How to Write Volunteer Recruitment Messaging That Converts
As a nonprofit leader, chances are you didn’t get into your profession because you wanted to do sales and marketing.
You signed on because you believed in your cause and wanted to make a real dent in the universe. Little did you know that to master volunteer recruitment messaging, you’d need to learn so much about marketing.
And yet, as you scan your project and the volunteer needs of your organization, you find yourself recruiting, recruiting, recruiting.
We feel you.
Volunteer recruitment can seem like a game you’re not sure how to win. It’s one of those things that will always be a part of a volunteer coordinator’s role.
So, we’re here to not only help you learn the rules of the game, but to give you strategies that win.
With some basic marketing practices thrown in, volunteer recruitment can be more effective and actually be fun!
Lay the Groundwork for Your Best Messaging
Before your recruitment ad or invitation messaging is ready to be shared, there are a few foundational pieces you should have in place.
Crucial to developing appealing messaging is to have a solid grasp on the role or roles you’re wanting to fill.
A generic message that “X organization needs volunteers” is not going to compel supporters to act.
Volunteers are interested in making a difference, not simply filling a role. So, here is where you need to go beyond the general and get specific.
The right volunteers are much more likely to respond to a specific role that uses specific talents or that leads to specific outcomes.
Therefore, you’ll want to have developed a recruitment-boosting volunteer position description on which to base your recruitment messaging. This position description should be an engaging document, full of aspirational language that ignites.
While the position description should generally cover responsibilities, expectations and boundaries, this is not the time or place for specifying every related policy detail. It should be written to engage a reader, as a subset of your recruitment messaging.
Your organization may strictly use flyers or a newsletter to distribute information about available volunteer roles. We advise that you consider who your ideal volunteer candidate is and choose the method or methods of communication that are most likely to reach them.
Knowing whether your written message will be on a flyer, a poster. in an email, or on social media will help you make effective use of the platform when developing your message. You need the most important ideas to take center stage. Then, you can decide whether to add graphics, testimonials and other features to enhance the message.
Once you know the role for which you’re recruiting and the channel by which that message will be distributed, you’re ready to develop messaging for effective recruitment.
There are two primary factors when considering what to include while writing volunteer recruitment messages that convert:
- Focus on a single idea.
- Answer what your volunteers need, not your organization.
Volunteer Recruitment Messaging: One Main Idea at a Time
Effective messaging focuses on a single concept rather than throwing the kitchen sink at your reader. You’ll want to centralize all of your copywriting around a single result – in this case, that volunteers apply to partner with your organization.
To get off on the right foot, start by identifying one big idea – your thesis – that will guide you as you write the copy for your recruitment ad.
This messaging thesis should describe one compelling reason that joining your cause would make sense for volunteers and would solve a key issue in their community. Keep in mind, this is not the message or ad itself. It is the driving idea behind the ad.
Here’s a simple formula and example:
Any [type of volunteer you seek] can [solve the community issue] by volunteering for your cause because [how it solves the issue].
“Anyone who cares about our neighborhood health can help keep it clean and green by volunteering for the West Town Greenway — we will show them how to educate kids on easy ways to reduce pollution.”
Leveraging Volunteer Motives in Volunteer Recruitment Messaging
Once you have your guiding thesis, you can start writing your volunteer recruitment messages.
Each message should address a volunteer motive that your organization can meet. There are six well-researched motivations for volunteering.
Research has shown that volunteering serves people’s specific functional needs. We humans are self-centered, though not necessarily selfish. We want our needs met (conscious or unconscious) and oftentimes those needs align with giving back to the community or helping others.
Learn more about how to align your marketing with six volunteer motivations.
If you reframe how you think of volunteer motives as a kind of “problem to be solved,” you can begin to see how to this approach can help you develop more compelling, volunteer-centric messaging.
Below are two examples of volunteer motivations framed as a solution to a volunteer “problem.” Drawing upon the guiding thesis, your message could expand out like this:
“Are you concerned for your neighborhood health? Keep it clean and green by volunteering with West Town Greenway! We will show you how to educate kids on easy ways to reduce pollution. Serving with us will give you the opportunity to network with others who share interest in environmental health and explore leadership opportunities on our Weekend Green Teams.”
“Are you concerned for your neighborhood health? Keep it clean and green by volunteering with West Town Greenway! We will show you how to educate kids on easy ways to reduce pollution. No previous knowledge required. Just bring your interest in learning. Our trained experts will do the rest.”
As you work on recruiting volunteers, address the primary volunteers’ needs or “problems” they hope to solve for your volunteers. You don’t need to address each volunteer motivation. Choose 2-3 motivations that drive your most successful team members.
Try not to make your message about your concern about filling open positions or even the specific community issue or cause served by your organization.
Put yourself in the volunteer’s shoes when constructing your volunteer recruitment messages. Focus on only 1-2 motivations per campaign and build your messaging around them.
If possible, include volunteer quotes or testimonials that offer proof that the “problem” is “solved.”, or the need is met.
This approach allows your potential volunteers to know clearly and quickly who you need and for what purpose. From there, you can position your messaging to address their motivations.
Volunteer Recruitment Messaging: Adding it to Your Marketing Collateral
In a recent group coaching session with our VolunteerPro membership community, one participant shared a recruitment flyer they had just designed and asked the group for feedback.
A smart use of messaging throughout your marketing collateral and channels, can make a big difference in your new volunteer conversions.
Using a variety of tools that are aligned with the same thesis and key messages can help you repeat key points without feeling redundant. And most readers will need to hear things more than once before they take action.
In advertising, this is called “effective frequency,” and it is a key to your success.
When creating collateral that includes not only your messaging, but also a visual element, here are a few things to keep in mind when creating those recruitment tools.
