Recruitment Basics

Deploying a campaign isn’t just about mobilizing your supporters to act in support of your cause. A true advocacy campaign is, at its core, an opportunity to draw more supporters in and retain them for future engagements to improve the health of your community. The following recruitment guidelines will help you accomplish these goals.

In this section, you’ll learn about recruiting new advocates through a variety of tactics, including events, online, word-of-mouth, tapping into your competitors, and engaging in your community. Pick and choose the best recruitment options for your campaign and build a plan around it.

Note that these tips are suggestions, not requirements. Choose the approach and tactics that work best for you, your organization, and your community. Regardless of how you decide to recruit new supporters, make sure you dedicate sufficient resources to communicating with the diverse audience you hope to engage.

For instance, if you are trying to reach:

  • Latino audiences: consider the need for translators and translated materials; build meaningful relationships with Latino-led and serving organizations that can help with recruitment. Remember to be authentic with your outreach. Get to know your audience and what messaging and resources will be most helpful to them.
  • Decision makers: consider connecting with leaders who have successfully advocated for similar programs in their communities to use as examples and champions for the efforts in your community.
  • Disability audiences: make sure all of your marketing materials are in an accessible format. Be sure to include appropriate language and images that depict the disability community. Build meaningful relationships with disability-led and serving organizations that can help you with recruitment and identify leadership roles within the campaign. be sure to include people with disabilities into the planning process so you don’t miss the mark in your marketing.

Recruiting at Events

Every event your organization hosts, as well as those events that you attend, should include an easy way for people to learn more about your efforts and get involved. Remember to follow up with any connections you make after the event is over to keep your name, organization, and cause top of mind. Reaching out immediately will ensure that you stand out, remind them of your campaign, and build name recognition that will help initiate engagement the next time you reach out.

There are several ways to share information and engage new supporters at events, including the examples below:

  • Be sure to speak the relevant language and topic of the event. If you do not speak the language, or are not credible on the topic of discussion, find another supporter who would be better suited for this environment.
  • Bring tablets or mobile devices. You want to have tools on hand that are portable and easy to use so you have a simple and effective way to collect names, Twitter handles, and email addresses on-site.
  • Offer hard copy, printed sign-up forms or advocacy resources. This option is easy and cheap to initiate. For example, asking people to fill out a pre-written postcard to an elected official on a non-legislative issue can encourage people to share their personal information right on the spot (and because it does not involve legislation, you may use non-lobbying funds).
    • Remember that transcribing these names into a computer-friendly format will take time, but sometimes this method is preferred to using electronic devices. Be sure to have resources on hand that appeal to a broad base of event attendees.
  • Try business card recruitment. The less effort it takes to sign up, the more likely it is that people will do so.
    • For example, if you are hosting an event with key business leaders in your community, ask everyone to leave their business cards behind to join the cause. You may pull in more names this way than with a traditional sign-up form because this sign-up process is so easy.

And remember, it is not lobbying to ask people to write their legislator about a general policy issue unless the request is tied to specific legislation or a specific legislative proposal.

Recruiting Around Issues

It is important to show potential advocates that joining your effort will make a difference. Potential recruits are much more likely to take action when they believe that doing so will have an impact.

Remember to gather key information by expanding what you are asking for. When recruiting, ask for more than just a name. It’s often helpful to have additional details that will help you gauge how to interact with this individual, perhaps by gathering information about what local organizations they are involved with as well as how they prefer to be contacted (email, text, or phone call).

Be sure to follow up with a secondary ask to engage new recruits. Ask them to take part in your campaign with an easy, introductory action like signing a petition.

Address issues head-on. Do not be afraid to use conflict or controversy where appropriate as a motivator to spark involvement. People like to engage on issues where there are strong opinions, and using emotional triggers is often an effective tactic when messaging to new advocates.

