Marking and Visibility: Working Smarter, Not Harder
There are a seemingly infinite number of ways to get the word out about the program’s work and attempt to recruit volunteers (online, in-person, print media, etc.) It is tempting to think one should use every single tool at their disposal to raise awareness and generate interest, but the fact is, that is simply not realistic! With so many conflicting priorities and demands on our time, a strategic marketing plan can do wonders to promote efficiency and peace of mind.
Before making strategic decisions about what marketing tactics are most appropriate for the situation, it helps to make a strategic plan for the organization as a whole. Organization staff, board of directors, and/or a group of core supporters work together to clarify the vision and long-term goals of the organization and identify what needs to happen to achieve those goals, including what audiences need to be engaged via marketing. Dreaming big about desired outcomes is encouraged, but pragmatism is necessary to work backwards to identify the path needed to get there, what resources are needed, and who will be responsible for what work. Backwards planning continues until the group arrives at this moment in time — who needs to be engaged in order to move forward with the plan?
Once the group has identified the target audience(s,) they can brainstorm possible ways to reach them. Based on the knowledge of the group, how do people in this population hear about things? Are there groups or outreach outlets specific to this population that could be leveraged? Are there people who might know better that could be consulted?
Once the group has identified some options for reaching out, they can consider the return on investment for each. Say the organization must reach people who live in the vicinity of a particular community orchard to invite them to an upcoming work party. How much time and energy will it take to write an article for the neighborhood association newsletter? To attend their monthly meeting? To put up flyers or canvass door to door? How many people would be reached through each of these methods? Is a personal connection/conversation critical for the level of engagement being sought? Could a volunteer help to make this connection? Given all the other outreach and other work that needs doing at this time, what feels like the best fit? This process is repeated for all of current outreach priorities.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the ways an organization can or “should” be raising awareness. People will regularly ask, “Have you thought of using this website?” or say, “You should really be attending these meetings.” These suggestions should be considered, but only undertaken if they fit into the strategic plan AND the capacity to do so truly exists. The outreach plan should be revisited periodically and revisions made, and observations documented for future staff/volunteers.
Further, with the amount of groups in Vancouver focused on environmental/food/farming or other topics, another fantastic way to engage community members and promote the project’s mission is by leveraging connections with already-established organizations. If they have a mission similar to the gleaning project, then they also have a supporter base that would likely resonate with the project’s cause. Urban Abundance VISTAs have engaged groups from all different organizations throughout Vancouver to partner on outreach efforts, solicit donations, or recruit volunteers.