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Recruiting Volunteers Part 4: Deliver Your Message

By Daniel C. Olsen, Senior Consultant, Special Districts Association of Oregon

Whether you are selling a product, running a political campaign, or recruiting volunteers, you need to deliver your message.

There are three parts to delivering your message. The “What,” the “Who” and the “How.”

First, what is your message? Second, who are you attempting to reach with your message? Third, how will you disseminate, or deliver your message?

Every day, there are opportunities to deliver the message about your organization and its services to the community.

You are waiting in line at the grocery store, A person notices you wearing a shirt or hat, with your organization logo. They may comment on seeing crews operating at an incident and complement you on the work they did. How do you respond? Too often, a volunteer may respond with a modest, and quiet, “thank you…it was nothing’ and say nothing more. Too bad…a lost opportunity to deliver your message.

You are at a social event and a person asks you about your organization. Another opportunity to deliver your message. How would you describe your organization?

What is your Message?

What are the key message points you want to deliver?

In developing your message, it should be:

  • Clear-easily understood by members of your service area
  • Concise- deliver your initial message in approximately 30 seconds.
  • Consistent- it should repeat and reinforce your message points. It should be an extension of your trademark.

Here is an example of message about a fire district. It provides the framework which you can develop to best fit your situation:

“The Hometown Fire District is a public safety organization delivering fire, rescue and emergency services to the community of Hometown. Our mission is to make a positive difference in our community through service to others. To carry out our mission, career and volunteer personnel respond rapidly 24 hours a day, seven days a week to emergencies, taking appropriate action and producing a beneficial outcome. Our vision is to be trusted by our community, respected by our peers and united in our mission of service.”

Once you have the key points identified, you can then determine the distinguishing characteristic that sets your agency apart from others. This is your trademark. Capitalize on it.

Emotional appeal should be added to enrich your message. Sometimes the most effective method is through using photographic images. The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words “continues to have excellent value in delivering your message. Keep your words to a minimum. Let the image convey your message.

Who are you attempting to reach?

Who is your target audience? What are their interests and issues?

In the 1970’s, Dr. Morris Massey, a marketing professor and sociologist, developed a program titled What You Are Is Where You Were When. Dr. Massey delivered a powerful message about how different generations form their values.

A vast amount of research has been done about understanding value formation by different generations. In developing your recruitment message, you may want to consider the different generations, each with their interest and issues. These include:

  • Baby Boomers (I and II)
  • Generation X - (Gen X)
  • Generation Y - (Gen Y or Millennials)
  • Generation Z – (Gen Z)

Consider that individuals want to contribute. Individuals have a vast variety of knowledge and experience they can share. Often times, they want to exercise creativity or innovation. They may want to make connections and develop relationships. Think about yourself and what you like to do as a volunteer.

How will you disseminate your message?

Often times, there is a belief that social media is the only recruiting tool. Yes, it is a valuable tool. However, there are other channels to use in addition to social media. These include:

  • Print Media (versatile, many sizes, different methods of distribution, high visibility placement)
  • Electronic Media (radio and television)
  • Events (neighborhoods and community)
  • Small Groups (clubs, organizations)
  • One-on-One (see Principle No. 2 “Everyone is a Talent Scout”)
  • Volunteer Referral Groups (networking groups in your community and region are often overlooked as a way of delivering your message)

Key Points

Tell you story clearly, concisely, and consistently. Reach out to your audience with your story. Use different channels to disseminate your story in the community.

With words we create images. Create images with emotions that will motivate people to act.

Remember other person’s perspective. “What I do is important…to me. But it may not be to you.”

Effectively and repeatedly, delivering your message can help others to understand what your organization does and why your service is important to them. And it could be the reason for them to join you in your mission and volunteer.

Are you trying to recruit Board Members for your agency?

SDAO has a great resource: “The Board Member Recruitment Toolkit”

Check it out at