Recruiting Online

Do not limit yourself to only recruiting via in-person events. There may be a large pool of new advocates you can reach online as well. We have a broader Social Media Tips section in the Engage tab, but here are a few tips to get started:

  • Engage social media friends and followers of your personal accounts, as well as those you manage for local organizations, by sharing why you are passionate about this issue and then asking your followers to tell their friends about your campaign. Offer easily shareable content like memes or brief videos to broaden your reach.
  • Ask your followers to retweet or share invitations to join your efforts either through an online sign-up form or by attending the next in-person event.
  • Add a sign-up form to Facebook. If you add a special tab to your Facebook page, fans will be able to take advocacy actions without leaving the Facebook platform.

Advertising on social media can be inexpensive, targeted, and effective. Nonprofits use this medium to get people to sign petitions, volunteer, and/or attend free events, as well as generate awareness for a campaign. You can even narrow the reach down to the city level and localize content to make engagement more likely.

Recruiting via Word-of-Mouth

Current advocates can be your best recruiters! Are your advocates telling their friends and families about their work with your campaign? Be sure you are keeping them well informed and giving them exciting, meaningful ways to engage. If you foster true enthusiasm, they will be excited to tell others!

Encourage advocates to mention your campaign amongst the other groups in which they are involved (e.g., civic organizations, fitness classes, etc.), as well as in conversations they have with other folks in the community. Be sure to include culturally and linguistically appropriate materials and messages to empower your advocates for these recruitment opportunities. Provide the tools necessary to make this an easy task for advocates: sample talking points, a one-pager about your campaign, or a stack of recruitment forms.

  • Ask parents to get their local parent organizations to support your cause. Encouraging the health of children and making sure all kids have access to water throughout the day is a shared passion for parents, so educating them about your cause and how it will help  kids in your community is a great way to reach new advocates with similar interests.
  • Ask your neighbors to mention the impact of your issue at their community organization meetings. People who are involved in the community have already demonstrated a dedication to improving the lifestyles of residents in your town and are most likely open to hearing about additional needs and ways they can get involved.
  • Ask faith leaders to get involved. Engaging leaders in the faith community is a great way to connect with community members, especially in under-resourced communities.
  • Reach out through civic organizations in your community. Ask to speak at a meeting or luncheon of the Junior League, Kiwanis Club, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, or other local organizations. Emphasize that having an active and healthy community is a shared responsibility. Be sure to provide details on the different roles of state and community partners.

Recruiting via Competition

Some healthy competition among your existing advocate base can help bring new followers to your campaign.

Challenge your existing advocates to recruit friends and family. Create and share pre-written tweets and Facebook posts and offer a prize to whoever can recruit the most friends and followers online. Try to make sure the prize is inclusive, health-related or related to your campaign, or at least does not send an unhealthy message.

Then, host a celebration to welcome new advocates to your campaign and thank those who participated in the effort.

Recruiting in the Community

What does your target audience like to do? Instead of creating new events, meet them where they currently gather.

Attend community festivals. Host booths at street fairs or carnivals and ask attendees to sign up.

Collaborate with local schools. Host a table at back-to-school night, parent-teacher conference days, or school fairs—parents have strong connections to food security issues and keeping all kids from being hungry!

Reach out to local places of worship. Recruit members to attend local events and organize meetings through bulletin advertisements and in-person announcements. If services are held in more than one language, develop recruitment plans and messaging for those as well. Make sure that your materials are culturally and linguistically competent.

Recruiting via Politics

Leverage the response of your state and local legislators to encourage advocates to recruit more friends to the cause.

Emails to advocates or the general public won’t be considered lobbying unless your message refers to pending legislation or to a specific legislative proposal and includes a call-to-action. For advice on crafting non-lobbying messages that refer to legislators, see our Lobbying vs. Non-Lobbying Checklist in the related resources at the bottom of this page.

Key Takeaways

  • There are many ways to recruit new advocates. Make sure to use the recruitment methods and messages that are most appropriate for building a diverse group of supporters who can best connect with the audience you hope to engage.
  • Make the recruitment and sign-up process as easy and accessible as possible for your potential supporters. Offer different ways for them to get involved and take action.
  • Not all potential volunteers will have regular access to the Internet, so make sure you recruit both on and offline.
  • Some recruitment tactics may constitute lobbying. Make sure to check with your lawyers before referencing specific initiatives or legislation.

Related Resources