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Every day, potential volunteers peruse volunteer want ads. What do they find? Are they intrigued? Do they dial us up immediately, hoping to not miss the wonderful opportunity we offer? Or do they thumb through ad after ad that says basically the same tired thing?

According to research, the science of naming brands is so much more than just descriptive words. Research and real thought goes into names that resonate with consumers. Clever word coinage, rhymes that fall off your tongue and words that sound like the actual word (think fizz) all play into the careful selection of names. Maybe it’s time we borrowed some of that science and applied it to volunteer recruitment ads.

So what if we rename some common volunteer wanted ad titles, using techniques from this science, such as rhyming words, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and coining words. Here are just a few straight forward volunteer job titles reimagined.

Office volunteer:  Shredding Goddess; Tasktastic Volunteer; Phone Joan; Receptionista; File Jockey; Scanning Scientist; Gossip Ignoring Go-Getter.

Volunteer Driver: Go-fer Chauffeur; Transporter Supporter;  Joyager; Food Trucker; The Dean of Clean Driving Records.

Marketing/Fundraising Volunteer: Money-Honey; Goods Grabber; Shake-Down Shirley; Bucks Buckaroo.

Events Volunteer: Darling of Developement; A Party Hardy; Our Gala Girl; Work Till You Drop Wonk; Jamboreally Need You.

Volunteer Recruiter: Captain of Coercion; Rope ‘Em In Randy; Soul-Snagger; Goodie Two Shoes Gatherer; Codger-Finder; Tenderfoot Tender.

Thumbing through volunteer recruitment ads pretending to be a prospective volunteer looking for potential opportunities can give us a sense of what is and is not appealing. What ad stands out and is at least worth exploring further?

While ad titles such as Program Volunteer, Marketing Assistant, Resource Specialist and the soul-sucking Dracula of all ad titles, Data Entry Volunteer may accurately describe the positions, they lack the enthusiasm and meaning that volunteers wish to experience by spending their precious time with us.

Other outdated, but somewhat descriptive ad titles such as “Caring Volunteer;” “Hold a Hand;” “Make a Difference; “Become a Mentor;” “Friendly Visitor;” can feel like they were written with a chisel on stone and a potential volunteer may just pass them up because they are so “yesterday.” Recruitment ads written once and left up on social media sites gather more dust than my speech written in case I am employee of the year.

Or how about these dusty goodies: “Buddy;” Bring Your Smile; “Inspire Youth.” Picture paging through volunteer ad after volunteer ad that basically heralds the same vague thing no matter what or where the volunteering position.

Writing volunteer ads is passive recruitment and sadly quite often overlooked. Passive recruitment means that the ads we post keep working for us while we are out talking to civic groups or sitting at community fairs or having lunch. That is why spending time and energy on writing these ads and regularly refreshing them is one of the smartest things we can do.

Picture a student, late at night, smart phone in hand, swiping through ads that will enforce their desire to be a change maker. Or picture a retired senior, recently widowed, searching in the still morning for something that will add meaning to a bruised soul. Or a working parent, sneaking a peek at ads while helping with homework, looking to spend some me time helping others. What will speak to each one of them?

Volunteer recruitment ads should be working every bit as hard as you do.


Next time:  A volunteer ad that says it all and 3 ways to re-imagine volunteer ads.