Who’s got the story to engage volunteers? The answer might surprise you

Don’t worry if a volunteer speaker bows out of your info session.  You have another great story close at hand.

Surprise story maroon - Twenty HatsDoesn’t the role of information session facilitator feel more like a talent scout sometimes? I am thinking of all the sessions that I have organized over the years to engage volunteers, lining up current volunteers to share their stories and inspire others. I spent a lot of time calling around to find someone who had the time to join us for a session.

That cast of characters was always changing, depending on who was available that day to share their story. I used to worry a lot about what would happen if a speaker was a no show or cancelled at the last minute.

Then I realized that there was one story that was always available, equally powerful, and often overlooked. My own story.

Your story is just as powerful.

Facilitating an information session is about more than keeping the session on track. It’s also about opening up and sharing your emotional connection to the cause.

If you have volunteered with your program, that’s a great bonus. I started off as a CASA volunteer and talked about my experience whenever I stood before a group for Fairfax CASA.

But you can move your audience without the personal volunteer connection by sharing what you find most exciting/rewarding/touching about your organization.

  • When I worked for a mental health nonprofit, I told audiences I had not realized how much courage it took to live with mental illness, and how much I admired the counselors for the sensitive manner they used with the clients.
  • When I worked for a food allergy support organization, I talked about how eye-opening it was to see what families faced when a child had a serious food allergy, and how empowered the parents became with support from my program.

You get the point. You want to establish an honest and heart-centered connection with your audience.

Here are the three questions that will help you share an inspiring personal story:

  1. What do you find most moving about your program and its mission?
  2. What has changed for you as a result of working here?
  3. If you were to leave tomorrow, what would you always remember with pride?

It can feel awkward to step out of the organizer role and into the role of speaker – and it takes some practice to share a message with comfort and confidence. Just remember that your audience is looking to you to lead them through the session. What better way to set the tone than with your own authentic point of view?

If you want to refine your in-person powers of persuasion, email me for a copy of my Elevator Pitch Planner. I will send you a step-by-step guide to crafting a great volunteer recruitment elevator pitch – and add you to my mailing list for more practical skill-builders.

Tweet this post! If you agree with my POV, feel free to send this message:

Looking for an inspiring story to engage new volunteers? You don’t have to look too far, http://twentyhats.com/?p=1815

4 thoughts on “Who’s got the story to engage volunteers? The answer might surprise you

  1. Nikki Clifford

    Wow! Was this eye opening! I used to set up workshops for a member organization in my field and was petrified that the speaker might back out last minute. Who was I going to get to speak? Would anyone be available to convey some noteworthy information to a group I BELONGED to and had taken a couple of hours out of their day to listen to. Oy! Almost wish I could go back in time knowing I would have been fine!

    1. Elisa Kosarin Post author

      Exactly, Nikki! We often overlook our own connection to our work, but we really do have the power to inspire by sharing our stories. You are in good hands the next time it’s you up on the stage.

  2. Carol Lynch

    Excellent article!! Your 3 questions are powerful and will create a meaningful and powerful story. The timing of this article is perfect. I have a meeting this Thursday with the Youth First Awareness Committee and your article will be a great springboard for discussion. Thank you for your very insightful thoughts.

    I wish I lived closer so I could attend your workshop!

    1. Elisa Kosarin Post author

      Thanks, Carol! I’m so glad you found this article helpful for your program. We tend to downplay our own stories – but our first-person emotional connection to our work has the power to engage and inspire.

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