Volunteer Recruitment Through the Power of Storytelling

Overview

PG Volunteers is a nonprofit organization made up of 37 Fire/EMS Services member departments and more than 1,000 dedicated volunteers in the Prince George’s County area.

PG Volunteers partnered with Media Cause to engage and recruit new volunteers through a paid media and grassroots outreach campaign, which required both new creative assets—and an entirely new creative approach. The effort included developing an overarching campaign concept, custom videos, original ads, multi-component collateral kits, and making tweaks to the department’s branding—all to inspire interest and engagement in joining their team.

Client

The Outcome

To create a compelling campaign, we partnered with a film production company to coordinate 16 video shoots, and delivered 18 custom brand packages to participating member departments—providing a vast content library to help recruit new EMS and fire volunteers for years to come.

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custom brand packages

volunteer recruitment form submissions

video shoots

The Challenge

PG Volunteers is a purely volunteer-driven network of firefighters and EMT workers across all of Prince George’s County, MD—volunteer recruitment is essential to their success. After several years of using the same creative, they wanted to refresh their recruiting to speak more to the emotional aspects of serving the community, and needed help developing a creative and strategic approach that would communicate the benefits, and impact, of joining the network.

With financial support from FEMA, PG Volunteers not only had the ability to promote the network as a whole but also had the opportunity to provide each member department with updated marketing materials featuring their unique branding elements and specific department messaging points. These materials would be distributed and showcased during in-person recruitment events, further supporting their efforts.

The Strategy

Before getting into the WHAT of creative production, we first needed to figure out the WHY of our narrative—what inspires everyday people to volunteer for such a life-threatening opportunity? The only way to gain this understanding was to speak to current volunteers themselves, through surveys and 1:1 interviews. With these insights in hand,  we were able to develop the story, and approach, to bring the campaign to life.

Our initial concept was intended to capture “a day in the life” of various team members—showing what it looks and feels like to be a part of PG Volunteers, as told through each of their personal perspectives. However, when the world entered COVID lockdown in early 2020, we were no longer able to do ride-alongs, or film at as many stations as we had hoped. This challenge forced us to pivot our concept but ultimately nudged us in an equally compelling direction. 

Rather than portraying “a day in the life,” we shifted to telling the origin stories behind a select group of volunteers from across the county, bringing their first-person accounts together with on-site footage from the stations we were able to access.

The videos were only one part of the campaign, though. Because we knew we would also be developing social content and collateral for departments across the county, we filmed with the intent to pull still-frames from the footage, allowing us to have the assets we needed for a variety of channels. 

We also refreshed the branding for PG Volunteers, making slight tweaks to the logo, and developing a new tagline, to support the creation of a slightly updated logo and tagline.

The Implementation

Through surveys and 1:1 interviews, we gathered personal stories from over 50 active firefighters and EMTs. What we learned was incredibly powerful: while there are an infinite number of reasons that people choose to become a volunteer, one of the most universal reasons they stay is because of the sense of purpose and community they find once they join.  

With these insights in hand, we were able to develop the story, and approach, to bring the campaign to life. Each of their reasons “WHY” they joined ultimately led to the same unifying reasons “WHY” they stayed: commitment, connection, and community.  

We wanted to ensure promotional materials for each member department featured people who were current volunteers, and best represented the diversity and characteristics of their particular department. For this reason, we recommended individual video shoots for as many member departments as possible.

While we still faced delays and restraints due to COVID, we were ultimately able to craft the stories we needed. Over a six week span, our film partners, 522 Productions, captured up-close, behind-the-scenes, and testimonial-style content at a small group of stations. We worked together to select the best footage, and after combining action-scenes with first-person voiceover and narrative graphic treatments, we delivered a comprehensive series of compelling, documentary style videos that capture the incredible spirit, dedication, and diverse experiences of PG Volunteers.

Based on stills from the videos, we developed member department-specific creative packages, which consisted of a tent, tri-fold brochure, business cards, pull-up banner, table drape, and postcards. 

We began by designing a branded package for Hyattsville Fire Department so that other member departments had a point of reference for what template copy would look like on designed marketing collateral. Creating a template for the brand design streamlined the process of reviewing and approving collateral copy across departments. 

We then sat down with participating departments to allow them to customize this creative as they saw fit. Each member department had its own unique messaging points answering the question “Why volunteer here?”  helping make a compelling case for volunteer recruitment.