Volunteer recruitment is in many ways an exercise in marketing. It is a matter of presenting an opportunity in a manner, time and place that will engage your prospective “customer” or volunteer and gain “buy-in”. Strategic marketing planning has long referred to the “Four P’s” to guide the marketing mix of businesses large and small: Product, Place, Price & Promotion. At first glace these may seem to have little to do with volunteerism. Afterall, you’re not selling anything. Or are you? Using a different take on these variables you may be able to better hone a compelling volunteer recruitment posting.
In this case your “product” is the opportunity itself. What is required of your volunteers? What benefits will be generated by their efforts? Who will be helped? What is your organization’s mission overall and how does this particular posting fit in? You may not be selling a widget in a package, but make no mistake, with so many competing opportunities out there, it is important to “sell” the benefits of your posting. There has to be clear value conveyed, not necessarily received by the volunteer herself, but that will be generated by her efforts. People want to know they are making a difference. How does your organization and this specific posting allow them to do that?
In traditional marketing this element answers where and how your product is delivered to the end customer. Much is the same with your volunteer needs. Where are you asking these people to attend, for how long, and what steps are necessary before they can engage? Are there qualifying hurdles to be cleared, and if so, what can be done to facilitate them? The challenge is to target your messaging to individuals physically able to get involved and satisfy your requirements.
Price speaks for itself in a traditional marketing plan; how much are the buyers paying for the product and how. But how does that relate to volunteer services? In this case, the cost you are asking your prospective volunteer to pay is their time. In fact to some time may be more valuable to them than money. It is important to remain conscious of the value equation and convey as much value for the time being asked. Referring back to the Product discussion, you want to emphasize the value to your organization and those that benefit from it that will be generated by their “payment” of time. If possible, consider offering a range of “price points”. Can you offer limited commitment options through to on-going positions to accommodate a variety of time resources?
The final piece of the marketing puzzle is your method of communicating your benefit and value. Examples include advertising, public relations, and in business, direct sales. You want to reach your prospective volunteer proactively, where possible using services that push your opportunities out, alongside traditional passive options such as online classified ads. Look for ways to reach your volunteers where they are, capitalizing on today’s expectation of information on demand and active delivery. Think notifications. Facebook doesn’t wait for you to login to tell you someone posted on your wall. Why should you wait for the volunteer to come looking for you when an opportunity arises?
Take a page from the marketer’s playbook by keeping these Four P’s in mind when you plan your volunteer recruitment campaigns.