Valuing Volunteerism: A Cost Perspective

Valuing volunteerism is a two-sided coin. It’s always nice to be appreciated by the nonprofit we serve, but we also need to understand the cost. Volunteerism isn’t without a cost or a value. So in our effort to not just recruit but retain and manage volunteers, how can we have a proper respect?

It really starts with ourselves. We need to understand our personal costs and values.

Do is the new give.

“Do something great.”
“Do something.”
“Do.”

Many of us believe in nonprofits and we donate both time and money to support the causes closest to our hearts.

I believe in supporting nonprofits financially and with my time and I’m public with this donation that appears in my sidebar. As a business, I want my clients to know that I also use funds to make this world a better place.

I am a recurring donor to 4OceanOxfam, and freeCodeCamp. I also support Aspen Camp with Amazon Smile purchases.

I also volunteer with Make WordPressWordCamp Orange CountyWordCamp Los Angeles, and Women Who WP.

It’s good for our souls to give back to the world, to the things that gave us a start, as it gives us a healthy perspective and stimulates gratitude.

Why do we volunteer?

Volunteering is good for our souls. Volunteering is a way to align our values with the world.

I’ve volunteered for all of my adult life with many kinds of nonprofits. I’ve gone through burnout, elation, and everything in between.

As a freelancer, business owner, or even employee, it’s important to understand both the cost and value of volunteerism.

What is the cost of volunteering?

One of the costs of volunteering besides our time is burnout. It’s a real thing.

Why do we burnout?

There are many reasons but one is that we don’t understand how much time we spend.

We burn out from volunteering because we don't understand the value of our time. Click To Tweet

(This is partly why I rant so much about job costing and sample time tracking if you’ve ever spoken to me in person.)

If we don’t understand how we spend our time, it’s too easy to say yes to everything. But at some point, there will be a cost. That could be suffering client work, personal relationships, or health.

Another very easily solved reason is a lack of appreciation. But that’s on the “managing volunteers” side of this conversation.

So, what if our volunteerism had an invoice?

Time is one of the only unsustainable resources we truly have. Our time has both a cost and a value.

Sometimes to gain perspective is to tie our time to a dollar amount. Though it doesn’t speak to all of the value, it’s one way to show others and ourselves that our work, though unpaid, matters.

Maybe if we treated our volunteer work like it was a client, it would give other people a perspective of the worth. To gain a perspective for myself, I ran the numbers on just one of my volunteer efforts.

What if WordCamp Orange County was my client? This would be the invoice based upon my current pricing.

  • Five months of weekly 1/2 hour meeting:
    • 20 meetings at 1/2 of my rate $75 = $1500
  • Social media management:
    • Facebook: $350/mo x 5 = $1750
    • Twitter basic: $350 x 5 = $1750
  • Total in kind donation $5,000

Volunteerism Matters

Besides all of the people I’ve met, relationships I’ve formed, valuable conversations that changed my life, clients I’ve gained, and people I’ve encouraged, there is a monetary value on your time.

Spend it well. Remember your why.

As I told a friend this past weekend at WordCamp Europe,

“If we ever forget that this is about the people, we’ve completely lost our way.”

Go serve, do it for others, but take care of your self.

Clark Tibbs

How to Write Powerful Digital Product Copy

One of the most difficult aspects of writing powerful digital product copy is the fact that the product is, indeed, digital. Ones and zeros leave quite a bit lacking for our sensory systems and we all know that the number one rule of sales is, “Put the product in their hands.” So, how can you write powerful digital copy? We’ll break it down.

Product is product is product, but selling digital product relies upon copy more than any other kind of product. Let’s take what sells from the physical world and apply it to digital products: the senses. Powerful descriptors, using the imagination to put the customer there, and, of course demonstrating value.

Use the Senses

Powerful descriptors like “new” or “you” speak to the customer. Powerful adjectives help the reader sense the appeal while imagining themselves touching the product. Digital products range from entertainment to tools — music, videos, software, and books. It’s all about how your product impacts their life. Apple does this well, not just with physical products like their iPhone, but with music and TV.

“Focus your copy on the reader. Use the word you more often than your brand and product names.” Kissmetrics

Read more How to Write Powerful Digital Product Copy

Why Small Business Owners Should Read Self-Help Books

Small business owners wear a lot of hats: founder, CEO, sometimes office manager and janitor. So why do I advocate reading self-help books? There’s a few reasons but they all boil down to leadership — soft skills.

Firstly, I “self-help” has a negative connotation. I call it nonfiction, research, and personal development. Whatever way you look at it, if you have a small business, you have challenges that often lie on the outside of your primary skillset: the reason you built the business.

Soft skills are the social glue that brings together all aspects of any successful business. Click To Tweet

As a small business owner, you are a leader. Leaders create company culture that works for everyone. Leaders model psychological safety. Leaders understand their own limitations.

How can you possibly be a successful business without first understanding yourself and secondly understanding your team? We haven’t even stared talking about understanding your audience, customers, and potential market.

Leaders Model Company Culture

Company culture is created whether you intend to or not. Intentional company culture provides a path to success. Your small business depends upon you to create culture. It’s almost impossible to create it bottom-up. It comes from the top.

One of the aspects of a small business company culture that is important is vulnerability. Small businesses are a small team. Your team has to look up to you. As a culture, we view vulnerability as weakness. It’s not weak; it’s the opposite. True vulnerability is strength. That strength not only encourages your team to trust you, but it inspires them to try (and fail) as well.

The more vulnerable I have been, the more encouraged I have been to continue to do so — through business connections, mentorship opportunities, and the growth of my own empathy.

