Guest Blog – Amber Smith


It is rare that a nonprofit has the opportunity to benefit from both resources and talents of their grantors. The Vivisum Partners’ Meaningful Work Grant was a rare opportunity for our organization, Activate Good, to benefit from professional market research in a way we’re unlikely to find anywhere else.


Activate Good is a nonprofit with a mission to ‘activate volunteers to help charitable causes in our local community.’ Our mission, at a glance, is not as clear cut as saving puppies or housing the homeless – so over the years we’ve faced some specific challenges, from clearly defining our message to educating the public on the ways our cause amplifies and impacts other causes.


When we first began fleshing out what the Vivisum team would investigate through their market research, I was excited and nervous. We’d never worked with professionals in this realm before. I’d had an inkling, I thought, of what the public perception of our organization was. When we began work with Vivisum, I opened my mind to hearing whatever the facts would present.


As the results of Vivisum’s market research started coming in, I was thrilled and intrigued. First, I was thrilled to have some of our notions reinforced – for example, that Activate Good’s personal customer service approach to connecting people to volunteer opportunities seemed to be well-received. I was intrigued especially to learn what respondents viewed as Activate Good’s main differentiators – meaning, what makes our organization unique from others.


The revelation from the resulting research that most surprised me was that Activate Good’s ‘origin story’ – the story of the cross-country volunteer road trip I embarked on with my best friend in 2004 that essentially kicked off the creation of the organization – remained a compelling part our messaging. I knew that storytelling could be a powerful tool, but I had previously underestimated the staying impact of Activate Good’s founding tale.


The results of the market research gave our team a lot of ideas. We really liked the notion that folks viewed Activate Good’s efforts as a “movement” versus simply a program or service. That was gratifying, because our team feels that way about our work too. As a result of these insights, we’re able to develop strategies to improve the way we invite new stakeholders – volunteers and supporters, especially – to engage with us, focusing more intensely on encouraging buy-in for our narrative and ultimate message – that volunteering is something anybody can do.


Like Vivisum, Activate Good believes the core of our mission is human connection. People strive to belong, to connect, and to create lives filled with meaning. We believe volunteerism is a path people can take to achieve these ends.


Beyond connecting people to ways to volunteer, we work towards a community and culture in which giving and helping is second nature, prevalent in all aspects of life and society. To us, volunteerism is the manifestation of this good will. It is a physical, tangible way to express that inclination to help and ‘do good’, so it is the action we promote. We also know that this is a tall order and a complex issue that requires constant reflection and analysis. There is no ‘one size fits all’ method to inspire everyone to volunteer. And, nonprofit’s volunteer needs are as diverse as the motives of volunteers. So, we believe that it is vital to seek the truth about our actions and impacts so we can continuously improve.
Enabling us to seek and act effectively on truth is the invaluable role market research plays in our ability to achieve our goals.

-Written by Amber Smith

Ellen Hart is a Director at Vivisum Partners. She specializes in in-depth qualitative research in healthcare and nonprofit fields. Email Ellen at ellen.hart@vivisumpartners.com