Where might your next conversation lead you?

18 February 2015

It would seem that ‘word of mouth’ is still considered as the most effective way of attracting new volunteers.

Conversation Blog

Research conducted at Volunteer Scotland in 2013 found that it is mainly people who are active or who had volunteered in the past that are aware of their local volunteer centre and the opportunities listed on the Volunteer Scotland website. So these recruitment methods are mainly reaching people who already know about volunteering, rather than the half of the population who don’t (SHS 2012). Research conducted by the British Red Cross (2014) also found that although their website was a successful recruitment tool it worked for those that were already interested and therefore went online to find out more. Further to this, their findings suggest it is informal word of mouth and formal contact with the organisation’s volunteers and staff that attracted new volunteers. So, as long as they’ve great things to say about your organisation, your currently active volunteers are one of your most valuable recruitment assets!

This got me thinking about my experience last summer as a Commonwealth Games volunteer for the opening ceremony. In the hours spent sitting around waiting for the 499 other people to go through wardrobe and get ready for dress rehearsals there was plenty of time for talking. And I met some fascinating people. In one conversation with a fellow cast member we talked about volunteering. Their friends thought that they were totally mad to give up their time for something and not get paid. Of course, we agreed that by doing just that we had this amazing opportunity that we would never have got otherwise. And that they were the ones missing out! This led us to talking about other volunteering that we have been involved in and it turned out that my cast mate is on the Board of Directors of Glasgow Women’s Aid that is looking for more board members. I said I felt that boards never need people who have volunteer management experience, such as myself, but always want HR or financial input.

They were quick to correct me that Glasgow Women’s Aid are looking for people with my skills. So, over the last few months I have followed up the opportunity and am really looking forward to attending my first board meeting in March. I think my example reinforces that if I hadn’t been asked I would never have got this far. Positive word of mouth is a very powerful tool. Who knows where the next conversation you have might lead? 

In my last role as a volunteer manager, the volunteers were provided with leaflets about volunteering at key times of year when we wanted to take on new volunteers. The volunteers were always being asked by members of the public about how they got involved in their role, and at certain times it was a great opportunity for them to say, “and you could do this too!” There are lots of ways that we could encourage those conversations to happen. Maybe you could invite your current volunteers to “bring along a friend”? What techniques have you used that made the most of the power of ‘word of mouth’?

- Written by Zoe McGregor

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