Skilled Volunteers Help Empower Vietnam Nonprofits

by LIN Center for Community Development
Le Thuy Linh
Le Thuy Linh

For the past three years, LIN engaged skilled volunteers to help draft our annual report. In addition to supporting our team with an essential task, having an outsider's perspective on our work has proven to be invaluable to LIN for two reasons. Firstly, we are learning how to better explain our work to key stakeholders. The second benefit is to have an unbiased person supporting the process of reflection and evaluation of our work and our outcomes. This past year, we were fortunate to meet Ms. Le Thuy Linh whose professional experience and personal interests suggested a perfect fit for the task of writing up LIN's 2013 annual report.

In this interview, Linh shares her tips to create an annual report that is both professional and eye-catching.

How did you get to help LIN write its Annual Report?

Linh: I had known about LIN for a while before I registered to volunteer for this organization. During a discussion with Ms. Dana Doan, my supervisor at LIN, I was asked if I could help to write the LIN 2013 Annual Report. I thought this would offer the best opportunity to gain an overall understanding about an organization, since I would have the opportunity to talk to not only LIN staff but also its beneficiaries and partners. Because my background was in market research, I was particularly interested in this project which would enable me to apply my analysis and presentation skills.

How long did it take for you to complete the report? What did you have to do?

Linh: The first step was to compile all data into an internal report, followed by drafting the content  for the official report. The entire LIN team especially Ms. Dana Doan, contributed to the content through discussions and interviews. Since the target was a short report that delivers the most essential information about LIN, I spent quite a lot of time to select data and plan the draft.

However, it was the presentation of the report that was most time-consuming. I am very critical when it comes to presentation. I am not skilled in graphic designing, therefore, I tried to read many annual reports by other organizations to learn from their layout and design. I spent quite a lot of time going back and forth with different layouts and designs, as well as selecting photos from LIN’s database and editing them in Instagram. My boyfriend is a designer so he also volunteered to help me with the design. I spent a total of one month on the report.

In your opinion, how important is the annual report for an NPO?

Linh: The Annual Report is a tool to share information about the organization and its activities and achievements. It is an effective way to archive data and helps the staff to gain an overall picture of the work of the organization and set their targets for the coming year. For not-for-profit organizations, the Annual Report has another important function: the opportunity to inform the donors and the community about their work, raise the awareness and indirectly call for action or rally support for a causes that the NPOs are advocating.

What skills are required of a volunteer to write an Annual Report for an NPO?

Linh: First, the volunteer must be interested in reading and learning about the NPO he/she is supporting. Second is the ability to analyze and select data, however, the most important skill is storytelling. The volunteer should be able to pick the right information to create the plot and use visuals to present the story in the most compelling way.

Thank you!

“We are proud of this report!”

"The LIN team learned a great deal from Linh during the three months that she worked with us. She always prepared for meetings and asked great questions. One of the first things she did was to explain her proposed approach and suggested timeline, which helped to set our expectations and ensured that we would be prepared with the information she needed to complete the report. She engaged easily with the LIN team and spoke with several of our stakeholders, making a deliberate and sincere effort to understand our work.

Opening up Linh's first draft of the annual report was an awesome experience. She accomplished something we had   always wanted to do but did not know how to do ourselves. The format and design of the annual report managed to tell the story of LIN's work in 2013, using data and visuals in a meaningful and effective way. We are so proud of the report that Linh created for LIN and truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from her."   

- Ms. Dana Doan, LIN’s Consultant

Click here for LIN’s 2013 Annual Report

(Read more about LIN's Volunteer projects from our Volunteer Newsletter at:


Nearly 300 people volunteered with LIN in 2013.
Nearly 300 people volunteered with LIN in 2013.
  • 292 volunteers contributed their skills to the community via LIN in 2013, generating more than 10,000 volunteer hours, valued more than 240,000 USD.
  • Skills contributed: Communications, Marketing, Financial management, Proposal writing, Fundraising, Translating, Legal consulting, etc.
  • Beneficiaries: 50 local NPOs in Ho Chi Minh City, including LIN

More than 80 people came to LIN Volunteer Day, an event held on 7 December, 2013 to appreciate LIN volunteers who made substantial contribution to the community in HCMC and announce the result of the LIN Volunteer Stories Contest.

The event was organized on the occasion of International Volunteer Day, with the topic: “The impact of skill-based volunteers”.

In her presentation about LIN Volunteer Services in 2013, Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Truc, LIN’s Volunteer Coordinator, said LIN could not be where they were without the help of hundreds of amazing volunteers. “LIN is a not-for-profit organization with a very small team of staff. We could not do what we did this year without the wonderful support from hundreds of volunteers. Their contribution is tremendous to LIN and I would like to thank each and every volunteer who has been helping us!”

