September 03, 2008

Six fantastic volunteer recruitment strategies

By Mara Kaplan

Mara just finished a playground build for her daughter's school, Community Day in Pittsburgh, Penn. Below, she shares her best volunteer recruitment strategies for the project. "We had 180 people show up on Build Day, over 220 people volunteer on the project, and 41 percent of our school families participated," says Mara.

1. Recruit a grade captain for every grade or every homeroom, depending on your school. The build chair can then communicate with the grade captains, who can do more personal outreach to the parents in their child's class. Also, if you're working with a private school, enlist someone as a liaison to the board of directors, and don't forget the faculty! If you can get a teacher to ask their peers to volunteer, it will make it easier to get them excited about the project.

2. Keep the playground in the forefront of everyone's mind. Send out an email update or reminder every week or every other week. Don't let people forget what you are doing! If the students at your school need to get community service hours, don't forget to remind them that working on the playground project counts.

3. Send out letters or emails to your alumni.

4. Do research to find community groups in your town that link people to volunteer programs. The Community Day project in Pittsburgh tapped Pittsburgh Cares (Hands-On Network), Shalom Pittsburgh and The Gay and Lesbian Alliance. Determine if local colleges have volunteer opportunity listings on their website. Also, many corporations have a place on their employee websites for volunteer projects. Get your project listed as many places as possible!

5. Ask the local high school sports teamto join you—it is amazing how fast a group of in-shape high school students can move mulch!

6. See if your local churches and synagogues will list the playground build in their bulletin the week before your build, or even better, announce it from the pulpit.

Mara Kaplan is a nationally recognized expert in play and accessibility. She was the Executive Director of the Center for Creative Play for 12 years and now does consulting in playspace design, planning and accessibility. She can be reached at Learn more about Mara at