Broadcasting in community radio stations is primarily done by volunteers who present programmes, run sound desks, research, take phone calls, produce shows, and help out on admin. The role of paid staff (if any) is to facilitate volunteers from the community to make great programming and deal with the requirements of operating the organization. Here are some practical ways to recruit volunteers for your new community Radio Station.
Open evening – host an open evening for new volunteers. Put posters up to advertise it, and get local press to run a story on it.
Using the airwaves – if you are running a temporary licence, make sure that the message that new volunteers are welcome (and needed) gets out. Make up a advert-style notice and get all presenters to play it.
Arm-twisting – as you live in the community identify enthusiastic volunteer recruiters amongst your group. Give them explicit permission to rope in people. As they meet people in all walks – “did you know that there is a new station starting up, would you be at all interested in getting involved”, ”theres all sort of people needed, give me your number and I’ll get someone to call you”.
(note – once you are on air – this is a great technique for turning interviewees into volunteers. As each show wraps up, have the volunteers in the show ask the guests who seem excited about being in the studio whether ‘they’d consider getting involved themselves ..in a small way ..’)
Existing volunteers – have a session where every volunteer is asked to bring one new person along.
Use the web – One of the first things to do for the station is to put a simple one page website – with a short outline of the station – and contact details. You can also make use of existing websites to put out calls for volunteers amongst these are www.craol.ie , www.radiowaves.fm , www.activelink.ie/ , and local websites such as town websites or those dealing with specific topics that you need presenters for.
Go for those with time available – Ask to make presentations to active retirement groups. Retired people have a huge amount of skills and personality to offer a stations. Contact jobs-clubs coordinators, write to transition year co-ordinators. Make sure posters go up in Post Offices and where possible talk to counter staff about the project.
Create ambassadors – Beyond your existing volunteers, there are people in positions in our communities who can create excitement about the new project and persuade people to have a go. Amongst these are post-office counter staff, transition year co-ordinators, youth group leaders, citizens advice staff, community council chairs. Make sure these people know what is happening, let them know the openings and opportunities for volunteers and ask them to mention the poster/open night/contact number.
Get out there – the stall! – Find opportunities to get the ‘we need volunteers’ across. Running a stall at an agricultural show, at jobs fairs, community festival, with speakers playing good music, a nice banner, leaflets and a few committed and persuasive personalities.
Target specific interests – review your existing volunteer base and think of the concerns of the community that you are hoping to serve. Are there people who are interested in farming issues, environmental issues, history programes etc? If not, then write to groups with specific interests (e.g the local historical society, the student environmental society, Soccer clubs etc) looking for nominations of people to deal with those specific topics. Create a standard letter but then make the letters to their interest – explain what is needed and have a specific action needed once they have identified potential people; a one-to-one meeting, a phone call. Where possible follow up the letter with a phone call to the chair or secretary.
Don’t Forget (1) Don’t lose volunteers before you go on air!!! Sorting out a licence (even a temporary one) takes a long time. With so many hurdles to jump, while the board are fully aware of what is happening, to the volunteer on the periphery, it can look like the project has gone nowhere. Use a concentrated ring around to keep people informed. Set a time to do this – i.e. the last week of every quarter. Remember that only the truly committed and the freshly interested will come to meetings. Nothing beats a phone call.
Don’t Forget (2) Phone numbers are gold-dust! Don’t let someone take a leaflet, or give them a number to call, get their name and number and keep it safe. Gather all numbers in an Excel sheet – and then when needed, get a few people on the phones for 2 hours – call everyone who has ever expressed an interest one by one – explain where the station is at, what happens next, and when you are likely to ring them to get involved.