In 2013, LIN facilitated and worked with 292 volunteers who generated more than 10,000 volunteer hours to the community, valued more than 240,000 USD. 93 skilled volunteers were matched with local NPOs to mentor NPO staff on various skill sets and support NPOs in skill-based tasks. The skills contributed by these volunteers included communications, marketing, fiancial management, proposal writing, fundraising, translating, legal consulting, etc. Another 31 experts volunteered to lead a workshop or provide one-on-one consultation with NPO staff on organizational management topics. Another 168 volunteers provided direct support to LIN during the year 2013.

The impact of skill-based volunteers was highlighted in the speech of Mr. Mai Bao Trung, manager of Nhan Ai Social work club. In 2013, the volunteer group was matched with a team of employees from MindCaster PR agency who mentored Nhan Ai members on communications skills, and Mr. Nguyen Quy Duc who produced a video clip for Nhan Ai, pro bono. “Skilled volunteers like Ms. Nghi, Ms. Giang from MindCaster and Mr. Duc are invaluable to NPOs like us,” Trung said. “Their experience and expertise enable us to improve our capacity in areas that we are still very weak. I hope there will be more skilled volunteers to help local NPOs like us so that we could do our work better and serve the community better.”

At the event, Ms. Tran Thi Kim Chung, UN Volunteers (UNV) program officer, said that UNV aimed to promote volunteerism for sustainability around the world, therefore UNV supported LIN and its Volunteer Stories Contest to raise the awareness about volunteerism, especially skill-based volunteerism. “We wish to continue to support LIN and the volunteers in many activities to leverage their voluntary contributions and inspire people to act,” she said.

During the Volunteer Stories Contest Award Ceremony, LIN announced the result and presented awards to the best authors. A book of 16 selected stories will be issued in early 2014.

LIN Volunteer Day and LIN Volunteer Stories Contest 2013 were generously sponsored by Irish Aid and Intel, with in-kind sponsorship from ACET, Yoga Living, Yves Rocher, UNV, Zalora, Scott & Bình’s, Au Parc, Sweet & Sour, Wrap & Roll and Coca Cola.

Experts provided consultation to NPO staff.
Experts provided consultation to NPO staff.
Volunteer speakers at capacity building workshops.
Volunteer speakers at capacity building workshops.


DCOH with Ms. Bente (also in DCOH T-shirt)
DCOH with Ms. Bente (also in DCOH T-shirt)


"In life, we need to live with warm hearts. Do you know why? To let the wind take them away ... ". We will not forget the moment when members from DCOH “sang” this song by sign language at the Funding Appeal round of Narrow the Gap 2012. This was the first time I had an opportunity to present a project in front of a large audience, thanks to Ms. Bente Sternberg. She was my coach, a sister, and to her I really want to express my deep gratitude.

Ms. Bente Sternberg is a training and consulting specialist. LIN helped her to connect with our organization to consult on the project presentation at the Narrow the Gap Funding round. The funding would help deaf and mute women to escape from family violence. If the project was successful the Deaf Community Organization of Ho Chi Minh City (DCOH) would receive funding to carry out the project. This was not only a great opportunity but also a significant challenge for DCOH.

Ms. Bente is a foreign woman with a tiny body, simple attire and a gentle smile. She came to work with us three to four times a week. She spent three to four hours each time to teach me how to walk and speak effectively for the presentation. Presenting a project concisely, thoroughly, and engaging the sympathy of the audience is a new task, which is not easy for me. I have a fear of public speaking and tend to ramble too much. Ms. Bente was a patient listener and although all communication between us had to rely on an interpreter, she helped me to overcome my weaknesses.

In addition, Ms. Bente also advised our team on how to promote DCOH and design the booth for the day of the event. She proposed DCOH print it’s logo on a small stickers and stick them on the dress of each visitor to make a good impression on the audience. She also showed us how to design our first leaflet which included the project introduction and a summary of the group’s activity. These were really effective promotional tools that we had not thought of and had no ability to develop.

On the day of event, Ms. Bente arrived at the site early. Seeing the booth of DCOH located in an inconvenient spot, she asked the organizers to move our booth to another position. She also furnished supplies which DCOH team used to make the booth more beautiful. She was always on duty at the DCOH booth to answer visitor questions as well as give them the leaflets and stickers. Maybe it was her warm-heartedness which contributed to the good impression of our group and helped us to get the most votes.

The organizations each presented their project then the audience would vote for their favorite project. I felt very worried because members of DCOH expected a lot from this project, and I had to win on their behalf. Ms. Bente thoroughly understood my psychological state and she encouraged me a lot. I stood before the audience and just focused on what I had practiced all this time in order to complete the presentation successfully. When the results were announced, we were surprised our organization had won the most votes, which resulted in funding of 150 million Vietnam Dong. The efforts of DCOH and the devotion of Ms. Bente were well rewarded.

