Recruitment is one of the most important and most challenging aspects of running a campaign. It’s like a heartbeat — the pulse of energy that brings life into our organizing. And like a heartbeat, without it your campaign can fizzle out.
Recruitment is how we build our resources: human energy, experience, skill, brilliance, and hope.
Recruitment is especially important at the beginning of a campaign or upon entering a new phase (for example, escalating after hearing a target will refuse to meet demands). But to keep our campaigns the strongest they can be, we should be recruiting continuously, and retaining the people we’ve already got. Every meeting, action, event, and conversation is an opportunity to recruit.
We can’t count on recruitment happening naturally, and we shouldn’t expect retention to happen without a good plan. That’s why, like any good campaign, recruitment requires a vision of what you want to build to, a strategy for how you will grow your team, tactics to bring new people in, and people to do the work!
Why do we actively recruit?
To grow the campaign: Build power for the campaign by creating visibility and by bringing in new members.
To spread the word: Build relationships and share our vision with one-on-one conversations and broader recruitment like speeches, movie screenings, etc.
To strengthen our team: We’re not just after numbers — we want to find the people who will bring new skills, perspectives, and energy to our work.
To develop and retain new leaders: Recruitment gives people a chance to practice messaging, lead a recruitment team, and build commitment to our campaign. Nothing keeps people engaged like feeling responsible for the retention of the people they’ve just recruited.
Recruit continuously. You may choose to concentrate your focus on recruitment at the beginning of the semester, but don’t stop there. When our teams stop growing, it’s easy for our creativity and energy to stagnate. Keep an open door to new people, and think about how your events, meetings, and public presence can be recruiting, even after your initial drive.
Track your recruits. Recruitment is a waste of time if you’re not tracking the people you bring in. Every time you talk to a new person, get their contact info, and keep all that information up to date in a central database (we like google docs for easy collaboration).
Follow-up with new recruits immediately. Once you get someone to sign a petition or an interest form follow up immediately. Giving them a call and inviting them to the next meeting is so much better and more personal than email. From there, it’s time to move them up the leadership ladder.
Have opportunities ready. When recruitment is going well, you may have dozens of new people engaging with your campaign each week. You’re most likely to retain those people by making sure there’s a clear and valuable next step for them to take so they feel like a part of your campaign, instead of a spectator.
Think about and seek diversity. Joining a new group can be intimidating. Especially if your culture, race, gender, or identity feels unwelcome or unrepresented in the group. A diversity of experiences, skills, and interests make our campaigns stronger. Think about which people the mainstream culture of your group welcomes, and consider making intentional choices to shift your team culture to make it more welcoming. Don’t be afraid to set diversity goals, reach out to people different from yourself, and listen to voices of new members whose interest in the work is different from your own.
Set goals and make a plan! Concentrate your energy for brief “drives” leading up to big events or meetings — knowing the results you need for a specific event can help focus your energy on recruitment to meet your goals, and can help you pace out how much time it will take to reach your goals.
Tabling or gathering petitions or interest forms in high traffic areas
Use clear talking points, stick to high traffic areas, and remember to gather contact information so you can follow up right away.
Speaking to classes, clubs, and other on-campus or community organizations
Plan in advance — ask professors or group leaders if and when you can come speak, and prepare your statement. Again, remember to gather contact information by either passing around a notebook or slips of paper, so you can get in touch!
Using the spectrum of allies tool for this can help you decide which groups to meet with. Keep in mind that working with partner organizations isn’t a one-way relationship — consider meeting with other groups’ leadership to discuss mutual interest and shared goals.
Phone or Text Banking
Calling all the people who have signed up through other tactics is a critical way to turn people out to events. It takes some time, so setting clear goals and organizing your team to do it together is a great way to keep spirits high. 2 things to remember: make a strong ask (yes or no), and assume only about half of the people who agree to turn out will actually show.
Creative tactics like chalk art, viral online videos, art installations, photo petitions, themed parties, etc.
This is a great way to engage the artists, dancers, and other creative folks in your group. Just make sure to capture people’s information whenever possible.