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Blog | 17 May 2021

How to recruit new volunteers – from a marketer by trade, volunteer at heart

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Things are looking up. We’re getting back to Scouting and having fun.

To help us extend our reach and give more young people amazing experiences, we’re on the hunt for more volunteers.

We spoke with Mark, a County Commissioner and Group Scout Leader in Suffolk, to find out how he’s gearing up to find more people to join them. He’s a marketer by trade and has been involved with Scouts for decades (since he was a Cub!) so has a wealth of experience to share on what’s worked well, what hasn’t, and what he’s planning for this year.  

What tactics have you used to recruit volunteers?

I got some really good advice from one of the Scouts training courses (module 25). If you say to people, ‘We’re absolutely desperate, we’ve got no leaders, and it looks like the group is going to fold, can you help us?’ it’s like saying, ‘Do you want to join a sinking ship?’ which isn’t really attractive to anyone.

We aim to use positive messaging, like, ‘We’ve filled up and need to grow, so we need some people to step forward as we’re on the upward trend.’ By bigging up that you’re growing and you’ve got new leaders, it makes your group look appealing to join. It’s a classic sales tactic that has worked really well for us.

However, not everyone is a good salesperson – if they were, the world would be a very strange place. You need to have a people-person upfront, talking to potential volunteers about how great volunteering is. If no one’s really a salesperson in your group, maybe that’s where you ask for help – you could look for sales coaching opportunities.

What other marketing methods would you recommend?

Well, first off, our local village magazine that we advertised in for six months (it was free) wasn’t successful at all. We also tried a leaflet drop around the village, which didn’t work either.

However, what did work was posting on the village Facebook page. We received a lot of enquiries for young people to join, with a couple of their parents saying they’re happy to help as well.

Building awareness and teaching recruitment skills is really where Districts need to come in – like amplifying the #GoodForYou campaign and Census messaging at the end of May. Local BBC radio stations are also an excellent way to get your message out there. A good opportunity could also be Volunteer Week in June.

Who are you looking to recruit now?

We’re planning to recruit in three phases, focusing on the warmest audience first:

  1. Parents/guardians/relatives/Explorers
  2. Adults new to Scouts
  3. Companies that offer volunteering leave

Traditionally in marketing, you’d look to sell to existing clients first as they’re already engaged, they know who you are and they trust you. So this can be applied to audiences already involved with Scouts – like parents of young people. You can find out more about our audience segmentation in these slides

How have you planned to recruit these people?

We’ve pulled together a creative framework and message hierarchy, currently relating to skills for life, that we’ll gear up to include #GoodForYou messaging too. We’re also going to use people-based imagery – we want to show that sense of belonging and accomplishment. We want people to feel like they’re jumping into a friendly family group, not a clique.

We’ll of course have the leaflets, posters, adverts etc but really it’s about working out how you’re going to use materials and where your target audience are. We need to broaden our networks and get out meeting new people. Don’t just hand out a leaflet and not follow up – encouraging volunteers to make the ask of ‘Will you volunteer with us?’ is key.

It’s also really important we have a consistent welcome process. We’re in the process of setting up automated welcome and next steps emails, and are looking at running county welcome events twice a year.

Any final words, Mark?

The challenge of finding enough new volunteers, as a movement, is how we bring everyone along with us – it’s the ones who don’t tell you they have a problem that we need to think most about.

And remember, it’s all about how you tell people about the benefits of Scouts – and there are lots of those!

For more tips on supporting volunteer recruitment at county level, read this interview with Amy, a County Commissioner from Lincolnshire.

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