Campus Fair Recruiting: Volunteer Speed Dating

Today I was at a Campus and Community Fair pedaling my many volunteer opportunities to college students who, let's face it, are looking for freebies during their lunch hour. I can remember thinking back to my undergraduate days during the campus fairs when I would scope out the different vendors and organizations and think to myself, "Alright... I gotta' get back to the right corner for the free pizza, scoot between the lines to avoid political lobbying, and then shuffle over to the east side of the room for my free t-shirt... ready, set, go!" I really didn't take advantage of all the potential in the room, and definitely took for granted the time and effort all of the agencies use to prepare for campus fair chaos. 

Let me start by saying, I LOVE CAMPUS FAIR DAY! I was over-prepared for the event, mapping out the blueprint of the venue days before, arriving 15 minutes early with my new engagement activity (see: LEEP Pong), and setting up water bottles like pretty maids all in a row to attract the eager "trick-or-treater" students to my booth. Talking with students who are new to our community, learning about the different college majors who are starting to require service learning and volunteering as a part of their curriculum, and meeting other volunteer managers just warms my little heart.  However, the return on investment can be less than inspiring...

 

Going to a new volunteer fair is like speed dating. You stay put at a table while strangers walk up, ask you questions, talk about their hobbies, and see if you are worth their time. It can be intimidating, but if you do it right, chances are you can make a handful of worthwhile connections for your organization. The best visitors to the table are RSO or student club leaders... group philanthropy project anyone?

Each new recruiting event brings a myriad of new challenges. First, who is your audience? In this case, I was on a university campus where the majority of the attendees were A) There as a class requirement  B) Looking for free food  or C) Searching to be a part of something other than their 15 credit course load.  While lacking an edible hand out, I did have free water bottles for those who stopped to play my game (see: LEEP Pong). Second, do you have something to fit the needs of every student who walks by your booth? I am lucky to represent an organization that revolves around recreation, because there are likely volunteer positions for nearly every crafter, athlete, or gamer. This time, I even had employment, internship, and volunteer positions; all having some degree of flexibility! Third, how are you keeping visitors engaged and are you memorable? Alright, now to the fun stuff...

LEEP Pong was created based on the idea of targeting the college student market, while forcing them to approach our display table with little intimidation. This game cost less than $20 to build (a thrifty, but inventive way to play on an already familiar concept). I must say, an eyebrow or two was raised at the idea of incorporating the popular party game into a recruitment tool, but we took out the beverage and added our own branding to make the game fun, simple, and a way to recreate with us from the very first interaction, mirroring our mission.  Plus... free waterbottles!!!

LEEP Pong: Intern Tested and Approved!

Our engagement activity was a hit! Maybe it was the free water bottle at stake, or just maybe it was the appreciation to connect with our potential volunteers over a shared interest. Connecting to your volunteers from the very start will help them gage just how much you appreciate them and their skill set. As silly as our game might have seemed, I had more students stop and inquire about our organization than the average campus appearance. I have a sign on my desk which reads, "Treat volunteers like donors," reminding me that donated time and talents are just as valuable as a financial contribution. So to all the students out there searching for something to be a part of, remember: you are  valuable, you are needed, and you are important.  And to all my fellow campus fair recruiters, keep on keepin' on!