Targeting Volunteers in the Nonprofit World

(Photo by vastateparksstaff)

A successful nonprofit organization needs dedicated volunteers. For this blog post, I summarized an academic study that provides valuable information about cultivating relationships with volunteers.

The study outlines six strategies that will help manage and strengthen relationships between volunteers and organizations. The three research questions presented in this study are about testing the strength of the strategies with adolescent youth, an audience that nonprofits should spend more resources targeting.

Method

Survey: Denise Sevick Bortree conducted the research by distributing a pencil-and-paper survey to students, ages 15 to 18, who were currently volunteering or had volunteered in the past 12 months. The students were not chosen randomly but through convenience and snowball samples. The researcher specifically distributed the survey to students who had identified themselves as active volunteers.

Participants: Of the 762 surveys that were distributed, 315 were returned and 297 of them provided useable data. This resulted in a 39 percent response rate. The survey was administered in three ways:

  • It was distributed to six high schools in Southeastern United States.
  • It was given to a communication class at a large Southeastern United States university where students were offered extra credit to participate.
  • It was passed through members of a church youth group who indicated they were interested in volunteering.

Results 

Participants: The survey group was 72 percent female and 69 percent Caucasian. They ranged from 15-to 18-year-olds and volunteered an average of 8.6 hours per week.

Research Questions: There are three primary research questions in this study. They tested how valuable the relationship strategies were within the sample and how consistent the results were across the sample.

Maintenance Strategies: The seven maintenance strategies are

  • Openness: making the volunteer feel secure and comfortable in the relationship and with the organization.
  • Access: making senior public relations representatives accessible to the volunteers.
  • Positivity: making the task at hand more enjoyable for the volunteer.
  • Shared Task: making the task at hand important to the volunteer.
  • Networking: making connections with the publics that are important to the volunteers outside of the organization.
  • Assurances: making sure the volunteer’s intentions are legitimate.
  • Guidance: making the volunteer feel comfortable to seek advice when needed.

They were analyzed based on survey questions that were asked for each strategy. All of the answers resulted in a positive association between the strategies and the strength of the relationships between the volunteers and organizations, with the exception of two measures of openness that were asked poorly. Overall, the relationship maintenance strategies were seen as helpful ways to build lasting relationships between organizations and adolescent volunteers.

Limitations

Sampling: The high schools that were sampled were only in Southeastern United States and the sample could provide different information and results depending on other regions in the country.

Citation:

Bortree, D. S. (2010). Exploring adolescent-organization relationships: A study of effective relationship strategies with adolescent volunteers. Journal of Public Relations Research, 22(1). Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.libproxy.uoregon.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=873bdd1f-f052-47cd-8cf009c4f1b2fc32%40sessionmgr115&vid=5&hid=113

Diversity and Reality Television

(Photo by Erangi Kaushalya)

Over the past decade, reality television has captured people’s hearts, time and money. There is something about watching an everyday person become famous overnight– usually not from any real talent or skill – that make us religiously watch ridiculous shows like “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “Jersey Shore” and “The Real World.” Then there are the reality television shows that have the participants compete to win fame, money or love. Something that people enjoy more than watching your everyday Joe on the television set is when celebrities break free of their characters in movies or take off their football pads to put on some dancing shoes.

“Dancing With the Stars” takes pro dancers and pairs them with celebrities of all sorts to compete each week with a new routine. Along with the salsa, the tango, and the mamba, DWTS has mastered another thing: diversity. Every season, there is diversity in regard to race, ethnicity, age and sexual orientation. I recently read a blog titled “What Dancing With the Stars Can Teach Us About Diversity” that talked about the diversity of viewers the show receives every week and how good of a job the show’s casting crew has done at matching that diversity on the show. From African-American pro football players to Filipino singers, DWTS delivers a cast that embodies diversity. One season of the show also had Chaz Bono as part of the cast who underwent a sex change operation. Whatever race or age you are, you are bound to connect with at least one member of the cast of DWTS.

