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You’re gonna love it!

Picture a potential volunteer skimming through volunteer ads, and they come upon yours. Are they intrigued? Do they shout “Golly gee, this is fabulous,” and run for the phone, desperate for the wonderful opportunity? Or do they keep looking?

According to research, the science of naming brands is more than descriptive words. Clever word coinage, rhymes that fall off your tongue and words that sound like the actual word (think fizz) all play into choosing a name.

What if we rename common volunteer-wanted ad titles, using these techniques? But wait, let’s add a dose of job realism, shall we? For example, instead of:

Office volunteer wanted:  Let’s use (and include a tagline)…

  • Mundane-Loving Myrtle; Boredom is the new black
  • Stays-In-The-Cubicle Carmen; see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil
  • Filing-Fool Fiend: keep your head and your hopes down

Marketing/Fundraising Volunteer wanted: 

  • Shake-Em-Down Shirley; we’re all about the money, er the mission
  • Beggar Bonnie; sucking up to the donors so we don’t have to
  • Stay-In-Your-Lane Larry; we’re the experts here, silly, not you

Events Volunteer wanted: 

  • Pack-Mule Pete; Hee-haw, following your dreams is so yesterday
  • No-Instructions-Needed Nell; Confusion is the spice of life
  • Stand-And-Wait Stanley; it’s just like being in line at Disney World except there’s no fun ride at the end

General Volunteer Help wanted:

  • Obedient Ozzie; cause we don’t want no backtalk or new ideas
  • No-Personal-Life Latasha; stay by your phone, we might need something
  • Squeaky-Clean Shaquille; we can’t afford background checks

While ad titles like Front desk volunteer, Office volunteer and the soul-sucking Dracula of all ad titles, Data Entry Volunteer may describe the positions, they lack the meaning that volunteers crave.

Other outdated ad titles such as “Caring Volunteer,” or “Friendly Visitor,” feel like they were written with a chisel on stone. Recruitment ads forgotten on social media sites gather more dust than the speech I wrote in case I’m voted employee of the year.

Or how about these dusty goodies: Bring Your Smile! Hold a Hand. They’re as effective as an ad for a VCR.

Volunteer ads are passive recruitment which means they work for us while we are out talking to civic groups or sitting at community fairs or having lunch. Spending time and energy on writing these ads and regularly refreshing them is one of the most effective things we can do.

Picture a student, late at night, phone in hand, swiping through ads that will fulfill their desire to be a change maker. Or a 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 speaks to them?

Dive deep and find the meaning in your volunteer roles and convey that to potential volunteers. Try:

  • ask existing volunteers to help write ads
  • include quotes or testimonials from volunteers, staff, clients that get to the essence of why this job is important
  • use what I call the 3-way method: describe the job, describe what it means to clients/org and describe what benefits volunteers will reap
  • experiment with funny ads, pop-culture reference ads, or mimic current events
  • create a targeted volunteer profile and write for that person
  • write a question into your volunteer application that asks, “how did you find us,” and include a choice for ads, asking-“which one spoke to you and why?” Evaluate the feedback

You work hard to recruit volunteers. Volunteer recruitment ads should work as hard as you.


This is an update from an old, old, old, dusty post: Caring Volunteers Wanted, Well duh.