Although Ms. Bente and I only worked together for two weeks it was a wonderful experience for me. She has helped me to feel more confident and improve my presentation and communication skills. A professional volunteer like Ms. Bente is a real necessity for our organization. I wish I could work with her for a whole lifetime.


11 teams participating LIN CPI 2013
11 teams participating LIN CPI 2013

LIN’s CPI is a call to companies and skilled professionals in HCMC to apply their professional skills and experience over a six-week period to benefit the community via volunteer placements with one local NPO. LIN Community Partnership Initiative 2013 is generously sponsored by Intel.

Participating companies are provided with great opportunities to apply their corporate social responsibility, at the same time awarded public recognition. Participating NPOs receive skilled volunteer support in a core capacity area that most NPO staff says is their primary weakness. Moreover, the first place winner will receive VND 21 million, which can be used to address the communication needs of the winning NPO.

Activity 1: Mentorship

 Meet & Greet event

CPI 2013 kickstarted on 27 June when participating teams got to know each other for the first time  during the Meet and Greet Event. After a matching process facilitated by LIN, companies and NPOs ranked their choice, which LIN then used for matching the companies and NPOs appropriately and according to each teams’ wishes as much as possible.

Meet the teams_EN

6 week mentorship

During a period of  6 weeks, from 1 July to 15 August, each team worked to create a communication tool that address the needs of vulnerable children and raise the public awareness about challenges they are facing.10 teams have submitted their communications tools. More than 400 people voted for their favorite communications tools. 

Please take a look at the amazing initiatives submitted by 10 teams here:

Activity 2: Capacity building

Besides the one-on-one mentorship, CPI aims to equip the NPOs with basic knowledge about communications and beyond. As a part of the project, LIN worked with 3 companies to hold several workshops and a company visit focusing on improving communications skills for the NPO staff.

These workshops were open to non-participating NPOs who wanted to improve their skills.

Workshop 1: Basic communications skills (Read the article)

Workshop 2: Creating and promoting NPO video clip (Read the article)

Workshop 3: How to communicate effectively with donors 

Visit HSBC Vietnam. (Read the article.)

Award Ceremony

The Award Ceremony will take place on 13 September, when the result will be announced.

Example of a communication tool created by BBDO VN
Example of a communication tool created by BBDO VN
Companies and nonprofits at the Meet
Companies and nonprofits at the Meet'n'Greet event


LIN CPI poster
LIN CPI poster

On Friday, 31 May 2013, the Community Partnership Initiative (CPI) organized by LIN Center for Community Development (LIN), kicked off with an information event for interested advertising agencies, PR/Marketing and CSR specialists. 40 representatives from at least 24 companies attended the event at Zest Bistro & Café, HCMC, showing their interest in the project.

At the info session, LIN elaborated on the different options available for companies, including leading a workshop on communications for non profit organization (NPO) staff; hosting a company visit for the NPOs; or partnering up with an NPO and working together in 6 weeks to create a communications tool for the NPO to raise awareness about the needs of vulnerable children, and win attractive prizes.

The information evening, and the project as a whole, is generously sponsored by Intel Products Vietnam Ltd. “The Community Partnership Initiative offers a unique and proven approach to building stronger community service opportunities in HCMC,” said Ms. Uyen Ho, Corporate Affairs Manager at Intel. “The CPI offers a ready-made volunteer program for employees with the benefit of training nonprofit staff in communication skills, an essential ingredient in organizational sustainability.”

All companies and NPOs signing up for the mentorship will be invited the Meet and Greet event on the 20 June where they could learn more about each other and find a suitable partner. The partnership will start on 1 July and last for six weeks, during which the companies will mentor the NPOs on communication skills and create a communications tool to enter a competition. After a public vote and judges’ professional decision, the winners of the competition will be announced at the Award Ceremony on 13 September.

The event for companies was hold one week after a similar information session for the local NPOs, where 11 NPOs signed up to participate in the CPI. To enable effective matches between the organizational needs of these NPOs and corporate core competencies, LIN is currently inviting interested companies to get engaged with the community.

Get involved!

Interested companies and communications professionals could find more information about the concept and how to get involved in this link. Deadline for registration is 19 June, 2013.


Watch CPI Information Session on Tuoi Tre TV! (for Vietnamese speaking donors)

Ms. Truc spoke with an agency attending the event
Ms. Truc spoke with an agency attending the event



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Organization Information

LIN Center for Community Development

Location: Ho Chi Minh City, NA - Vietnam
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Dana Doan
Ho Chi Minh City, NA Vietnam

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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