Putting out the Welcome Mat
What’s in it for Me?
Successful recruitment begins with spreading the word in the right
places and in the right ways in order to contact potential learners.
Recruitment materials need to highlight how literacy can make a difference
in people’s lives and encourage learners to participate in life-long
opportunities. Potential learners need to hear a positive message about
what they will gain from the training and how literacy can make a difference
in their lives.
Part of the problem with recruitment is that our promotional strategies
and materials can sometimes be based on mistaken assumptions about what
adult students want. Remember that students come to you because of something
THEY want - not something YOU think they should need or want. We have
to stop thinking from our own point of view and assumptions and try
instead to consider recruitment from the point of view of adult learners.
Successful promotional strategies will always answer the question: "Why
should I come to your literacy agency—what is in it for me?" Does
your organization think about this when it prepares its recruitment
strategies and materials?
Current and former students are naturally a wonderful
source of information on learner needs and recruitment strategies.
Talk to students; find out how they learned about the program. Was
it through print or radio? A referral from another agency? Use what
works! You could conduct a brief survey, ask questions informally
or hold a focus group with learners on this topic. As well, test out
your promotional materials and strategies on current and past learners.
Sample questions to ask adult students:
- How did you find out about this program?
- What made you want to come here?
- What keeps you coming?
- What would stop you from coming?
- Would you suggest this program to others? Why or why
- What is most helpful to you about this program?
- What is least helpful to you about this program?
- How can we reach other adult students?
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth referral is probably the most successful
way to recruit learners.
An extremely effective recruitment strategy is to involve adult students
in promoting your literacy program. Adult students are a wonderful inspiration
to the community at large as well as to potential learners. Word of
mouth also relies on family and friends highlighting the need for literacy
instruction and the availability of programs. ABC Life Literacy’s “Who
Wants to Learn?” research further confirmed the importance of
family and friends when it found that 32% of potential learners heard
about literacy programming from family and friends.
Knowing this, encourage everyone to talk literacy up! Create opportunities
by holding community presentations, writing a learner-of-the-month feature
article, etc. Incorporate learner testimonials into your promotional
material and invite learners to speak at community events. Encourage
learners to bring a friend to social events or even to a training session.
Some programs provide learners and volunteers with business cards that
they can pass out when talking about literacy.