The beginner’s guide to creating a volunteer recruitment campaign

After you’ve decided who it is you want to recruit you need to begin to work out HOW you’re going to inspire your potential volunteers to get active. That means deciding what your volunteering message is, what your media campaign is going to look like and what kind of “ask” is going to appeal to your target audience.

“Voluntary organisations need to remember that they are selling a product, an experience, a sense of meaning and that people will shop around until they get the product that fits their agenda” Peter Hammond from the Samaritans describes the process of marketing volunteering (Extract taken from nfp Synergy’s report, The 21st century Volunteer)

Make it personal

  • A personal, direct “ask” should always be at the heart of any successful media led recruitment campaign. See VSO and Crime Concern’s campaigns.
  • Your story or campaign message needs to be tailor made for the group of people you want to volunteer. It has to satisfy them and what they want. See Oxfam’s campaign and CSV’s “Feel Good” adverts.

John Ramsey from Citizens Advice stresses the importance of being targeted: “I think with volunteer recruitment, it’s about understanding that we’re selling a product and that we need to learn how to sell products. You don’t sell a particular product by saying ‘if you want to volunteer, come here’ – that’s not how you sell it. You’ve got to target your customers with what you’re offering, you’ve got to target them with what they want from it and convince them that we will meet their expectations” (Extract taken from nfp Synergy’s report, The 21st century Volunteer)

Get a profile

Inspiring people to volunteer for your charity is likely to take time. They need to know about your organisation, what you do and how you do it. They need to know exactly what volunteers do for your organisation.

Alastair Campbell gave this advice at the Charity Communications 2007 conference, “You need to build the story of how volunteers can be involved in your organisation over time to really begin to challenge cultural negativity to volunteering.”

At first you may have to focus on using the media to increase public awareness in your organisation in general, rather than immediately asking people to volunteer for you:

  • Key messages about volunteering and appeals for voluntary support should be integrated into all your communications work.
  • Requests for volunteers should be added to your requests for donors, other awareness/ marketing campaigns, at the end of all emails and on any literature or publicity materials your organisation produces.

Have a look at Getting your organisation on board for more information on integrating campaigns. For more information on how to improve you organisation’s profile in the media have a look at the section What journalists want.

VAMU’s research report, Working with the media: lessons for volunteer-involving organisations, records how two charities set out to improve their profile in their local media and how they then used the media to reach new volunteers.

You may also be interested in “Recruiting Volunteers: Attracting the people you need” (£10.95) published by the Directory of Social Change.


Read the next article in this section… Campaign message 1: The straight forward and direct ask 

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