If your nonprofit organization is lucky enough to have a Spanish-speaking volunteer, that person could potentially be a great resource as an English to Spanish translator, helping you adapt your existing content into Spanish. Of course, this depends on the volunteer’s skills, interests and, most importantly, how you work with your volunteers. In this post, we’ll go over the seven most important things to consider when using volunteers to translate English to Spanish.
An engaged and passionate volunteer community is one of the most important assets a nonprofit organization can have. They bring unique skills, connect you with a broader community and can help fill gaps where there are unmet needs.
Nonprofit budgets can be tight (to say the least), so a professional translation service may not be in the cards. That said, a good Hispanic marketing partner will work with a nonprofit to fit their services into even the tightest budget, often offering discounts for nonprofit organizations. If you’re lucky enough to have Spanish-speaking volunteers, then you are already at an advantage for creating a Hispanic marking and outreach strategy to connect you with this important audience.
What are the best practices for using volunteers to translate English to Spanish? The following are our seven most important things to consider to make the most out of your volunteers.
Just because someone is volunteering their time for free doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to–or shouldn’t–have particular standards that they should meet. After all, when someone adapts your content into Spanish, they are representing your organization in that language. Your voice and tone are critically important to building relationships with your audience. A consistent voice and tone help build recognition, affinity and trust with the people you are communicating with. It’s incredibly generous for someone to volunteer their time to your organization, but if they don’t have the right skill set then that could end up costing you down the road.
One way to tell if your volunteer has the right credentials as an English to Spanish translator is to ask for references or samples of previous work. If writing and translating are things that they’re passionate about then it’s possible that they will have volunteered their services to other organizations. If the volunteer in question happens to be a marketing and communications professional in Spanish, then you can likely do a quick online search to find some samples of content that they have produced.
The problem that many organizations run into when attempting to evaluate the quality of their Spanish content is that they don’t have enough Spanish knowledge in-house to be able to gauge if something is good or bad. Ask some of your Spanish-speaking colleagues or community members for their opinion of the content your volunteer has produced. If you’re not quite sure who to ask, at Press 2 we offer a completely free consultation to evaluate your Hispanic marketing and outreach efforts.
It’s important to find good talent, in both staff and volunteers. Your goal with reaching out to Hispanic audiences shouldn’t be merely to be understood, it should be to engage with your audience and communicate them in a way that resonates and builds strong relationships.
Some organizations are tempted to throw up their hands and blindly trust their Spanish-speaking volunteers because they don’t have command over the Spanish language themselves. While it’s true that their will always be a degree of autonomy and trust when working with a Spanish translator if you don’t know Spanish, you can still establish priorities that ensure the job is done correctly.
Take some time before your volunteer gets started to layout your goals and objectives for creating Spanish content. This will help you prioritize what tasks you assign to your volunteer and, more importantly, builds an understanding that gets the project off to a good start. Having clear goals and objectives will also help your volunteer to identify opportunities to adapt your content in a way that better resonates with Hispanic audiences. For instance, they may have a cultural reference that they can use in your content to more specifically speak to Hispanics.
The tasks that you assign to your volunteer should be appropriate. Part of defining a clear direction for your volunteer is to make sure that what your asking them to do is in the scope of what they’ve agreed to take on. For example, if they’re expecting to translate a few webpages from English to Spanish, you don’t want to ask them to also answer the phones at the office. You could risk being seen as taking advantage of their generosity, and besides, you want them to be focused on producing great content.
According to Exponent Philanthropy, research shows a direct link between organizations that embrace volunteer engagement as core to their mission and the overall health of the organization. Investing in the success of your volunteers is crucial to building strong relationships. Particularly if your volunteer is translating a large quantity of content into Spanish, you want to make sure that they feel appreciated and that they’re set up for success.
Investing in your volunteers can be as simple as including them in staff events or can extend to professional development training and special networking opportunities. The more you invest in your volunteers, the more they’ll feel invested in your organization. Anyone who takes on a marketing and communications role in your organization should have a deep connection with your mission. This equips them with the knowledge they need to ensure that the content that they are producing accurately reflects your organization’s voice, tone and purpose.
To keep your volunteers engaged and to get the best outcomes from their service, you need to match their strengths and interests with the tasks you assign them. If your volunteer is more interested in working one-on-one with people in the communities you serve, then consider asking them to work at events or with the clients who come to your office. This may be in the capacity of a translator, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to their Spanish skills if it helps them feel fulfilled and connected to your mission.
