Jon Sutton

Executive Director, Empowering Students

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How do I get organizations to respond to me?

For the organization I run, we go out and solicit information from people. We will call or email organization X, Y and Z and ask them to answer a few questions for us so we can put their information up on our website. The goal one we do that is we promote our website to students so that they, the students, can find an organization to volunteer at outside of the Red Cross or United Way.

My problem is: we have the hardest time getting organizations to respond to us. When we email, the response rate is low. When we call, we sometimes get shut down (even though we mention the service is free) or they simply are not interested or, most often, they don't follow through and never get us the information.

Perhaps it's because we have had little measurable success? How can we get these organizations to answer a simple nine question survey so that we can help them get volunteers?!

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    Apr 18 2012: Research the organisations to find the right people to contact. If you're talking to the wrong person, you're asking them to do something for you rather than offering them a benefit. If your email doesn't get a response, try following up with a phone call. Go and meet them to get to know people and find out what the organisation is looking for. Face to face opportunities may be more effective with organisations run by volunteers whose interest is action rather than admin.

    I've been told by sales people that, at every step in the sales funnel, a one in ten success rate is good for a cold contact exercise. In your context, maybe one in ten people keep your email rather than delete it. One in ten of those get round to reading it. One in ten of those might actually reply. So it might take a thousand emails to get a single reply, less if you are bulk mailing and your mails are being removed by spam filters.

    Rather than target lots of organisations you might find it better to do a lot with a small number of organisations that value you, and who will be happy to be used as examples in your pitch to other organisations.
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      Apr 18 2012: A great answer - much appreciated.
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    Apr 17 2012: These organizations may have more than adequate means already of getting as many volunteers as they can handle. If they list opportunities on their own websites and possibly also with the several popular platforms already available for finding volunteers, there may be no additional value to them in using your channel as well, even if it is without charge to them.
    It may appear from the outside that every organization would love to have more volunteers. Then making this connection for them seems to you to provide value to them for free. In fact, volunteers need to be trained and supervised and many organizations that you are contacting are likely already more than saturated with volunteers- as many as they can manage. Signing on with you as well, then, would impose on them the cost of fielding more inquiries from potential volunteers they cannot accomodate.
    I am aware of several large organizations that are general clearinghouses of volunteer opportunities, specific platforms that match young people to volunteer opportunities, and one specifically to match seniors. I know one that specializes in opportunities overseas (there are probably more) and another specifically online volunteer opportunities.
    It is possible that the market you seek to enter is already saturated.
    Reading blogs is free also, but time is not, so none of us can be involved with all the good ones. Do you see yourself offering these organizations something reliably better than what they already are using?
  • Apr 17 2012: Are you contacting the PR departement and they are just hanging up when you call?
    Also, while you probably believe that your idea is a gift to mankind, most people who call "with a free, helpful service" are trying to push some salespitch to solicit money from the company.
    Also, when you say "free", are you saying that you or any of your friends/family will never, ever, make a profit from running this organization? And is this regulated by some form of paperwork that assures the corporation that this is a truly free service for them? Otherwise, that's a start.