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Volunteer strength boosts not-for-profits

The collective’s recent Meet the Media workshop for not-for-profits, co-hosted with Volunteer Wellington at St John’s in the City. The workshop featured a panel of journalists from print, radio, TV and online media organisations sharing their experiences and advice.
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A volunteer army of more than 280 experienced communications professionals is helping community organisations to better communicate their causes.

The “match-making” services of the Community Comms Collective connect communications professionals with not-for-profits on a voluntary basis.

The collective was set up in Wellington in 2013 by neighbours, Gail Marshall and Sue McCabe, to provide free communications expertise to the community sector.

Designed to give back

Gail and Sue were looking for new ways to give back to the community while balancing their professional and family commitments. They believed that more could be achieved collectively than individually.

The collective’s services are promoted as a “boost” by providing time-efficient and effective support to help lift know-how.

Volunteers all have a communications or related background. Some are in paid work, some are studying, others are taking a career break or are at home with children.

The one thing they have in common is wanting to give some of their time to help boost the efforts of the many organisations that work in New Zealand communities and help them communicate more effectively.

The collective also established a partnership with Volunteer Wellington and delivers workshops within its programme.

After Louise Lum ran a workshop on website usability in 2014, she devised a web usability assessment service for the collective. She now manages a team of volunteers who offer services nationwide to help organisations improve their websites.

Since the collective was established it’s made more than 350 matches of volunteers and organisations, including more than 50 website usability assessments, and has run about 25 communications workshops.

Projects the volunteers undertake include mentoring or coaching, providing strategic advice or support, helping with communications planning for an event or campaign, advising on specific communications topics, such as planning, media relations or social media, and writing, editing and proofing services.

Gail and Sue set the collective up as a charitable trust and, later, Louise joined the trust board.

Community Comms Collective trustees, from left, Gail Marshall, Sue McCabe and Louise Lum.

The collective won the Rising Star Award at the Wellington Regional Community Awards in 2015 and has now expanded to Auckland.

Gail says learning that the volunteers are making a difference for the community organisations they’re working with provides the most satisfaction for the trustees.

Sue McCabe speaks at the Wellington Airport Community Awards in 2015 after the collective won the Rising Star Award for Wellington City, while Gail and Louise look on.

Match-making in action

An example is how the collective assisted Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP.

Last year the collective did a website usability assessment for the organisation. After its completion the organisation asked for a volunteer to develop a communications plan and Nicola McFaull was matched with them.

HELP’s chief executive, Conor Twyford, said Nicola’s excellent fundraising and communications plan was of immediate benefit due to its quality. Conor said it made writing the annual report easier, and it supported effective engagement with the board over communications.

Conor said Nicola’s media planning for HELP’s major events paid off, achieving media coverage the week of its major art fundraiser exhibition.

Nicola said she felt privileged to work with HELP and had gained significant personal satisfaction from supporting an organisation clearly making a difference.  Professionally, she said she had gained insight into a different sector than the one she works in.

The match-making service is available in only Wellington and Auckland with website usability assessments available to not-for-profits nationwide.

Long-term the collective plans to continue exploring opportunities to strengthen its impact and widen its reach across New Zealand.

If you’re working for a community organisation that needs a communications boost, or if you have communications skills you would like to volunteer, the collective would love to hear from you.

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For more information:

To go to the Community Comms Collective website click here

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