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Understanding Your Community
With a target pool of millions, we can't all be the same. When you consciously recruit you are not recruiting a race or ethnicity; instead your council is seeking exactly the skills and expertise you need from any qualified volunteer. That said, I'll focus much of today's conversation around Hispanic membership strategies, with an emphasis on tapping into existing community service pipelines.
Step 1: Use Language with Sense
When soliciting for volunteer support, be conscious of the limits of the word "volunteer." "Volunteer" can imply formal structures and bureaucracy, especially to those with a tendency to downplay or minimize their efforts and to those who are used to more informal ways of helping others. Try using language such as "help out," "join in," and "be a part of," depending on your audience. Another effective approach is to use the type of work to be done, calling for "tutors," "coaches," and "mentors."
Being aware of your audience and using words that speak to their needs and sensitivities will help make prospective volunteers feel more comfortable working with you.
Step 2: Ask Them to Volunteer
The most common reason that people of all races do not volunteer is that they are not asked. This implies the potential for more intentional and strategic invitations to get involved.
Why You Need to Ask
Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts by declaring, "I have something for the girls of Savannah... and all America and all the world." What Juliette never said was that she had something for all the girls of the world "as long as they look like me." Because separation or exclusion were never a part of her spirit or intention.
We know that true diversity means more than inviting people of different cultures to join our councils. Real diversity—and real change—comes from our dedication to Juliette's goal of creating a Girl Scout community that is known and sought out for its openness, honesty, and capacity to build great leaders.
Distribution of Volunteer Time
According to the Department of Labor Statistics, Latinos are already mentoring and tutoring. It's a matter of councils reaching out and making the connection with Girl Scouts.
Step 3: Examine Your Image and Strategies
Girl Scouts priority is to make sure that all girls benefit from a quality experience that is inclusive and culturally relevant. We also work hard to make sure that we offer girls flexible ways to participate, ways that take into account their needs, wishes and schedules.
Here is what your council can do: Call a team meeting and examine your program delivery to Latina girls. Compare them to your adult recruitment strategies. Are Latina girls compelled to join short-term programs that are staff driven? Do these girls have equal opportunities to engage in cookie sales, destinations, camping, and marching in parades? In what kinds of positions are Latino volunteers placed? Do these positions align with the needs of Latina girls for volunteer support? After self-examination, have patterns emerged, and if so, why?
After your self-assessment of program delivery structures and how they are supported through volunteer recruitment, determine areas that your team can target for change.
Think About This…
Has your council undertaken a focus group study of Latinos in your community to see what the common perceptions of Girl Scouting are?
Step 4: Faith Communities
Partnering with faith-based organizations is a good step toward developing relationship with individuals and families who are willing to volunteer. A considerable number of Latinas nationwide volunteer through religious organizations.
Use the Calendar for Recruitment
As a practical matter, use the calendar to kick off relevant opportunities for volunteers; many of the projects started on these days can engage volunteers and girls beyond the holiday and impact the community year round. (Think: World Thinking Day and Hispanic Heritage Month.)
Step 5: Do Media Outreach
Current research shows that Latino women ages 45–54 spend more time listening to local radio more than any other group.
Newspapers and Magazines
Latino newspapers and magazines strongly influence opinions and frequently mobilize action among their readers.
Step 6: Assess What you're Asking Volunteers To Do
As with all volunteer recruitment, what we ask people to do as volunteers should correlate with their unique interests. Volunteer positions need to be meaningful and sound enjoyable, so spend time as a team working out the language in order to meet the needs of your target audiences.
Step 7: Choose Your Representatives
Think about this: do you have to be Hispanic to recruit Hispanic volunteers? No, of course not. Because while people like to see people who look like they do (so they can picture themselves in the same position), what's more important is that the recruiter delivering the message be honest, transparent, and genuine.
If you can…
Include Hispanic volunteers in the recruitment process—people who can testify to the value and joy of service with Girl Scouts.
If you can't…
You can use PSAs, DVDs, news clippings, and audio to supplement your presentations.
Tools for Recruiting
Step 8: Go To the Right Places
Sometimes it isn't a case of doing something different, but of going someplace different. Use marketing tools and take the Girl Scouts' call to service to local, regional, and national conferences, conventions, and special events that have a good chance of attracting individuals from your service area.
For a more comprehensive list of local, regional, and national conferences, conventions, and special events targeting the Hispanic community, check out the Hispanic American Yearbook.
Remember, when you consciously recruit Hispanic Americans, you are not recruiting a color or a race; rather, your council is seeking to recruit individuals with exactly the skills and expertise you need from any qualified volunteer, just with the added prerequisite of being Hispanic—something that can be referred to as "tapping into the pipeline."