The Stories We Share

Why do we volunteer?

This was the genesis of our recent collaboration with The Standard on a multi-media campaign aimed at trying to answer that question.

For nearly a decade, The Standard has hosted the largest and longest-running volunteer event in Oregon. This expo is designed to bring together Oregonians and over 100 local non-profits. It’s a kind of matchmaker role that is integral to getting people to align their interests, values, and skills with a cause.

As we started working on this project, we kept asking ourselves: What will motivate people to come to an event about volunteering? That question was at the heart of our strategic planning as we began helping The Standard’s communications teams figure out how to turn an event into a story.

Right away, we knew there were some easy talking points. Volunteering is, of course, about helping others. It’s empowering. It makes you feel like you’re making a difference. All true. But our teams wanted to push beyond that as a communications strategy. We knew there was more for us to work with than the basic tenants of what makes a volunteer a volunteer.

Over the course of several brainstorming sessions, we began to realize a trend. In every creative session, we all tended to use our own personal experiences to explain our ideas. Again and again we’d pitch to each other by sharing very personal memories – a unique friendship, an emotional life lesson, or a previously unseen disparity that was brought to light.

We were, in short, telling each other very personal stories about our own identities.

Fairly quickly, we knew that was it. A concept was born that formed the basis of this campaign.

Every volunteer has one thing in common: the personal stories that we create during the experience. Regardless of whether you believe in youth education or protecting the environment, the thread that connects every act of volunteering is rooted in why that action ends up becoming a formative part of who we are as individuals.

We worked with The Standard to create a campaign centered on the personal stories people create when they volunteer. To promote this idea, we shot more than a dozen interviews with community leaders, from the heads of the Oregon Community Foundation, the Portland Timbers, and OHSU to local volunteers. Together, these stories created a tapestry for reminding others than everyone has a story – and every story has an ability to inspire others to step forward and volunteer.

The Expo itself is held at Pioneer Square, often called “Portland’s living room.” So, we built a mini video studio with a couch for people to sit, relax, and talk to us about their own unique story. These videos will be captured and shared on social media.

Whether you’re a seasoned volunteer or just not sure how to take the first step, our message is this: Your own story can make a difference. It may be what sparks someone who’s never volunteered to start writing their own volunteer story. Or it may be what gets a former volunteer to step back into the arena again.

So tell us, what’s your story? We hope you’ll join us on September 10th and share it. You can record your own story and post it online. We’ll be posting videos throughout the day at @vexpostories and on Facebook using the tag #myvolunteerstory.

Read more about The Standard’s 2015 Volunteer Expo.