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Communications Task Force

August 14, 2017

PRESENT: Ross Cunningham, David Burns, Rob Liscord, Carol Rancourt, Maryalice Crofton

The meeting opened at 3pm by conference call.

Changes in membership  
It was announced that Mandela Gardner has resigned from the Commission. The good news is he found a new job. The bad news, it is in a different area.

Branding and changes in VolunteerMaine.org  
Cecily attended the branding session at the end of July. The trainers led people through an exercise that developed the “look and feel” of an organization’s brand as well as where the audiences would be found. She used the Commission in the group work and attendees confirmed they never heard of the Commission but are very familiar with VolunteerMaine and AmeriCorps. It’s evident MCCS does have the same dilemma as Unilever – the products are better known than the owner.

Ross and David requested that Cecily summarize what she heard and share it in writing with task force members.

The discussion then turned to VolunteerMaine, both the phrase and the website. When VolunteerMaine was invented in 2002, it was a collaborative effort of the Commission, MANP, the United Ways, MEMA, and others so it was not branded in a way that associated it with just one of the partners. Over time, the interests of the other partners changed and, most recently, only the Commission and the United Ways were involved. The United Ways provided the volunteer referral section of VolunteerMaine while the Commission managed the sections devoted to managers of volunteers. This summer saw a change.

The United Ways have decided to brand the referral plaform as VolunteerME and share the name across the seven websites that are linked together. On the one hand this is a positive thing because it reflects their strong interest in promoting local volunteering. On the other hand it is problematic for the Commission for three reasons: it makes no sense to create our own competition; VolunteerME is a phone app developed by Verizon; and, VolunteerMe is the name of a volunteer center (plus its website and FB page) in Cayman. The name pops up in the top 15 items listed in internet sites.

Although the Commission was unaware of the re-branding effort, there were conversations last week with United Way staff who worked on it. It was agreed that the Commission logo would be removed from the VolunteerME site and Maryalice will work to remove the United Way logo from VolunteerMaine.org. The two sites will use links to connect the public users to both places and outreach will refer to VolunteerMaine as a statewide resource while VolunteerME sites will be described as regional resources.

Carol noted the changes in VolunteerME that are frustrating to agencies seeking volunteers in multiple areas. The new configuration requires an agency like SMAAA to register on three sites because they don’t cross populate. Maryalice commented that the changes could be an opportunity for the Commission. There are aggregators like All For Good that pull information from many volunteer referral platforms. If it is feasible, the Commission could move to one of those and not have to pick one platform over another going forward. She will investigate and keep the task force updated.

With regard to the conundrum around branding, the change makes it much easier for the Commission to weave VolunteerMaine into its persona. Many state service commissions have done the same thing – Volunteer Tennessee, Serve Colorado, Volunteer Mississippi, and Volunteer Iowa are examples. In Maine’s case, becoming “VolunteerMaine. The Maine Commission for Community Service” would mean the relationship would be very evident, websites could be combined, the two Facebook pages merged, etc.

Everyone agreed the combining will take a lot of thinking and careful work because the combined site will be very complex. It is important to make it very easy for public users to go down the path that matches their interests. This work can be very informed by planning and branding exercises that could be done this fall and winter.

[Note: could also increase MCCS visibility. The GOV website has had 7,642 unique visitors in the past 12 months; VolunteerMaine.org has had 43,389. The GOV FB page has 1,012 followers; VolunteerMaine has 2,348.]

Report back from MAB - how airtime for spots is determined  
This item is from the last meeting. Members wanted to know how MAB determined where to air the various radio and tv spots. The answer is the decision is left to the station membership. If a station’s target audience is teen and young adult, they will match the recording to the preferences of that audience. If it is older, the Senior Corps or general volunteer spots may run.

PIE needs to do a style inventory of the recordings to be sure the AmeriCorps and volunteering spots cover all the audience preferences.

Developing speaker presentation  
The Commission chair wants to help with outreach and do a “speaking tour” to educate people about the Commission. Members agreed the three points to cover are that the Commission makes AmeriCorps grants, provides volunteer management training, and promotes volunteerism. Those three would give any speaker the chance to make the point that MCCS is behind AmeriCorps, VolunteerMaine, Service Enterprise, and CMV 101 in Maine.

Ross indicated he is interested in helping John on this project.

The next meeting of the task force is September 11 by teleconference.

The meeting ended at 4:05 pm.