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How Effective Communications Helped Sacramento Get $9 Million in Donated Services

Mary Lynn Perry is the City of Sacramento’s Volunteer Coordinator and submitted this blog as a part of GovDelivery’s guest blogger series.

The City of Sacramento has many ways for citizens to participate in improving communities – from park clean ups, fairs and festivals, to ongoing opportunities like being a guide in a museum or providing homework help in after school programs.

Formalized in the City’s Volunteer Program, the group needed a way to increase participation in these donated services in order to make a meaningful impact.

In the past year, Sacramento saw an increase of seven percent in hours donated. In total, community members provided 419,924 donated hours as a part of the volunteer program – a value of over $9 million in donated time and the equivalent of 201 full-time staff.

How did we accomplish this? Outreach efforts using the GovDelivery platform. With e-newsletters in the GovDelivery email templates, we were able to reach our audience directly and inform them about what is coming up and how to get involved. Here are tips for leveraging the GovDelivery tools to maximize their benefit:

  1. Track metrics

The platform allowed us the ability to track “clicks” on the links through the GovDelivery Bulletin Report and see what is popular and what kind of response we are getting. GovDelivery makes creating and sending an e-newsletter easy and quick.

  1. Tie into your existing marketing

One of my top tips would be to tie into your exiting marketing. Link your social media, web site, newsletter, and blog if you have one. Make it easy for potential subscribers to find where to sign up for your e-newsletters. On the landing page for our volunteer web pages (which are part of the overall City of Sacramento’s web site) we include a button in the upper right that says “sign up for email and text alerts”

  1. Focus on growth of your subscribers

A great feature of the GovDelivery system is that it automatically manages the email list. Potential volunteers can sign themselves up to receive the e-newsletter and can also opt out if they wish. Staff can also add new subscribers who have emailed or called asking to be included and we can manually add those that have signed up on a paper list at events such as volunteer fairs. In addition, the option of using a transparent overlay on the volunteer splash page asks potential subscribers to sign up when they land on the page. All these options have resulted in over 10,000 subscribers to our volunteer newsletter.

  1. Keep themes on trend

Another tip for e-newsletters, keep themes on trend as much as you can. Using seasonal themes (like New Year’s, Valentine’s Day or Halloween) give you a link to what is happening in people’s lives at the moment. One special edition we created was our Pokémon Go e-newsletter. We found out that many of our sites where we had volunteer opportunities coming up were also Poke stops. We made that our theme. We included our social media buttons and advertised our Youth Volunteer Directory as well. We even incorporated special Pokémon Go events some of our agencies were doing plus a short guide to staying safe while playing. This was one of our most read issues. We could tell that by the number of people who opened the email and clicked on specific links as reported by GovDelivery.

  1. Leverage the social sharing feature

One of the features of the GovDelivery email/e-newsletter platform is that you can share a link it generates when your newsletter is published. It’s created by the system and you can then post it wherever you wish. We post it in our social media outlets and on our splash page for our volunteer program web pages. I also post it in our on-line volunteer sign-up system.

  1. Make your messages visually engaging

Another tip for e-newsletters is to be visually engaging. Photographs and colorful graphics go a long way to get people’s attention. On Facebook they equal 53 percent more likes than an update without a visual. For social media and for e-newsletters images are important. When we don’t have a good photo, we use a free software application to create a graphic image. The software is called Canva, which is available at: www.canva.com. It’s not a difficult system to use and the graphics work well in the GovDelivery email newsletter templates.

Want more on tips for increasing your digital impact? Check out the recent webinar “Beyond the Billboard: Secrets to Improving Citizen Awareness.”