|Whether it be an Earth Day rally or a hearing on proposed clean-air regulations, one
of the biggest challenges of organizing an event is lining up volunteers. Common
recruitment methods include phone calls, e-mail alerts, advertisements in chapter and
group newsletters, print and radio public-service announcements, direct mail, letters to
the editor, flyers and public-access TV. Of these methods, phone solicitations get the
But how do you guarantee success? As Bill Arthur, Northwest staff
director, puts it, There aint no magic. You just have to do the fundamentals
well. Have a well laid-out plan for the event and figure out how many volunteers
youll need. Develop a list of people likely to get involved. We have a
computer database of volunteers, says Marge Hanselman, conservation chair of the
Houston Group. Ive developed it one person at a time, building on past events
to bring in future activists.
Ask, Involve, Inform, Thank
Effective recruiting depends on four simple steps that, when followed consistently,
create positive feedback and strengthen volunteers connection to the organization.
Ask: Know what you need then ask. Establish early contact with
prospective volunteers and maintain consistent contact. To recruit by phone, first send a
postcard three to five weeks before the event giving background information about the
campaign and details about time and place. Follow up with a phone call three weeks before
the event and ask the person to volunteer. Once theyve agreed to participate, mail a
postcard thanking them for their commitment. Putting the agreement in writing makes it
real. Two days before the event, phone participants to confirm their attendance.
If you contact people four times prior to an event, you can count on having 60 to
75 percent show up, says Arthur. A 10 to 15 percent lower turnout occurs if
only three contacts are made prior to an event, and two contacts results in an additional
10 to 15 percent drop in turnout.
Involve: Be positive and enthusiastic. Help volunteers feel welcome and at ease.
Make it fun. Make note of particularly strong activists. Offer them more of a lead role in
the tasks and keep their names on a list of potential leaders.
Inform: People are more likely to commit their time and energy to a campaign
they care about. Tell volunteers about the issue and how it affects them personally. Be
specific about the time and place of the event, what you need them to do and the amount of
time youre asking them to commit. Help them see how their role is connected to the
larger campaign goals.
Thank: Let volunteers know they made a difference and that their efforts are
appreciated. Send a hand-written postcard after the event. Let them know the results of
their work. Include press clippings or summarize the campaign on a factsheet and mention
the next steps needed. Or hold a party for the volunteers after the event. Bring
information about your next campaign and start the process again.