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Stories From Smaller Nonprofits: VolunteenNation


StarsTraditionally, December has been Diva Marketing's Holiday For Small Nonprofits Series.

It's a time when people who work in smaller nonprofts are welcome to tell their stories. It's a way of giving back through shining a light on lesser known organizations through the voices of the those who are passionate about their cause.

It's a hope that perhaps before the year ends you'll reach into the your heart for one last 2012 donation. Or as 2013 begins find a new organization to support.

This year life got in the way of life. As The Fates would have it, just as I was feeling sad that I didn't have a nonprofit to share with you, once again social media came to the rescue. This time it was a LinkedIn connect request from a young women .. Simon Bernstein.

Skipping around her profile and then her web presence I knew the story of VolunTEEN Nation would be the perfect way to close the year. I am humbled and honored to introduce you to Simon and her story.

The VolunTEEN Nation Story

Volunteening_Simone Bernstein_1 diva marketingThe story is told by Simone Bernstein who is a junior at St. Bonaventure University. After three years of success with her local organization, Simone and her brother launched VolunTEEN Nation in March 2012.

She has spoken at numerous conferences throughout the nation, has a column at the Huffington Post, was honored in 2010 as a L’Oreal Paris Woman of Worth, and was recently listed on the 2012 Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurship list.

An Inspiration to Volunteer

Engaging youth in volunteer service heals divisions within communities. As an avid volunteer in both my hometown and college community, with a passion for engaging youth in volunteer service, I took the initiative to launch a national website for youth to easily find and connect with volunteer opportunities and resources at volunTEENnation.org. Utilizing social media tools to promote the website over 8,500 youth have found volunteer opportunities through the website, organized volunteer events, and our annual volunteer fairs.

My initial spark to volunteer in my community was ignited when my dad was deployed in the military. My siblings and I were overwhelmed with the support our family received and the outpouring of volunteers: bringing meals, helping my mom with childcare and daily errands.I wanted to volunteer, too.

I was fortunate through word-of-mouth to find youth volunteer opportunities. During high school, I took the initiative to create a regional website stlouisvolunteen.com out of my own frustration and difficulty in finding volunteer opportunities for youth on-line. Due to safety, security and liability issues and concerns, many non-profit organizations and agencies limit the minimum age for an on-site volunteer to 18. I wanted to make it easier for area youth to find volunteer opportunities. Volunteering_2diva marketing

Interest in our regional website from schools, non-profit agencies and students around the nation drove my brother and I to create a national tool or resource for youth interested in volunteering.

Note It's A Family Affair! Photo of Simon's sister Sophie, brother/co-founder Jake, their Dad who is a captain in the Navy and Simon.

Meeting with local and national government officials, I advocate for service learning in our nation’s schools. The challenge facing our nation’s school’s is the crisis of high school dropouts due to lack of support both in the school and home. Engaging youth in service learning provides a valuable link back to the community with a strong connection to the classroom.

I organized and created the first St Louis Youth and Family Volunteer Fair. The Fair is now an annual event hosted at The St Louis Magic House, Children’s Museum with over 35 family-friendly non-profit organizations recruiting student and families to volunteer.

Wanting to engage more youth, I organize flexible volunteer projects for youth. I coordinated a September 11, 2011 tenth anniversary volunteer service project to engage youth and families “Serve to Remember” park clean-up. Combining sports and youth, my brother and I recruited 25 youth volunteers to instruct tennis lessons at “Aces for All” a weekly tennis clinic for youth on the autism spectrum “Soccer for All” and “B-ball for All”. I also helped start Making Music Matters, a successful organization where teens volunteer to teach music lessons in the inner-city schools.

My goal is to inspire others to find ways for all youth improve their communities.

  • It is well within the reach of any student to get involved and make a difference. 

Ideally, I would like to create an international volunteer site and combine my passion for volunteer service and my medical training to advocate for quality maternal.

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A Social Media Gift of Little Miracles


Miracle on 34th street"We'll be known as the helpful store. The friendly store. The store with a heart. The store that places public service ahead of profit. The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before."

Nope, it's not a new social commerce strategy. It was an innovative sales program

launched in 1947 by Macy's Department Store. In the classic film, Miracle On 34th Street, Mr. Macy took chance on a different way to conduct business.

Customers would not be coerced into buying what they did not want; however, the real courage was if another store had a better or less expensive product Macy's would refer them there. 

