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Effective Marketing to the 62.5% Who Volunteer— But Not for Organizations

Nov 04, 2015 09:45 pm | Thomas W. McKee

They’ll help a neighbor, plan a block party or organize a local softball game.  couldyoubethevoice6They volunteer, but they won’t volunteer for any organization.  According to the Volunteering and Civil Life in America, 2014 report, 62.5% of people living in the U.S. volunteer, but not for an organization.

Why won’t they volunteer for organizations?

The New Breed of volunteer doesn’t want to follow a volunteer manager telling them how, when, why, and with whom. They are their own own boss working like an entrepreneurial, non-paid independent contractor. No wonder slacktivism/clicktivism and episodic volunteering is growing.

But some organizations are reaching into the 62.5% — How?

In my travels these past few months, I have observed several organizations that are effectively reaching the New Breed volunteer.  One of those organizations is recruiting episodic, entrepreneurial, high-capacity volunteers and engaging them to go through 30 hours of training, extensive background checks, commitment to a schedule of writing reports and meeting with court judges. That is a huge challenge, but they are making it work. It all starts with a marketing campaign that targets local neighbor-helping, not-committed volunteers and gets them to think, “I could, and perhaps should, do that.”

Last month I spent a day training the North Carolina lawyers, social workers, administrators, district managers, and support staff of the Guardian ad Litem program. They recruit volunteers to become advocates for abused, neglected and dependent children of the court system.

Their marketing campaign is one of the most effective I’ve seen. Look at the haunting picture above with the compelling question: “Could you be a voice of a child?” It’s a little longer than the famous, “Got Milk?” or “Where’s the Beef?” of the 70’s, but it has a short, catchy mantra that arouses interest. It accomplishes both goals of marketing. First, it awakens passion. As I read this, I thought, “I should do that.  Over 1,700 children need advocates, and I could be the voice of a child.”  And second, many of the 4,800 current volunteers who see that promo piece will say to a friend, “I’m a voice of a child.”  It provides great affirmation to the volunteer saying, “You are important and doing a very significant, life changing service.  Keep up the good work.”  And of course we all know that our best recruiters are volunteers who are affirmed about what they are doing.

But marketing alone does not get volunteers. It builds awareness that will often nudge the independent, entrepreneurial, organizational shy, New Breed volunteer to consider becoming a volunteer for you, but you need to follow up marketing with the sales method of recruiting (another topic—see below).

Four possible action steps to reach the 62.5% who find volunteering satisfying, but aren’t volunteering for our organizations:

1.  Get your message out about your mission.   You are passionate about your message, so you ought to be speaking at local clubs, schools, colleges and events.  Put articles in the paper about what you are doing. Look at your marketing material.  Does it awaken passion?  Does it have a mantra—a one short sentence statement or question that awakens passion?   Does it make a person think, “I should do that”?

2.  Follow up with face to face sales.

For ideas on recruiting (sales) see the following blogs:

3.  To better understand how to market, recruit and engage the New Breed Volunteer, consider a workshop for your leaders.  This past month I have  delivered keynotes and taught workshop for the Partners of Wisconsin Hospital Association, The North Carolina Guardian ad Litem staff, the Nebraska Girl Scouts leaders. and #Imagine Ignite Conference for youth workers in Cape Town, South Africa.  Jodi, one of the participants in North Carolina, e-mailed me this response:

Hats off to you for an outstanding workshop! I loved the fact that you didn’t “review” what we read in your book but rather expanded upon the content. Brilliant! Thank you for leading such an amazing workshop. I have attended workshops and conferences for nearly 17 years while working for the state and this one was by far the absolute very best!  I enjoyed meeting you, reading your book and will now use the information given!   Until we meet again! Thank you, Jodi Livengood, Program Assistant, Guardian ad Litem Program

For information about bringing a keynote or workshop.

4.  Purchase copies of  The New Breed for your staff.  Many of the groups purchase a book for each staff member.  We can offer you a bulk rate–email Jonathan at


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