Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Brainstorming Meeting

Today, our volunteer recruitment campaign took another step forward with a brainstorming meeting at Literacy Volunteers of Illinois. Organizations as diverse as Chicago Lights at 4th Presbyterian Church, Lawrence Hall, Childserv, Corazon a Corazon, Saturday Scholars, and Eternal Light Community Services, in addition to Cabrini Connections and Literacy Volunteers of Illinois all met to discuss the issue of recruiting volunteers. All of these organizations do tutoring and mentoring of some type and all of them rely on volunteers to make their organizations work. However, every single organization serves a different community, a different age group, are a different size and have a different history.

I started the meeting out with having everyone introduce themselves. I, of course knew everyone at least from e-mail correspondance, but a lot of these organizations didn't know each other and these introductions were a small way of networking all these different organizations. Once these people were introduced, I had them go around the table again and say what they were doing to recruit volunteers. Now, some of these organizations have 400 volunteers and some of these organizations have 10, but their strategies for recruiting volunteers are very similar. A lot of these organizations function on cold calling and general word of mouth. Others collaborate with churches, community centers and the local chambers of commerce. I think that one aspect of sharing strategies for recruiting volunteers was that many of these organizations served similar communities or had contacts in other communities that could be helpful to other programs who are struggling to find volunteers.

Another aspect of the volunteer recruitment campaign that I pushed was the PR campaign that has to be involved in trying to reach potential volunteers. Word of mouth can only travel so far and websites are great, but only for those who are looking for them. A lot of what I'm trying to do with the volunteer recruitment campaign is to reach out to those people who wouldn't normally seek out being a volunteer tutor/mentor, but who, when the idea was planted, would consider the possibility. A huge emphasis in our discussion in regards to PR is the importance of community publications and not just the major daily newspapers or radio or television. Business connections are another important contact, because they can not only be a source of money, but also of volunteers, and of services such as providing food for open house meetings.

A final aspect I pushed in this meeting was the importance of the internet. Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connections has both a Myspace page and a Facebook group and the Volunteer Recruitment Campaign is an event on Facebook as well. A lot of organizations do not consider the power that social networking sites have in acting as free publicity for organziations such as ours. Also, the mere act of creating a blog and writing about the daily successes and struggles or working in a non-profit is a great way of sharing your story as well.

I felt our meeting was a great success and I'm very excited about the information that is already being shared by and between these different organizations. What I do want people to do now is to try and figure out what happens next. What is the next the step in the process so that we can have an influx of volunteers come September. I would be open to any possibilities that people would be willing to share.

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