A WORD THAT STARTS WITH “P”!
It may surprise many people to learn that the function of advertising is not to create sales, but to build or drive traffic, to raise visibility. This applies not just in a retail context but also in recruiting. In marketing terms, “Promotion” gets someone in the door. This principle is applicable to recruiting volunteers as well.
At my conference’s last meeting, we were discussing the challenges of recruiting; we discussed as well the changing demographics of parishioners attending Mass. Are the parishioners really aware of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and what the Society does, even if the priest refers persons in need to the Conference when they call the parish’s secretariat for assistance? This discussion then led to the need of stewardship of our donors, informing the parishioners of the number of families or individuals assisted - that their donations are helping the local community. This communication is performed in all humility as Archbishop Emeritus Sylvain Lavoie, the National Council Spiritual Advisor, regularly reinforces in his messages. This communication is also a form of promotion, an opportunity to recruit new members who accept the basic principles and values of the Society and its Mission.
But as part of the recruiting process, are we following up with prospective members when interest is shown? What is the first impression we are leaving when meeting prospective members? How many times have parishioners come to an introductory meeting but are never seen again? Did we fail at genuinely welcoming them, giving them something meaningful to do, listening to their questions; or was it simply describing who we are and what we can offer them in our essential elements of spirituality, service, and friendship? We must not shoot the messenger of advertising and promotion; instead, we need to improve our introduction and its benefits to join the Society!
Most of this visibility, marketing, promotion, is local. Conference meetings and the works of the Society is local. Larger Councils, including the National Council, have supportive roles to play, such as advertising through media on a larger scale than what is achievable by individual conferences. Relationship building with people and groups in large numbers occurs locally. This is especially true when we seek out greater diversity in our members, whether it be through age, ethnicity, skill sets, or other distinguishing characteristics.
What’s next? We are already in May, and fall is just around the corner. Conferences should always be in a recruiting mode, but with the late spring and summer fast approaching, it may be difficult to have a large recruiting drive in the coming weeks before we start complaining it is too hot; but it is the right time to start planning the recruiting drives for September and October.
As well, just before the summer, do not forget the Annual National Formation (ANF) in Ottawa June 17-18. Come to reconnect with your fellow Vincentians, to fill that Hunger for spirituality and human contact.
Richard Pommainville, Executive Director