The following is a guest post by Jessica Belsky, director of communications at GreatNonprofits, the leading developer of tools that allow people to find, review, and share information about great -- and perhaps not yet great -- nonprofits.
The other day in the GreatNonprofits office we were discussing a recent article in The Atlantic Monthly. The article came to the conclusion that, regardless of income level, Americans feel that they lack supportive neighbors. The article was based on a survey that linked this decline in feeling connected to local community to some of America’s most pervasive health problems.
Our Video Survey Rings True
We found a similar feeling of detachment when we conducted our own video survey and asked some long-time residents at a local mall to name a local nonprofit. We found that knowledge about local charities, even among folks who had been part of the neighborhood for a long time, was low. Check out our video results:
It got us thinking about how we could better connect volunteers looking to be more engaged with their communities to nonprofits that actively need their help. Small nonprofits are up against a lot. It’s difficult to garner attention for your programs without a marketing budget to speak of.
Reviews are King in Communities
Here’s the good news. You can use online reviews to get your name out there and bring in new volunteers who want to be actively involved in your community—and it’s free. In this era of social media, millions of people already have discovered that a review by someone who has gone to a restaurant or tried out a doctor is a useful way to evaluate the suitability of those service providers for themselves.
Your online reviews, which can be written by volunteers, donors or clients are visible to everyone viewing your GuideStar profile. It’s easy for users to write a review and it's even easier for nonprofits to solicit reviews. Check out the tool kit that walks you through the process (as well as providing other helpful resources): http://www.guidestar.org/rxg/update-nonprofit-report/reviews-by-current-supporters.aspx.
We have heard so many success stories from nonprofits that reach out to their constituents with a simple email or social media post asking for candid reviews of their time with the nonprofit. Did they have fun volunteering? Did they get the services they needed? Was the staff friendly? Your online reviews have the potential to be the most engaging and inspiring stories that best showcase your nonprofit’s effectiveness to the world.
Jessica comes to GreatNonprofits from Los Angeles, where she managed the communications department of environmental non-profit Heal the Bay. She has experience in both traditional print and online PR, and has worked extensively to create successful partnerships between various stakeholders as a writer and organizer for Change.org. Jessica holds a BA in English from the University of Miami and authored Los Angeles sustainable food blog Chewgooder.