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Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Recruit Participants: How-to


Determine the interests of your audience:

  • survey potential participants
  • find out what they know, and what they want to know
  • ask what skills they would be interested in contributing


Tap into recruitee interests:

  • choose a topic with charisma or relevance
  • capitalize on something that people already like to do (e.g., birders keep detailed lists of sightings)
  • provide different avenues of participation for people with different interests


Keep your goals in mind, but also:

  • be flexible and responsive to community interests and needs
  • communicate objectives clearly
  • be transparent about project goals and rationales


Work with what you already have and,

  • highlight the efforts and results of current volunteers
  • invite ideas and recruitment material from existing volunteer base


 Learn from marketing techniques:

  • partner with professional marketers
  • find out what marketing strategies work with your target demographic
  • recognize that the medium for a message can give a particular impression of the program
  • know that the methods used to recruit are going to influence who makes up your audience


Make use of technology:

  • recruit via listservs, email lists, text messages, etc. (see some Tech Tools)
  • attract younger participants through technology-based projects
  • utilize social networking programs


Consider a range of venues for recruiting, including:

  • the Web
  • word of mouth (probably most powerful)
  • schools
  • individuals - get buy-in from highly respected members of a community
    • e.g., birding community spokespeople
    • teachers or key leader in a school/university
  • partnering with existing organizations who can help reach members with potential interests
    • bowling clubs, scouts, "garden writers" organization, etc.
    • social/cultural organizations (specific cultural groups)
    • faith-based organizations
    • nature centers (site-based organizations)
    • NGOs
  • state fairs - booth = Public Events
  • conferences and trade shows (professional audiences)
  • relevant business
  • government agencies
  • local, national media, including broadcast media
  • printed materials, brochures, fliers, bookmarks; paraphernalia
  • listserves
  • pod casting

Connect with individuals:

  • interact in person if possible
  • reach parents through their children
  • establish online communities


Recognize diverse communication skills and preferences:

  • employ multiple paths to communicate with volunteers
    • emails
    • phone calls
    • paper forms
  • stay on top of tech-based opportunities for communicating with younger volunteers (e.g., text messaging)
  • be aware that this all can require diverse skills (and time) of project staff


Have any How-to ideas for this step?  Soon you will be able to share them through our discussion forum.


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(refine protocols)

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