I have two people volunteering for me as of this writing (shout out Amira and Samantha!). They’re awesome. I was genuinely surprised when they each reached out to me though. Who would want to work, unpaid, for me? Why would anyone want to do something like that? I had no idea and no expectations at all. In fact, I fully anticipated no one to ever take me up on the offer.
But let’s back up. How did this idea come about in the first place? Last year, I read Your Music and People by Derek Sivers. While primarily geared towards musicians, the book is a powerful how-to in marketing and growth for any creative. Among other gems, Sivers discusses the power of volunteers. That as you become more well-known you will develop fans. And some of those fans would love an opportunity to help in some way. You can actually read the chapter right here.
After finishing that book, I was inspired. Inspired, but also a little uncertain. I completely understand the appeal of volunteering for a local band. Meeting them in person, hanging out, eating pizza, putting up flyers together. It’s very real, very tangible. But I’m a blogger. I write words. I try to avoid pizza as much as possible. Why would anyone want to take the time to help little ol’ me?
I put it out there anyway
That’s it. Those two spots. My blog’s footer and a small PS in an email. It took very little effort to implement. And then, I forgot about it. That is, until two different people reached out to me in the same month. Mere weeks apart. They wanted to volunteer. What? Really? I shared the news with my wife in surprise.
Turns out, they were legit. Not spam or a salesperson in disguise; two genuine humans who liked my work and wanted to help the cause. To say I was appreciative would be an understatement. Filled with gratitude and excitement would likely be more accurate. Gratitude for their generosity, excitement for their potential.
What’s the benefit of volunteering?
It’s still early days for my volunteer program, but already I’ve saved a tremendous deal of time through the tasks I’ve delegated out. Things that I either don’t have time for or don’t want to do (like PR outreach and market research). In exchange for their help, the volunteers get five things:
- Free enrollment in my goal success course;
- Direct access to me and my knowledge-base;
- The feeling that they are truly helping my business grow;
- A monthly call where we discuss their goals (assuming they stick around for more than a month);
- Plus, if there are any relevant connections I can make for them, I do that as well (as an added bonus).
Now, if you’re thinking – that’s a cool idea, but no one would ever want to volunteer for me – ya, same. But here we are. So my question to you is: why not give it a try? Doing what I’ve done takes little time and could result in deeper connections with your audience and fewer tasks on your plate.
Put together a simple page. List out the things you need help with. Personally, I kept it brief and somewhat generic so as to make it as broad-appealing as possible. Case in point, here are three areas I have open right now:
- Marketing – expand my reach
- Sales – help people find and enroll in my course
- Virtual assistance – help with day-to-day tasks
Let them know about it (but don’t spend much time doing so)
That page, as well as its contents, are brief, concise, and gives the potential volunteer an idea as to what I need help with. I also mention that, “If you possess a skill or strength related to something not listed above, still feel free to email me. I’m appreciative of any help you’re willing to offer.” In other words, I want your help and am entirely flexible.
From there, it’s just a matter of letting your audience know that opportunities exist. If you’re a pizza restaurant, you could put a little blurb at the bottom of your menu. For a photographer, you could link to the page from your Instagram bio. If you’re an app developer, you could mention it in the settings. It doesn’t need to be loud. People that care will find it.
If they don’t find it or don’t care, that’s fine all the same. After all, it’s an up and extra. Expect no one to volunteer and be pleasantly surprised when they do. That said, feel free to entice them. For instance, in both the email I send out and on the page itself, I mention how I will give them my course for free when they volunteer. If that’s something they’re interested in but don’t want to spend money on right now, it could be just the incentive they need.
Put gratitude above all else
I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for anyone that wants to help me do what I do. That believes in what I’m doing enough to spend their valuable time working for free. I have zero expectations that anyone will take me up on the offer again. Furthermore, I have zero expectations as to how long my current volunteers will stick around.
I am simply thankful for the opportunity before me. And that’s the perspective you should have going into this as well. Volunteers can save you a tremendous amount of time, all while you develop relationships with the people that believe in what you’re doing. They are not employees though. Nor are they unpaid interns. They are simply people that want to help you do what you do.
With that in mind, keep gratitude front and center. Give as much as you can and make it worth it for them to help. Because they aren’t getting paid, you need to ensure that some other form of value is being provided. In my case, it’s my course (plus the other four items I listed above). In the case of a band, it’s free pizza and camaraderie. For you, it could be access to your exclusive Facebook group.
Go forward with your volunteer page
Volunteers are an amazing way to develop relationships with your audience while offloading tasks that you don’t have time for (or don’t want to do). You may not think anyone would want to volunteer for you, but you won’t know until you try. So:
- Create something simple,
- Put it out there,
- Then expect nothing.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised when someone takes you up on the offer. I certainly was. From there, your next problem is… what task to give them? It both needs to be important so that you properly value their time, but also not so important that if they vanish you’re stranded. That’s a balance that I’m still figuring out. But, ultimately, it’s a good problem to have.
PS: Want to volunteer for me? You can do so here. 🙂