How to Write Powerful, Targeted Volunteer Recruitment Ads
Many moons ago, when I was a high school junior, my English Composition teacher required us to include four points at the top of every paper we submitted. They were: name, date, purpose, audience. Even then, I was being prepared to write volunteer recruitment ads.
By that age, I was well-accustomed to the name/date pattern, but purpose and audience were curious to me. Studious (read: nerdy) person that I was, I followed the directive and over time, it became a part of my writing psyche. Little did I know, while I was toiling away with hand-written (cursive, pencil, double-spaced) five-paragraph essays, I was learning the perspectives that would be foundational to getting people to see and pay attention to the words I put out.
These two points are still mentally at the top of every blog I write, every social post I make and every ad I design. They force me to pause and take stock of what I’m doing and help guide me away from common pitfalls in marketing.
If you’re trying to figure out how to get started with volunteer recruitment ads, defining your purpose and target audience will help you write the attention-grabbing copy you seek.
No shouting into the vast undefined space of the internet. No more calls of desperation that undermine your credibility. Just volunteer recruitment ads that inspire action from the right people.
Defining Your Purpose
Ideally, all your outreach will have a starting point in your strategic plan and an endpoint with the volunteer recruitment ads you write.
Strategic Plan –> Strategic Volunteer Plan –> Volunteer Marketing Plan –> Your Volunteer Recruitment Ads
Strategic Plan Goal – Increase corporate support (foundation, marketing, volunteers).
Strategic Volunteer Plan Goal – Engage [certain percentage] more corporate volunteers with companies that offer employer-sponsored volunteerism.
Volunteer Marketing Plan – Run mid-summer corporate volunteer campaign targeting employers with sponsored volunteerism.
Your Volunteer Recruitment Ad – One day away from your desk can preserve a decade of our local history.
If you’re fortunate enough to have this level of thinking already applied to your work, the purpose of your ad will be derived straight from it. If you do not have all or any of these plans, you may need to back up and think about the goals you’re trying to achieve first.
Start With Your Mission
Figuring out your purpose for volunteer recruitment ads is much easier than you think. Simply start with your nonprofit’s mission. The purpose of everything you put out should have some connection to that mission. Ultimately, that is the purpose of what you’re trying to accomplish.
Next, go to the goals of your program or campaign. Do you need to let people know you’re taking new volunteers? Does your outreach need to shed light on the outcomes of your organization’s work? Maybe it needs to inspire potential volunteers.
Whatever the goals of your program, remember this: the purpose of your outreach is rarely just about getting a number of people showing up to help. The purpose, in the nonprofit world, is always mission-driven and your messaging will be served by putting it first. Always.
Candidly, your goal may very well be to get 35 volunteers by next week. The reason you need to think beyond that internal/organizational goal is that your potential volunteers certainly won’t be motivated by that goal.
After all, you aren’t asking 35 people to show up just to stand around. You need them to do something.
What is it they will be doing? What impact will it make? What stories will you/they be able to tell? THOSE are the answers to your question on purpose.
It’s not “HEY WE NEED 5 PEOPLE TO HELP!” It’s “Friend, your time will make an impact on this cause we both care about.”
Targeting Your Audience
Considering the audience of your volunteer recruitment ad is not about completing high-level segment definitions. It’s about considering them as real human beings who have limited time and attention, just like you. It’s about respecting and attempting to understand the needs, motivations, and barriers your audience might experience.
You need to pause and consider these things because you obviously already think your message is great. You’re sold! You love your organization and everyone (EVERYONE) should be as involved and passionate as you! This passion vortex is hard to escape and makes it difficult to remember that not everyone will share your passion.
And that’s ok! Your goal isn’t to bring in everyone. It’s to bring in others who share a similar type of passion, or, at the very least, a curiosity about your mission.
That means there are two things your audience is NOT:
1) It’s not you.
2) And it’s not everyone.
Who does that leave? That’s where you need to do some digging.
How to Start Defining Your Target Audience
You might start with “people who work at XYZ company that sponsors three corporate volunteer days a year.” That may be good enough, but I challenge you to go a little further.
Just because a person has those days doesn’t mean a) they are going to use them and b) if they are going to use them, they want to do so with your organization.
That draws your audience numbers down a little further, but don’t let the smaller potential number freak you out. The closer you get to your audience, the better you can market specifically to them and the more likely they are to pay attention and do what you need.
In the example above, you could settle on something like “my audience for this campaign is people who work at XYZ, want to use their company volunteer days, and either are interested in our local history mission or are looking for a new place to engage.”
At that point, it’s OK that not everyone cares as much as you do about preserving our local history because you’re only trying to talk to the people who share that interest. Defining your audience manifests into a freedom to speak specifically about what you do and do well.
Once you commit to your audience, you can work really hard to connect with them. Write to them like they are real people, not a class of people on paper. Think about where they are likely to be hanging out and see your ad and what’s likely to get their attention. Reflect on what they care about how those things connect with your mission.
Why Purpose and Audience Matter in Volunteer Recruitment Ads
Without purpose, our ads confuse potential volunteers with mixed messages and unclear calls to action. When we forget that we are speaking to an audience, the human element is missing from our ads.
Putting the purpose and audience at the top of the page sets the tone for a strategic message that leaves an intentional call to action with your potential volunteer. It also results in volunteer recruitment ads that resonates with your audience because you recognize their values.