Keep in mind that not all types of writing are the same. Let’s say your volunteer has a particular interest in social media–depending on your Spanish-language communications goals and objectives, you could consider shifting priorities toward a social media campaign. By matching their tasks with the strengths and interests, you’re going to see better results and keep your volunteer feeling satisfied in the work they’re doing for you.
Not everyone is a writer, and writing effective marketing copy is not something everyone can do. For example, writing for the web or for social media are skills that marketing professionals develop and hone over years of experience. Simply because someone speaks Spanish doesn’t mean that they’re able to create engaging content that will resonate with your audience. If reaching the Hispanic market is something your organization prioritizes and you don’t have Spanish-speaking volunteers with nonprofit communications experience, you may consider investing in a professional Hispanic marketing agency.
You have clearly defined Spanish-language communications objectives and you’ve successfully matched your volunteer’s strengths and interests to your priorities. Nothing left to do, right? Wrong. You should constantly evaluate your volunteers’ performance and give feedback–both positive and negative–as you would do with a paid staff member. Of course, the relationship between your organization and your volunteers will differ from the relationship that you have with your staff, so you may not deliver feedback in the same way. However, it’s still important that you understand the quality of the work your volunteer is producing while maintaining open lines of communication.
If your organization doesn’t have a high level of in-house Spanish language skills, then you may run into the same problem that some do when screening new volunteers. How do you know if the Spanish content is any good? There are a few ways you can do this easily and free. First, you could contact Press 2 to give you a free consultation on your Spanish-language content and strategy. Second, you can ask Spanish-speaking clients or members of your community how they feel about the Spanish-language content your volunteer has created. You can phrase these questions in such a way that it’s not asking them to give a critique of the volunteer’s writing skills. Position the questions as an effort to understand if you’re meeting their needs and how best you can help the Hispanic community you are serving.
Finding good talent is something that virtually all nonprofits struggle with. Even large nonprofits don’t always have the same resources that private industry has for recruiting the top talent. Meanwhile, smaller nonprofits may not have the budget to take on paid staff at all. This is exactly the reason that the nonprofit volunteer relationship is so important. It keeps human resources costs down and brings in people with diverse experiences and networks.
Unfortunately, there’s also a high rate of turnover when it comes to nonprofit volunteers. The Stanford Social Innovation Review found that as many as one-third of nonprofit volunteers do not return after one year of service, adding up to $38 billion dollars in lost labor. That’s why it’s important for you to not only keep your current volunteers happy but also have a strategy for recruiting new volunteers.
You already know your Spanish-language communications goals and have your priorities in place, so now it’s time to leverage your community. Let it be known that you are actively engaging in outreach to the Hispanic community and that you are looking for support. Be specific about the type of volunteer you are looking for–what skills and experience they should have–so your community can make informed recommendations for potential volunteer candidates.
It all comes down to money at the end of the day, unfortunately. Don’t just ask yourself if the time and money you are investing in your volunteer Spanish translator is worth the content they are producing, quantify it. How much are you investing in this relationship, your time and your staff’s time? How does that match up to the content they are producing? Are you seeing increased traffic to your Spanish-language webpages? Are you getting more inquires from Spanish-speaking clients?
If your volunteer doesn’t have a background in marketing and communications, the ROI may not be worth it. Keep track of the time and money it takes for your organization to use a volunteer Spanish translator and weigh that against and increase (or decrease) in engagement from the Hispanic community.
There will be a lot of factors that go into how you quantify the value of your volunteers’ work. Most critical to the equation is how much your organization prioritizes outreach to the Hispanic community. If you’re lucky enough to have a volunteer who is a marketing and communications professional that happens to be a native Spanish speaker, then you’re in a great position. However, the majority of organizations that use volunteers to create Spanish content aren’t considering the quality of the content that’s being created and how it will resonate with their Hispanic audience.
Nonprofits have constrained budgets. That’s a fact. Volunteers are incredibly valuable resources and a volunteer who is able to effectively create Spanish content for your organization is priceless. The Hispanic community in the United States is so frequently overlooked, so the fact that you’re making an effort to reach Hispanics is already so important. And with the help of volunteers, you can do a really great job of it.
And don’t hesitate to reach out to Press 2 for a free consultation. No strings attached.