“It’s not me. It’s you.”
No, it’s not a bad breakup. In fact, it’s just the opposite – the beginning of a great relationship.
When recruiting a new volunteer to your organization, it should begin just like that great first or second date. You want them to like you while you start figuring out just what kind of relationship they’re seeking.
If you’re too overbearing (“I can’t wait to introduce you to my mom!”), then you’ll scare them off. But, if you don’t show any interest in them or seem compelling, they might think you don’t like them or decide they don’t like you.
Rather than dinner at a fancy restaurant or a picnic in the park, that first date with your prospective volunteer is most likely a landing page on your website. So, with that in mind, here are eight tips for that great first date* (i.e. landing page):
Tip #1: Make it quick
Your prospective volunteer doesn’t want to spend an entire day with you. Keep your content brief, lead with your most impactful material and don’t ask them to provide too much personal information.
Tip #2: Make it about them
Don’t spend too much time talking about yourself. They don’t care about your organization – they care about the impact of your organization, so make clear the impact you’re having on the people or issues they care about most.
Tip #3: Make it simple
Don’t make it hard for the volunteer to express their interest in you. Allow them to simply check a box or click a button. This isn’t the time for essay questions. And if it’s an email, use HTML code to pre-populate their contact information in a form so they don’t have to complete it.
Tip #4: Use a good picture
Include an image on your page that shows how your organization is making an impact (and not from that event 20 years ago when you were skinnier and had more hair). If you have people in the image, be sure they’re representative of the demographics of your organization and the people you’re trying to recruit.
Tip #5: Be decisive
Don’t give them ten options. Scientific studies show that an abundance of choices leads to misery, not happiness – they call it the tyranny of choice. Provide volunteers with a few options of how to get involved or take action, but don’t overwhelm them.
Tip #6: But, don’t restrict them
A fundraiser will tell you that the worst thing you can do for a prospective big gift donor is to make a small ask. So, limit your choices for the volunteer but include an option that provides a higher level of engagement (i.e. attending a local gathering or getting involved in a community action team).
Tip #7: Follow-up soon after the date is over
Once they compete your interest form, be sure someone reaches out to them within a few days, whether it’s an email or a phone call. You can enter them into your automated welcome series, but be sure you’re sending them content that’s related to the choices they made on your form.
Tip #8: Don’t get discouraged
Like dating, not every volunteer relationship is going to be a great one. Some volunteers will get more involved, others will stick with being digital action takers and a few will just stop responding to your emails and texts. That’s to be expected, but track your data. If that old pick-up line isn’t working any more, it might be time to try out some new material.
I even took a picture of this great first date. See the below image to visualize how these tips can be applied to your organization’s next great landing page.
* Please restrict the use of these tips solely to your landing pages and not to real dating. The author has been married for 19 years and admits he has no idea how real dating happens today.
For Love at First Sight (New volunteers who want to get highly involved)
The survey comes back and you see that Zoe from Baton Rouge is interested in volunteering locally in her community. Beyond just signing petitions, she’s ready to attend and even help plan events. For grassroots organizations, this is the equivalent of love at first sight.
At the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), we have a volunteer structure that includes a lead volunteer in every state and each congressional district. Knowing the power of peer-to-peer communication, we leverage this structure to complete Zoe’s recruitment. But you don’t need that kind of structure to be successful – you can leverage staff, board members or key volunteers.
We have numerous pages throughout our web site allowing Zoe to express this level of enhanced interest. The moment she clicks “Submit,” her results are automatically forwarded to the lead volunteer in her state as well as the appropriate state staff person. That lead volunteer or staff person will either follow-up with Zoe directly or delegate that outreach to the appropriate congressional district lead volunteer.
This simple use of email automation – bypassing national staff and the need for data downloads or synchs, etc. –means that Zoe is contacted more quickly and from a local source who will be knowledgeable about activity happening in her area. (Although I don’t think they always send flowers and chocolate.)