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3rd April 2024

A creative approach to volunteer recruitment that gets results -Vintage Vibes Edinburgh

Vintage Vibes is an award-winning Edinburgh project working to tackle loneliness and isolation across the city amongst people over 60 (the VIPs).

Now in its 9th year, the project was created in partnership with LifeCare Edinburgh and Space at the Broomhouse Hub. They create long lasting 1:1 friendships by matching VIPs and trained Friendship Volunteers with shared interests. Regular companionship for VIPs builds their confidence as well as helping them to stay socially connected and active in their local community. Currently the team and community of volunteers support approximately 200 VIPs through 1:1 friendships, coffee catch ups, film and theatre clubs as well as larger social events throughout the year. They are known for ‘doing things differently’ and embracing a strong learnings culture within their approach.

“It’s so nice to have something other than medical appointments on the calendar. Having a friendship match helps me to get out among people and the groups are helping me gain confidence”

Loneliness Kills

Recent research by Changing Britain found 33% of Edinburgh citizens feel isolated from their community and do not feel included. Further research has found loneliness and isolation amongst older people can negatively impact their mental and physical health, increasing their chances of dementia by 50% and heart attacks and strokes by 30%. The World Health organisation in November 2022 declared loneliness to be a pressing global health threat, equating the negative health impacts of loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 89% of VIPs asked this month said that being involved in Vintage Vibes had improved their mental health, with 100% saying it feel happier, made them have a better quality of life and it reduced their isolation.

A Creative Approach

Covid made people more isolated and lonelier, Vintage Vibes saw a surge in demand for their service at the same time as experiencing a decline in volunteer sign ups.

When looking at how to boost volunteer numbers post Covid, Vintage Vibes recognised a more creative approach, as well as investing time and money, was needed. Working in collaboration with the UKSPF fund, they secured a dedicated resource to work on a short term project to review and revive volunteer recruitment. Nicky Shallcross joined the team in September 2023 to lead the volunteer recruitment “supercharge” project.

“I was already a volunteer with Vintage Vibes so was familiar with the amazing work the team did. As a 1:1 friendship volunteer myself, I get to see firsthand every week the difference having someone to talk to makes to my VIP Sheila. My background is in Retail Management, Marketing and Branding. Despite not having worked in the third sector before I could see a lot of similarities between both areas. The team had a really strong foundation to build on, a great name, heartwarming stories to tell and a colourful brand identity. I worked with the team to identify volunteer profiles that were based on how retailers identify their target customers. These profiles included, ages, where they lived, occupations, places they go in a community and what motivates them to volunteer”.

Delivering tangible results

From September 2023 – mid March 2024, Vintage Vibes has seen a 165% increase in volunteer sign ups versus the same time frame the previous year. This has resulted in being able to open more post code areas for new VIP referrals and more lonely people being supported by the service. As an example, in January 2023 they recruited 2 volunteers, compared to 28 in January 2024.

Nicky shares five key actions taken that have contributed to this increase.

Supercharge Tactic One: Personalise and localise

One of the positive takeaways from Volunteer Scotland’s report on the decline of formal volunteer numbers, was that hyper-local community volunteering has increased. This development makes sense in the aftermath of Covid. People were restricted to their local communities and had the opportunity to reconnect and get to know them better. A revived sense of community spirit emerged, with people actively supporting neighbours and local businesses.

Potential volunteers need to think that any communication is talking directly to them and see themselves in the volunteering scenario. Organisations can do this by

  • Using real photos and videos of real people
  • Using phrases like You or the name of your community
  • Tagging specific locations or local organisations within social media
  • Tailoring engagement with local communications channels online and in print

Supercharge Tactic Two: Understand barriers and highlight benefits

We become clearer about what we needed volunteers to do and had a direct call to action. I discovered when talking to people about Vintage Vibes that they thought it was a care service, by addressing this and letting people know it was a friendship role not a carers role really helped. Time and flexibility were other barriers for some people, so we promote that we can match people close to their work, home or a place of study.

Organisations often just talk about the benefits volunteers make to their service users and not to the volunteers themselves. Volunteering is proven to be good for mental health and wellbeing and should be something people should consider as part of their own self-care. At Vintage Vibes we tell people to be selfish and volunteer because doing good is good for you!

Supercharge Tactic Three: Go where your service user doesn’t

Organisations often concentrate advertising for volunteers in the same places that their service users go to. These aren’t necessarily the same. Creating a detailed profile for your ideal volunteer will really help with this.

We asked ourselves:

  • What kind of traits are we looking for in a volunteer?
  • What skills? Availability?
  • What does the day of that person usually look like?
  • What places would this kind of person go to? Are they really most likely to be in a library or GP surgery?
  • How do they access information day to day?

For example, to access more student volunteer Vintage Vibes created a TikTok Channel and started generating more video content and collaborating with student accommodation providers. We went to where the volunteer was active instead of expecting them to come to us.

Supercharge Tactic Four: Create a good experience for volunteers so they become your ambassadors

There is nothing like social proof and a positive review. It’s important to show your appreciation to your volunteers and give them a great volunteering experience. One of our lovely new volunteers recently did a TikTok video, she’d enjoyed her volunteering training so much that she wanted to share this with others. She acted as a mini megaphone for Vintage Vibes, and most importantly she was completely authentic. The video has had over 12,500 views and sparked people getting in touch to ask about volunteering with Vintage Vibes. Alongside recruitment, we improved our experience for retaining existing volunteers – including creating a monthly email newsletter, soon to launch online hub, bi-monthly get togethers, gratitude activities and more training opportunities.

Supercharge Tactic Five: Be consistent, but creative

On average, customers in the UK will view an advert 7 times before deciding to buy something. This similar thought process should be applied to volunteer recruitment. Showing up consistently in different places creates awareness of the organisation, building trust and recognition.

Vintage Vibes has done lots of in person events recently, it was great to hear people came over to find out more as they had seen us on social media or knew about the service from activities such as our Christmas Card campaign or partnership press pieces – we work to create a range of engaging content, and found that content doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to tell your story in a regular and authentic way.

Vintage Vibes know that they will never run out of demand for the service. The team is currently conducting a survey with referrers across the city to assess the potential demand for the services. Initial responses indicate that if Vintage Vibes were to have completely open referrals across the city, there could be in the region of 2000 immediate referrals within the week. This number would keep growing month after month.

The supercharge project goes to show that investing creativity, time and money into volunteer recruitment does work. Unfortunately, it’s an area that only the most progressive funders and organisations consider when granting donations or allocating budget – however, high quality delivery within communities is impossible without strong volunteer recruitment.

Volunteers are the life blood of charities. Vintage Vibes like any other third sector organisation could not provide its service without them and is currently on course to deliver 5000 hours of volunteer time this year alongside large scale community events and groups.

For Vintage Vibes, though the Supercharge project is coming to an end, it’s legacy of constant improvement to the volunteer recruitment journey never stops. With current priorities including a website audit to develop the best experience for different audience profiles, the creation of new video content, an inclusivity audit, new office volunteer training scheme and of course securing ongoing investment to meet the ever-growing volunteer recruitment demands on capacity, the organisation continues to focus on recruiting, retaining and supporting volunteers as the lifeblood for their work tackling isolation.

If you’d like to find our more or get in touch, email hello@vintagevibes.org.uk or visit the website at www.vintagevibes.org.uk