“The most transformative and resilient leaders that I’ve worked with over the course of my career have three things in common.

First, they recognize the central role that relationships and story play in culture and strategy, and they stay curious about their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Second, they understand and stay curious about how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are connected in the people they lead, and how those factors affect relationships and perception.

And, third, they have the ability and willingness to lean in to discomfort and vulnerability.” Brené Brown, Rising Strong

True vulnerability is strength -- it encourages your team to trust you and inspires them to try (and fail) as part of the learning process. Click To Tweet

Leaders Create Psychological Safety

The vulnerability that you express creates a safe space. Small business owner, I ask you these questions:

  1. Do you feel safe to fail?
  2. Does your team?
  3. What are the implied or strict consequences of failure?
  4. How is that treated in your company culture?
  5. What kind of atmosphere exists in your stand up meetings or staff meetings?
  6. Do your employees come to you with ideas or concerns?

I can’t answer those questions for you. These are questions that require self-reflection and thought.  It may require observation over time and meetings with your management. Successful teams need to feel safe. If your team isn’t bonding, how can that be fixed?

“In Edmondson’s hospital studies, the teams with the highest levels of psychological safety were also the ones with leaders most likely to model listening and social sensitivity. They invited people to speak up. They talked about their own emotions. They didn’t interrupt other people. When someone was concerned or upset, they showed the group that it was okay to intervene. They tried to anticipate how people would react and then worked to accommodate those reactions. This is how teams encourage people to disagree while still being honest with one another and occasionally clashing. This is how psychological safety emerges: by giving everyone an equal voice and encouraging social sensitivity among teammates.” Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better

The best benefit you can offer your company's employees is the freedom to fail. Click To Tweet

Leaders Understand Their Own Limitations

There is nothing worse than a person who can’t see their own limitations. This is the moral to the story in the Emperor’s New Clothes. We delude ourselves with our own pride and often forget to look at the whole context.

This is another reason why leaders and small business owners should meet and mastermind with people outside of their own industry. Thought diversity is an important component of innovation. What can a manufacturer of tile learn from a computer programmer? How can a battery business learn from solar? The connections we make foster ideas. Confirmation bias is a danger and the first step to protecting yourself is to recognize its existence.

“A modern name for Smith’s insights about self-deception is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias happens when we filter reality through our biases, ignoring evidence that challenges or refutes what we believe and eagerly accepting evidence that confirms what we believe.” Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

Do you dismiss alternative theories and ideas as negative or are you thankful for a differing view? Click To Tweet

What are you reading?

If leaders who understand their own limitations, create an intentional company culture with psychological safety, then understanding yourself, your team, and your customers will follow. And with that internal success, external (financial) success is bound to follow.

So, what are you reading? What inspires you?

Blog Isn’t a Four-Letter Word

Small businesses should be blogging. Yes. I said it. Blog isn’t a four letter word. Do it. Publish regularly. Let’s talk about how to accomplish this in a realistic way.

Don’t look down on blogging.

It’s not beneath your website or your brand to publish on your website. Companies who educate their customer base win — loyalty, top of mind, affinity, and sales.

If you  have a website, you should have a blog. If you don’t, go back to your website developer and ask for it. (By the way, this is one of the benefits of WordPress — owning your own content.)

I go into more detail on how to create a blog here. I talk more about why you should blog here.

How often should you publish?

Publish as regularly as you can. I get busy with my client work and don’t even follow my own advice. But publishing every Tuesday at 7am is a good idea, for example.

The more you can publish, the more traffic you will have. It’s been studied time and again. Once a week is a minimum and four times a week seems aggressive but can be effective. Make sure your posts are worthwhile.

“The small companies that publish 11 or more blog posts per month drive much higher traffic than companies of the same size that publish fewer than 11 blog posts. ” Hubspot 

Do you feel overwhelmed? “I don’t want to *&(@%&^$ blog!!!!” That’s why I’ve used the play on words. Don’t cuss, let’s help you get started.

Let’s get you on track.

It’s easy to get off track. We all do.

Here’s a simple worksheet or questionnaire to help guide you.

  1. What are the top 3 questions your company gets from customers?
    1. ______________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________
  2. What are the top 3 things you wish your customers knew about your business?
    1. ______________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________
  3. What new things are happening in your industry that are exciting?
    1. ______________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________
  4. What are three things about your business’ origin story?
    1. ______________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________

Now you have four topics with three answers each. You have 12 potential blog posts. You can write 300-500 words each. Make it simple. Publish one on the first Tuesday of every month.

If you want to step it up, you can publish every other week, but then you will need to find some more topics. Though, I guess, as you write, you will get more ideas from feedback from your employees, customers, and fans.

What’s stopping you? Get to it. 😉

You Can’t Market in a Vacuum – Lessons About Observation

So many businesses get tunnel vision, blinders, or myopic in their marketing. They learned what works in 1989 and kept doing it. Observe. Who are your customers — really?

What is a vacuum?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Vacuum, Space in which there is no matter or in which the pressure is so low that any particles in the space do not affect any processes being carried on there.”

Do we market in a vacuum? Not literally. No. But when we look at data without the context, we are not allowing ourselves to be exposed to alternative data.

What do you mean?

Let’s talk about lunch on a Monday.

I recently had a late lunch / early dinner with my friend Rachel at Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (and had an awesome margarita). During our lunch we were talking ideas and brainstorming in tornado fashion, as we do.

The topic of data came up. So, I was quoting that saying “lies, damned lies, and statistics” and I added “AND DATA!” I was discussing the idea of context when it comes to data. Read more You Can’t Market in a Vacuum – Lessons About Observation