If you are reading this blog, you likely already know that just a few weeks ago, JFFixler Group became VQ Volunteer Strategies. (If this is news to you, then check out our announcement to learn more about our new name.) Whether or not our new name came as a surprise to you, it won’t be surprising to learn the journey to our brand launch on October 23, 2017 was a long one. It was, in fact, the culmination of nearly a year of strategic work, building on a history of nearly 15 years as consultants. Through the process, we did precisely what we encourage our clients to do: Assessed where we were as a firm, identified where we wanted to go, did a lot of planning, and then developed a brand to embody all of that. The process worked!

Along the way, we learned a number of lessons that, upon reflection, have implications for volunteer engagement as well. Here they are.

  1. Be clear on your mission and vision.

VQ Volunteer Strategies Vision:

We envision a future where organizations thrive by mobilizing people to share their passions, skills, talents and networks to better the world in which they live.

Among the first steps in our work was refining our firm’s vision and mission. Our vision, seen above, builds on our belief that organizations can thrive when tapping into the abundant resources of volunteer talent. With that in mind, our VQ Volunteer Strategies Mission is:

To enable organizations to increase and sustain impact by embracing volunteer and member engagement as a core organizational strategy.

 Similarly, organizations have missions and visions – but do you know how they relate to your work in particular? What is the vision for volunteer engagement at your organization? What is your role in bringing that vision to reality? Developing a vision for engagement at your organization is key to ensuring that volunteer engagement is viewed as a strategy to fulfill your mission and it is one of the first products we develop with an organization whenever we facilitate a planning process. If you don’t have an organization engagement vision, convene a cross-divisional team to develop a volunteer engagement vision that paints a picture of how volunteer engagement will help you achieve mission.

2. Take the time needed to do the job right.

It’s better to do the right thing slowly than the wrong thing quickly.”

– Peter Turla

We would have loved to unveil a new brand at the start of 2017 or, even better, as we stood before more than 700 colleagues at the annual Conference on Volunteering and Service in June 2017. However, the brand wasn’t ready and, frankly, neither were we. Names, graphics, websites, and business cards can change in a matter of weeks, but people need time to adjust, embrace, and evolve. We needed time to try our new brand on for size not so much in terms of the name but in how we think about our work, talk about our work, and embody the work. That is true of shifting volunteer engagement practices as well. While CEOs and directors of volunteer services may be ready to engage skilled volunteers in new ways, they can’t do it alone. Their staff and colleagues need time to see the potential, embrace new practices, and buy into the process. What do you need to do to communicate that potential to others, help them experiment with new practices, and gain their buy in? And, what time is needed to do that?

3. Prepare, Prepare, and Prepare Some More.

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

–Thomas Edison

In the spirit of Thomas Edison, our “perspiration” came in the form of months of preparation. And, boy, did we prepare (and maybe perspire just a bit). Not only developing new tools, writing the new website, and updating our hundreds of pages of materials, but also developing a communications plan with contacts lists, strategic messages, and schedules down to the minute for the morning of the launch.  We may be a relatively small firm, but it was, nonetheless, a massive undertaking. Our team (including not only the VQ Team, but our consultants, designers, and partners) all knew their roles; our priorities were clearly documented and accessible to all. When engaging volunteers, do you take the time to prepare? Do volunteers clearly know their responsibilities versus others’ responsibilities? Are they documented? Can everyone access the information if there are questions?

4. Preparation only goes so far… when in the moment, you must be nimble.

To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.

 – Oscar Wilde

Despite all this preparation, flexibility was vitally important, because, of course, not everything went as planned. On the morning of the brand launch, we experienced a few unexpected glitches. (Seriously? This is the morning when one of our email accounts was hacked? Really?) We were ready and willing to change the plan as needed to accommodate a few “detours” and were able to keep calm precisely because we were prepared and knew our priorities. We knew what could be delayed in order to address the email hack without compromising our biggest priorities. We had done our homework, for example contacting all our current clients and close colleagues personally the week prior, so a short delay was not a major setback.

In addition to preparation, do you and your volunteers know the priorities and which areas of a program, project, or event are less vital? Do they have the authority to make spontaneous decisions or do they know who does have that authority so that you can be nimble and respond to unexpected events or opportunities?

5. Find a great partner.

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.

 –Helen Keller

We often tell clients, “Don’t do this work alone.” We encourage clients to not only involve colleagues from across the organization but also to include volunteers in every engagement initiative. Furthermore, our business is built on being a strategic partner for individuals and organizations seeking to enhance their engagement efforts. As we ask our clients to do, we didn’t do this alone. We hired a talented consultant, Sector Brands, whose expertise and inspiration not only helped us select the perfect name, but also guided us in building the brand that clarifies what we do, why we do it, and how we do it. Most importantly, our brand is designed to help you imagine how raising your VQ will enable your organization to achieve smarter impact. Whom should you engage with you in your efforts to raise your VQ for smarter impact?