Ringwood East to provide an ongoing series of Business Breakfasts for the local community. The breakfasts assist Eastern Volunteers in networking with businesses and community organisations and assist the participating branches in meeting prospective clients.
Likewise, a similar partnership was formed with the Maroondah Leader providing a monthly feature on volunteering by profiling volunteers in the community. Eastern Volunteers utilises its networks in finding potential volunteers and articles for the Leader, while the newspaper demonstrates its interest in the community by including volunteer opportunities and editorial from Eastern Volunteers.
These partnerships were formed through an understanding of the organisational strengths of Eastern Volunteers and how they offered value to potential partners. While strengths differ between organisations, there is an opportunity to utilise these strengths to create mutually beneficial partnerships with businesses.