WORKSHOP: Case Study - VSO in joint drive to recruit volunteers

DOMINIC MILLS

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Background Five years ago Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) wanted to find a new way to recruit volunteers. VSO realised it was hard for potential volunteers to find out much about the possibilities since volunteering organisations don't spend money promoting themselves.

VSO also found there was no single event bringing volunteers and volunteering organisations together. "If we organised an event just for us,

says Glyn Williams, VSO's head of marketing, "we wouldn't get the response.

Its solution was to set up Volunteering World, a one-day exhibition at which volunteers could meet a large number of volunteer bodies. Now annual, the most recent event was held on 16 February.

Aim of the campaign As the event developed from an original 30 exhibitors attracting 2,000-plus potential volunteers, the VSO has sought to move it on to one where the quality and variety of volunteer was as important as volume. Previous Volunteer World exhibitions had stressed the hair-shirt elements of volunteering. This time VSO wanted to focus on the variety of opportunities available and to attract an audience beyond new graduates and gap-year students to include professionals in areas such as health, education, management and business.

With an "extremely modest

budget, VSO wanted its agency Leonardo to achieve a target of 3,000 attendees.

How it worked Leonardo's task was complicated by two factors: little budget for paid-for media and a very broad target audience. Leonardo's answer was to combine an element of guerrilla-style campaigning comprising flyposters, tree posters and stickers on phone booths, bins and condom machines, with a small paid-for element for poster sites and some press ads. The idea was to blitz a limited geographical area. In all, it printed up some 5,000 flyposters and 70,000 stickers. With Volunteering World held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, Leonardo concentrated its advertising in that area and the City - both likely to house the kind of professionals it wanted to attract.

The ads were designed to combine the medium with the message - in this case, the message being to refer potential volunteers to specific stands at Volunteering World. For example, stickers on condom machines said: "You seem responsible. Try VSO at A1 for HIV/Aids awareness work in Ghana."

Results At 3,400, attendees were 13 per cent over VSO's target. More important than that, says Williams, was the quality of the audience: more mature, more qualified and willing and able to go overseas. "Those are the sorts of person we need at VSO.

Of those who attended, 60 per cent were over 23, 26 per cent over 35. Almost 350 worked in education, and half as many again worked in business or management.

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