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Principles for Retaining Volunteers Part 2: The Power of Brand and Alignment

By Daniel C. Olsen, Senior Consultant, Special Districts Association of Oregon

There are two immensely powerful, but often overlooked, elements that impact your retention of volunteer members. These elements are your brand and “alignment “within your organization. Their importance to retain volunteers is in their clarity and consistency.

Clarity is being clear about your policies, procedures and practices in your everyday operation.  Many people talk about “transparency”.  Clarity is transparency. It brings into focus what you do and where you are headed as an organization.

Consistency provides stability. Stability enables volunteers to know your organization. However, this does not mean you are stagnant. Your organization evolves and makes improvements and adjustments to provide the best services possible for your clients.


Your Brand

As a District, what is your brand?

Your Brand, or trademark, is an asset for your organization. Businesses have long recognized the power and importance of branding. Symbols, fonts, colors and other items contribute to give an organization their identity and make it easily recognizable.

Your brand makes you unique and sets you apart from other organizations.

What sets you apart from your “competition”? What makes your service distinctive and unique?

The brand can contribute to an organization’s stability simply by being familiar. Think of products and services of which you use or purchase. However, this is sometimes overlooked by non-profit organizations. With changes in leadership, a “fresh look” may be pursued. With this fresh look, elements of the brand are altered or discarded. The change in branding will alter your perception of the organization or services provided.

How identifiable is your brand in the community you serve? How well do you protect this asset? When people in your community see your brand, do they readily know who you are? Are they attracted to it? Your brand can greatly influence and assist in your efforts in both retaining and recruiting volunteers. It is a valuable recruiting tool. People were attracted to your organization for a reason.

Think about athletic teams. Their “brand” attracts their fans. People buy their jerseys so they can wear them. They are proud of associating with their favorite team.

So, I ask you again, what is the brand for your District?



Have you ever driven a car whose front end is out of alignment? It can make it hard to drive. It may pull to the right or to the left. I can add to the wear and tear on the tires and front end of the vehicle. Driving a car that is out of alignment can be a challenge.

If your District is out of “alignment” it makes it more of a challenge to lead.

How well do your daily practices line up with your stated procedure? How well do your procedures line up with your stated policies? How do your policies line up with your stated values and principles?

Alignment is consistency in what your organization says and does. How closely does what you say line up with what you do. It involves how well your claims and promises are conducted by members of your volunteer organization. Alignment strengthens your credibility.

Alignment contributes to your reputation in the community. It reinforces your brand.

Today, we hear a great deal about “customer service”.  Many businesses, and agencies may claim great customer service but lack hitting the mark they claim. Think of a business or agency you frequent. How good, or great, is their customer service? More important is how you are caring for your “internal customers” …your volunteers?

In your volunteer organization, how is the level of internal customer service?

Follow-through is important with alignment. Think of alignment as a golf swing. You take your position, address the issues, take your swing and follow-through. How is your “follow-through” with your volunteers? How does the alignment within your organization resonate with others when you are attempting to retain volunteer members?

Your brand and alignment are powerful tools in attracting and retaining volunteers. Be clear. Be consistent. They will pay your dividends.

Are you trying to recruit Board Members for your agency?

SDAO has a great resource: “The Board Member Recruitment Toolkit”

Check it out at