Communications and the not-for-profit sector – Wellington

Grace Loftus (MPRINZ), Communications Advisor – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Erin Brown, Communications Advisor – Volunteering NZ talk about a PRINZ event they organised and ran during National Volunteer Week 2015.

Grace and Erin were matched as mentor and mentee respectively through one of the organisations presenting at the event  – the Community Comms Collective.

National Volunteer Week took place from 21-27 June 2015. This year’s theme, chosen by Volunteering New Zealand (VNZ), was “he wahi mohou hei tuao” translated as “There is a place for you to volunteer.”

As part of a programme of events running for the week, VNZ hosted Sue McCabe and Gail Marshall from the Community Comms Collective and Vanisa Dhiru, Executive Director of the 2020 Communications Trust to talk about their experience of working with communications volunteers and the lessons they have learned from working in the not-for-profit space.

Sue and Gail spoke about the story behind them setting up the Community Comms Collective – a charity that enables communications practitioners to give back to the community using their professional skills.

They spoke about what they learned along the way, the not-for-profits they’ve worked with, the importance of listening to what the not-for-profit is asking for so volunteers can deliver relevant advice, the importance of setting expectations, and the need to check in on how the volunteer/not-for-profit arrangement is going.

As someone who has made a career out of volunteering, Vanisa spoke about her experiences in working with great and not-so-great communications volunteers and what makes a great volunteer.

She also advised anyone thinking about volunteering to think strategically before they put their hand up to volunteer about want they want to do. She also suggested they think about how volunteering can help their career and motivation to help the cause.

She also had the following advice for communicators wanting to volunteer on Boards:

  • You may get ‘stuck’ leading the strategy
  • You will get ‘stuck’ with marketing implementation
  • Your networks will be used – that’s part of your stewardship role
  • You need to think about your skills in strategic planning and user or audience segmentation
  • You might have to coach the chair, the CEO, the communications person, or the person implementing communications (who may not even realise it), ie. administrator
  • You will need to ask the hard questions
  • You will need to be good at being the person that plays Devil’s advocate, but be aware that you may not make friends around the Board table by doing so.

Speaking after the event, VNZ Chief Executive, Scott Miller said “NVW is a unique time to thank each and every volunteer in New Zealand for their time and energy.  Not only was this this event a great way to do that, it was also an opportunity to learn more about the work currently going on in this space.”

If you are a communications professional or an organisation looking for communications support, you can find out more by visiting the Community Collective website.

For more information about VNZ, National Volunteer Week, or to find a volunteer opportunity go to the Volunteering New Zealand website.

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