Fast forward 65 years into the future and we struggle with similar issues of how to provide value for our customers. Technology has given us an amazing, let's call it a gift, that provides a new way to for us to build relationships and nurture with our customers.

Pull off the pretty red  bow and you'll find digital platforms with funny names like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. It's a world where to succeed we have to go beyond a one-off sale to opportunities where three entities: company, employee and custome can create the brand experience .. together. That takes courage too. 

Unlike the impact of Macy's initiative, social media impact reaches beyond just one customer. For the first time, the entire enterprise has skin in the game. The digital relationships that the people who are the heart of your brand can set off a unique chain reaction.

  • Continuous listening -> learning -> understanding -> results in trust ->  leads to loyalty -> leads to the cash register bells ringing. And every time a cash register bell rings a marketer gets a bonus or gets to keep her job (!) .. oops wrong film.

Corner grocery store digital relationships that are build not only with you and your customers, but among your customers and your employees could never have been imagined when Kris Kringle entered Macy's Santa Land in 1947. However, even as we approach 2013, for many organizations open conversations still seem like a Miracle on (insert organization name here) or like the ghost of Xmas future (oops wrong movie again.)

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible... consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

As we begin 2013, technology developments spin even faster taking digital business into areas that were impossible in '47 or '57 or even '2012.

Imagine a digital destination where you can include your review of the product, service or customer care that influences your or your friends' buying decisions.

Imagine a digital destination where you can talk to a brand employee who doesn't respond with a scripted answer.

IImagine a digital destination that allows for product and service customization.

Imagine a digital destination where you can start a conversation with a real person about what matters to you regarding a product or service.

Imagine a digital destination where you can actually help change the direction of a product or service before it's even launched.

Imagine multiple digital devices, moblie, tablet, computer, television not "or" but "and" ... and one day even your glasses! 

Imagine a digital destination where you can chat with people about their experiences and learn from each other .. in real time during your shopping experience. The result is smarter purchases.

Imagine an authenitc conversation, in real time, with your favorite actor, politician, author or reporter who responds to your comments. 

Imagine an authentic conversation with your senior managmenet or an admired corporate executive where ideas are transparently exchanged. 

Imagine an organization that works in partnership with its customers and employees to create a brand experience that is relevant, innovative and imaginative across multiple divices. 

Imagine an organization that cares not simply about for for its customers. 

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

What a funny world we live in. It's interesting to compare a 1940's film, where finding solutions to customers' problems was perceived as unique, to 2012 where finding solutions to customers' problems is considered ingenious. 

The techniques may have changed. New buzz words may be added to the mix. Bells and whistles may be a little louder. However, after all is said and done, the premise remains the same:



-Add value

-Do what it takes to go the extra mile to delight your customer

I believe that as we learn how to use social media it will change how we conduct business .. leading to  creating an environment where people truly matter. And that my friends, is as couragous and innovative as Mr. Macy's Miracle on 34th Street.

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

Sidebar: A Classic Diva Marketing post based on an article written for American Marketing Association Marketing News.

Max and I wish you a year of little miracles, joy and all things wonderful and bright.

Maxie Santa 2012

Catching Up With You


Dear Diva Marketing (Blog) and Community,

It's amazing how days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months. Life gets in the way of life and before you know it the best of intentions slip through the proverbial cracks.

In this case the best of intentions, are of course, to write and share learnings about marketing and social media with you. And so, I must apologize for the long lag in posting. Here's why ..    Toby cox tv radio biz card

I've often said that social media gives back more than it takes and this part of my story is another testimonial to that belief.

After 15-years of solopreneurship I was offered an exciting opportunity to join an organization that is focused on digital innovation. No, I'm not an on-air talent (at least not at the moment!). The work is to support almost 100 media properties and the enterprise at-large to more effectively incorporate the social web and leverage the social graphic. 

Not only exciting but the people are smart; and I'm able to maintain Diva Marketing, as well as, my other social properties LInkedIn Pinterest Twitter Google+ YouTube Diva Talks - BlogTalkRadio

Of course, all opinions are 100% mine and do not necessarily reflect that of anyone else, including my employer or even Max. I appreciate your understanding and ask for your patience as I adjust to the rythm of a full time corporate gig and ensuring that there is great content on Diva Marketing.