November 16, 2014

Getting Recruitment Right!

Posted in Best Practice, Language, Marketing tagged , , , at 2:47 am by Sue Hine

Shackleton advtThe difficulties of volunteer recruitment never seem to go away.  The plaints of being short of people or not getting the ‘right sort’ of people keep on being raised.  I am still seeing notices in community newspapers or on social media and on websites about ‘wanting’ and ‘needing’ volunteers – which do little more to attract people beyond relying on the organisation’s reputation and public profile.

Well if you have not read the small print in the image above take a look at it now.

This notice reportedly delivered 5000 responses to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s recruitment of a crew for his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914. The original advertisement has never been located so there is doubt about its authenticity.  Nevertheless it is a great story, alongside the subsequent adventures and heroism of the men on the expedition.

Yes, the message is based on men wanted (remember this is pre-Women’s Lib days), but it was the era of Antarctic exploration, and maybe the name of Shackleton drew attention (he had already made a name for himself).  Maybe all those men were looking for adventure, not knowing there was a different sort of adventurous expedition that would be announced in just a few months time.

For managers of volunteers the point of any recruitment advertising is (1) grabbing attention and (2) understanding the range of motivations that draw people to volunteer.  Add to that some basic principles of marketing, along with the organisation’s well-articulated reasons for engaging with volunteers.

What sort of salvo from a voluntary organisation would deliver the impact that Shackleton achieved?

  • Unleash your talents!
  • Want to apply your under-utilised skills?
  • Opportunity knocks!
  • Make friends and influence people
  • Join our fun-filled team at….

It’s the impact that counts – one that attracts attention.  Offer a taste of the kind of work available – which does not have to be accompanied by the kind of conditions Shackleton was describing.  Add in other attractions: the rewards of volunteer work, like Shackleton’s ‘honour and recognition’, or the flexible time arrangements, or the benefits of skill development and work experience.  Yes, you can make much of the worthiness of your organisation’s cause, because many volunteers will sign up to pursue their passionate interests.  But do avoid messages that sound like you are desperate for help. That plea makes me wonder why volunteers are not signing up and to ask if there is something wrong with the volunteer programme.

All of these suggestions tap into standard volunteer motivations.  They are also pretty similar to anything found in Sits Vac columns or job-seeking websites.  Let’s not forget that volunteering is a job, is real work – and not simply stuffing envelopes and making cups of tea.  And we do it for free, for all sorts of different reasons.

Two more recommendations (but note, there is never a last word on recruitment): (1) include a name, a real person to contact beyond the phone number or email address; and (2) ensure a quick response to messages and expressions of interest.  That’s the most important start for a conversation that could lead to a long career as a volunteer.

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4 Comments »

  1. gisvc said,

    “A real person to contact” now I admit that is one that I had not thought about for a long time and had forgotten to use and promote so thanks for that tip today Sue.

    Like

  2. Roger Tweedy said,

    Great stuff Sue. Maybe there is a difference to the current ‘paid Sits Vac’ advt where often the advertiser is trying to ‘screen out’ many applicants to avoid the admin handling the response. Agree a name is critical as the process starts from that first conversation either to encourage or sometimes discourage people whose expectation of the work is unrealistic (can save a lot of time later)

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  3. Hi Sue, great advice. When I answer an inquiry in a timely manner, the prospective volunteer quite often says, “wow, you’re the first one to get back to me so quickly” or I even hear, “you’re the only one that’s called me back”. Showing an interest in each prospective volunteer is time consuming but crucial to at least sparking a conversation. Sometimes the simplest adjustments make all the difference.

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  4. Sue Hine said,

    Thanks for your contributions here – adding more light to and affirming my arguments.

    Like


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