The campaign has been prompted by the fact that many of the Poppy Appeal’s existing volunteers are becoming old and frail, threatening the future of a fundraising institution that last year raised £26m when 300,000 volunteers sold 36 million poppies in the fortnight before Remembrance Sunday.
The legion has created an individual profile called “Poppy People” on Facebook, which is listed as ‘looking for friends’. People who click of the profile will be encouraged to join a group called “I want to be a Poppy Appeal collector this November”, which links directly to the Legion’s volunteer sign-up page.
Russell Thompson, director of national events and fundraising at the legion, said Facebook was an “incredibly powerful” tool that would allow the legion to reach out directly to young, energetic people, as well as make use of friendship groups to spread the word about the poppy appeal.
“In addition to the traditional marketing and PR methods that we use each year to encourage new collectors to join the ranks, we are aware that Facebook has very much captured the public imagination and hope that it will prove to be an invaluable tool to recruit new volunteers,” he said.
A spokeswoman admitted that the legion had no idea what the response to the campaign would be. “It is a shot in the dark,” she said. “We wanted to harness new technology and we didn’t want to wait until next year when it will be something different. We thought we would give it a go and see what happens.”
She said using Facebook would also allow the legion to target appeals at volunteers living in particular cities or regions.