Why Every Digital Marketing Professional Should Volunteer for A Non-profit

Give a helping hand.I’m such a lucky man.  I get to work with people I respect and admire. I get to use what I know to help an organization that does wonderful things; things that make a real impact on people’s lives; a life and death impact on people’s lives.  My ideas are welcome, even asked for, and put into action.  I’m a digital marketer so I know I’m lucky.  I know I’m lucky because I hear my peers talking on Twitter and Facebook. They talk of working for people that won’t take their advice.  They talk of helping soulless clients meet business metrics targets and executing projects whose success leaves them hollow.  I don’t say those things.  I’m such a lucky man.

I earn a living as a digital marketing consultant doing work that mostly interests me. I also volunteer with The Mikey Network, which is infinitely more rewarding.  The Mikey Network is a non-profit you have not likely heard of.  They work to promote heart healthy lifestyles and are committed to placing Automatic External Defibrillators,  in high-risk locations to help people affected by sudden cardiac arrest. We call the AEDs “MIKEYs” because no one except for actors on medical dramas can say defibrillator.

I have a personal connection to the Mikey Network. It was founded by my wife’s uncle and his partners after they lost a dear friend and partner Mike, to sudden cardiac arrest.  They’ve been doing amazing work for the last 10 years.  They have a smart advisory board with talented PR and Marketing Agency partners that have helped them establish themselves and grow.  What the team did not have was a digital marketing professional.  That’s where I came in.

After moving to Toronto five years ago, I started volunteering some time.  I started sitting in on meetings, and offering advice and direction on their website strategy.  When it got to the point where their website was in need of updating, I was able to build them a new one.  When I started my consultancy, I was able to dedicate even more time and develop a digital marketing strategy to work in concert with their traditional marketing and PR efforts. This has made those efforts better.  I have helped them become more of what we call in the biz, a social organization.

Here’s where it gets good. 

The Mikey Network has placed over 1300 MIKEYs (AEDs) and trained over 11,000 people in CPR / AED.   More incredible, 14 lives have been saved by a MIKEY including a police officer, 2 high school students (at Weston Collegiate and Silverhorn Collegiate) and a two year old boy.  I did not help with any of that.

What I have done, is to create a way for their supporters and the people they have helped, to connect with them more easily. Making the website more social and easier to share, has helped people connect to the organization on a more personal level. I am able to post good news quickly which makes a huge difference energizing both the donor base and the volunteer staff that runs the organization.

On two occasions since making the site more interactive, after posting about someone that was saved by a MIKEY defibrillator, the actual person helped replied with a comment.  A  high school student who was still in the hospital and a father who had just saved his two year old son the day before.  They both had obviously been on the web (because that’s what we do now), found our website, found a story about them, and dropped us a note. In the case of the Father, the story had not been made public yet so I mentioned no names out of respect for the family’s privacy.  He was one only a handful of people that could have read the post and known who we were talking about. And he found it. And he told his story in the comments. Take a guess at the impact those occasions had on the organization. Take a guess at the impact on me!

It’s not just the website either.  We are starting to use online tools and technology to get better at the operations side of things too.  Using CRM and email marketing tools we will get better at communicating and be able to make more data driven decisions. Business intelligence is not just helpful to the Fortune 500.

Be selfish. Do some good.

If you are in the digital space in any way, you know things that most non-profits don’t.  Sure the big ones do. The Red Crosses, the Heart & Strokes, the Komens, all understand the benefit and have the budget to follow the new rules of marketing.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of small non-profits, many right in your city, that don’t.

Help them.  No matter what stage of your digital career you find yourself, you have the opportunity to help some amazing organization do good things. Find a non-profit that is doing something you can get passionate about, and help them.  If your biggest concern with the last blog post you wrote for yourself or a client was how many Facebook likes and tweets you got, help yourself.

You don’t even have to spend a lot of time volunteering to make a real difference. As a digital marketing or social media professional, the things you find easy and obvious can be transformational to a small non-profit.  The little baseline things like setting up Google Analytics, and a Google Places account can make a real impact right away.  Explain that adding social sharing buttons to their website even if they don’t have profiles on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, will help them, and why.  You can put up a WordPress site in an hour, in your sleep.  There are thousands of non-profits, many rights in your town that don’t even have a website.  That right out of the can WordPress site with a decent free theme, will make a huge difference.

And guess what? It will lead to more paying business for you.  If you are just starting out, this a great way to put your knowledge to good use and get some wins on your resume.  Big agencies know the benefits of working with non-profits. They all work with one or more, pro bono.  Guess what? Most non-profits have successful business people involved with them. You want to make some strong connections? Volunteer. Leverage your good work to get more business.  There is nothing wrong with that! It is perfectly acceptable.  After all … we are not Communists.

So if you’re tired of the Social Media Echo Chamber, or using your dark arts to help dark lords, volunteer!  Are you a blogger? Can you think of your favorite posts? Can you think of your favorite comments? I can- no question. By far, of any comments on any post I’ve written for myself or a client, my two favorites are:

The Mikey Network saved my life.  and … You guys gave us a second chance with our son

I’m such a lucky man.  You could be lucky too. If you haven’t, find a non-profit doing something you could get behind, and help them. If you have helped out a non profit, please join me in encouraging others to do it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Photo by Michael Kalus

  • http://www.suzemuse.com/ Susan Murphy

    YES! This is precisely why I volunteer with Cracking up the Capital for Mental Health. Not only is it a fun event, I get to work with some amazing people, do good for our community, and stretch my skills into another area. It’s by far one of the most rewarding things I do. 

    Has it helped my business – you bet it has! I’ve made connections with the entertainment industry, and found new clients too. It’s not the main reason I volunteer, but those benefits only add to the good! Thanks for posting this – I think if more of us extended our skills as volunteers, so many organizations, and ultimately PEOPLE, would benefit! 

    • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

      It’s one of the rare, truly win-wins out there. I don’t know why more don’t seek out these great opportunities but I hope more will. One day I have to head up to the Cracking up the capital festival. Maybe in one of your meetings you can suggest moving it to April? :)

  • http://twitter.com/EvaMetzTolliver Eva Metz-Tolliver

    Could not agree more. Being able to help out and do something for a good cause was one of the reasons I choose Internet marketing as my new career field. I am still learning myself, but I am already checking out volunteer opportunities and can’t wait to put my new found knowledge to good use.

    • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

      That’s great to hear Eva! The more of us out there using our knowledge for good, the better.