Thoughtful Use of Images
While it’s tempting to use all the great pictures you’ve been amassing of your volunteers, don’t fall for that trap. Stick to simple images and close-ups of smiling faces as opposed to a posed photo of a large group in your recruitment material.
Because – especially when viewing it on a mobile device – your viewers can’t make out the faces of your group. And, except for those people directly involved, a group of people standing facing the camera, even if they’re wearing matching tee-shirts, doesn’t convey anything about the people or the work they’re doing.
Effective advertising is all about eliciting emotions. So, show them!
It’s better to select a picture or pictures that show one or two volunteer faces with visible expressions of emotion. Human eyes are naturally attracted by people’s faces and the emotion gives something for us to connect to that individual.
Draw Them to Your Message
The #1 goal of good copywriting is to get people to read the next sentence, and the next, and the next, right up to your call to action.
The prominent headline at the top of your collateral will be the first text readers see and will trigger them to keep reading or scroll on by.
So, start with something more compelling than “Volunteers Needed.”.
In our training session on copywriting, we suggest catchy attention-grabbers like, “How to Impress Your Girlfriend Without Spending a Dime.” A line like that makes people want to read what this message has to say.
(Spoiler alert: the way to impress without spending a dime is to become a volunteer!)
While you don’t want to bury your message, you can improve the way you’re expressing it by grabbing and keep the reader’s attention first.
You can then follow up with a subheading that offers more details about your opportunity.
Keep It Simple
A recruitment message is not the best place to offer a slew of statistics like how many pounds of food were donated, or what percentage of the population benefits from your services.
Those numbers won’t hold much interest for a prospective volunteer, at least from the start. This is partly because they aren’t in context. New volunteers don’t know whether 1 ton of food is exemplary or not. So, save many of your stats for later.
If you want to include statistics, keep them centered on the direct results of volunteer work in your volunteer recruitment messaging.
For example, you might incorporate more compelling statistics such as, “In the last year, contributing just two shifts a month, our mentors have increased the number of books read by School Seven’s first graders by 22%.”
Again, the specific versus general wins the day.
Also, note how this declaration says that even two volunteer shifts per month can have a positive impact on the community being served.
This helps even those who are concerned about the time involved as their primary objection to service might be inspired to raise their hand.
Leave Some “White Space”
It’s also important to give your audience some breathing room.
Design does matter here. The sensation of a crowded page can infer added pressure that can turn people off.
Keep the page or the post as clean as possible so that your well-crafted message is visible and clear.
It might be that your organization’s logo is compelling enough on its own. Red Cross uses their logo effectively in recruiting blood and plasma donors. They hardly have to say anything except the time and place to give.
Don’t clutter the readers’ eyes and minds with extraneous tidbits that aren’t relevant until later. You will want to make sure to include the most pertinent details. Maybe that’s “Information Session on Becoming a Reading Mentor” and then the time and place.
In some cases, you may need to include more information for the uninitiated. For example, let them know “Since the session is after 5pm, please use the side door by the playground.” If so, keep it brief.
While you might be tempted to include “Our 6-week training program comprised of short videos available for home download, online quizzes and two live demonstrations…” your initial recruitment messaging could be shortened to say:
“No experience necessary. Full training provided;
most in short videos to watch here or at home.”
This answers the most basic questions, addressing what could be a concern or obstacle for your prospective candidate.
Whether the reader wants more clarity around that or not, your message has given them just enough to be interested and to overcome obvious obstacles.
They’ll also know they can find out more at the information session.
A Specific Call To Action
While generally the shortest part of your content, the Call to Action (or CTA) is arguably the most important.
Your recruitment messaging must include a clear call to action that tells people what to do next. However, “Sign up today!” just isn’t going to cut it.
Sign up where? With whom? What am I signing up for??
Let your readers know if they need to register for the information session or if walk-ins are welcome. If they do need to register, should they go to a particular website or “call Enid at (555) 555-1212″?
Also, people are more likely to show if they’ve had to register.
(Even if they don’t show, you’ll have collected their contact information for a future event.)
Consider touching base via a short phone call or text message. If they’ve emailed, texted with, or spoken to a particular person at your organization, they’re even more likely to attend.
If you are working from flyers or a poster, a great way to capture people just in the moment, before they move on and forget about your message, is to set up a QR code.
From their phone, they can scan the code and be taken to the web page to register for the information session or submit an interest form for you to follow up with them.
In summary, keep your ideal candidate in mind when creating both your volunteer recruitment messaging and graphic design elements will help you know what must be included and what you can leave out.
Recruit the Right Volunteers for You
Thoughtful volunteer recruitment messaging isn’t going to automatically bring hundreds of volunteers knocking at your door.
It is, however, going to connect you with the right volunteers for your mission.
By focusing your volunteer recruitment messaging on a single idea and connecting it to potential volunteer needs, you stand out to those who are looking for a mission or project like yours.
You won’t appeal to everyone. And that’s a good thing. Some may pass on your offer, but they aren’t the applicants you want anyway.
If you’re like most volunteer-driven organizations, volunteer recruitment is one of your top challenges.
You can begin to convert this challenge into an opportunity, with the practical ways we’ve shared to improve your recruitment messaging and attract solid volunteers who stay committed to your work.
Ready to Learn More? Take Our Free [eCourse] Better Volunteer Recruitment in 6 Easy Steps
Learn how to cut through the clutter and connect with enthusiastic supporters. In this email-delivered training, you’ll have all it takes to improve your recruitment results exponentially.
All it takes is a few small changes to your approach and you’ll be attracting supporters like the volunteer magnet you were meant to be!
Don’t wait another minute to get back on the road to success, fueled by an enthusiastic, committed team that won’t let you down.
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