Although there are shows like DWTS that have done a great job at including a range of diversity, there are many shows that have failed to do so; ABC’s “The Bachelor” is one of them. I am one of millions who are suckers for cheesy romance reality television like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” Being a white, middle class woman in her 20s, I have never realized the fact that in more than 23 seasons of the show, there has never been a person of color as the lead bachelor or bachelorette. After reading the article titled “‘Bachelor’ diversity lawsuit may bring the reality series down to earth,” I was surprised to learn how many people have had problems with the show. It is not hard for reality television to be diverse when selecting who the cast is, and the fact that they have never had the bachelor be a race other than white is not acceptable. They should learn from DWTS and start mimicking the diversity in the audience with the diversity of the contestants on the show. In public relations, this concept is known as “requisite variety.” To build effective relationships with the public, there needs to be as much diversity within the organization as there is outside of the organization.

How to get hired after graduation in a country of unemployement

I am one of hundreds of seniors in college in the United States getting ready to graduate and dive into the workforce. Am I excited? Nervous? Empowered? There are plenty more adjectives that I can throw out that describe graduating college, but above all else, I am anxious. How am I going to stand out above the rest and land the dream job that I’ve always wanted? With statistics from The New York Times telling us “one in two new college graduates is jobless or unemployed,” how can someone defy the odds and get a job after graduation? I conducted an informational interview with Deriek Cruz, who works as an internal marketer at Levi Strauss & Co., and organized the information he gave me into three ways to get hired:

 1.    “It’s not about whether you worked at McDonalds or a big corporation; it’s about drive and ambition.”

I know a big concern of mine with getting a job post-graduation is the little amount of work experience I have. In the highly competitive workforce that we live in, especially in regard to careers in public relations and journalism, I have been programmed to think that the more internships and job experience one has, the more likely one will get a job. For someone like me who has minimal work and internship experience, I don’t feel adequate to compete against those with three or four internships and job experience. It was relieving and a little refreshing to hear Deriek say that it doesn’t matter necessarily where the experience is from, as long as you are confident with what you’re bringing to the table. He used an example of two people applying for a job. One person has experience working for a large public relations agency, while the other has experience working at McDonalds. The public relations agency obviously looks better on paper, but Deriek is more concerned with what they learned from their experience, rather than the experience itself. Drive and ambition were two words that he used multiple times throughout the interview when explaining what he looks for in an individual. He let it be known that work experience is important, but what’s more important is what you learned from it and the knowledge that you can bring to your new job.

2.    “Make sure people know who you are as a person.”

A job interview is no easy task for anyone. Whether you are an extremely friendly person who has no problem talking to complete strangers or if you are someone who gets queasy even thinking about giving a speech in front of people, being interviewed is stressful. How can you “sell yourself” to this other person, without actually sounding like you are selling yourself? The best advice that Deriek gave me was to simply let who you are as a person shine through in the interview process. It is hard to be cool, calm and collected when you are trying to impress someone who could potentially hire you. If you are a quiet person, make sure your experience and skills, both personal and professional, come across loud and strong. If you are an outgoing person, make sure you show them what you have to offer and that there is a serious side to your personality as well. Above all else, you need to show them the person you are over the person you think they want you to be.

 3.    “Get as much education as you can and highlight what you have learned.”

From my parents and from professors here at the university, I have been told several times how important work and internship experience is when applying for a job. Because of this, during interviews I will constantly try to relate everything back to the work and internship experience that I do have. Deriek explained to me that I am leaving out half of what I have to offer by not talking about my education. When asked to explain a situation when I was working in a team, I stumbled on my response because the first answer that came to mind was for a group project in my marketing class. I never thought that employers cared to hear about school-related experience as much as they would an actual job, but Deriek was quick to correct me by relating back to the McDonalds example. It doesn’t matter that my experience working in a team was for a class project; it matters what role I played in the team and what I brought to the table. With the unemployment rate at the high level that it is right now, the more education one can get, the better.

Welcome to the world of blogging

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I have created this blog for my Strategic Public Relations Communication class at the University of Oregon. I will be writing at least one blog post a month and hope to continue writing after this class. Outside of this assignment, I want to continue to build my digital footprint in this world. I am social media savvy and have a strong online presence in regard to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, but I have never dived into the blogosphere before.

I truly enjoy writing and that is what sparked my initial interest in journalism. Whether I am writing about a great book I just read, writing a note to a friend, or writing down life events that I hope to never forget, I enjoy communicating through written words. With that said, I have always been hesitant to start a blog because I have never been sure what to write about. My life? My thoughts, hopes and dreams? I don’t know how captivating all of that will be, but I will start blogging with this assignment and see where the wind takes me.