How to Frame Your Next Recruiting Message

How to Frame Your Next Recruiting Message
April 12, 2016 Bob D'Ambrosio

You just made a pitch to a potential volunteer who would be perfect on your planning team…but she said no.

One way to turn around your recruiting success is a method called “framing.”  All potential volunteers make a decision based on a buying frame.  Just like a window frame sets boundaries that limit the view, a decision frame sets boundaries that narrow, focus, and simplify a decision.

Car salesmen do this all the time. Think about it. What do they ask you?

  • New or pre-owned?
  • Finance or pay cash?
  • SUV, sedan, or sports car?
  • Electric, hybrid, or gas?

They are framing us.

What is a volunteer’s decision frame?

Some important issues might be one or more of the following:

  • What is the time commitment?
  • What is the mission?
  • How can I use my professional expertise to make a difference?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • Are you flexible in scheduling?

One pitch doesn’t fit all because each volunteer’s frame is unique.

How do we discover the volunteer’s decision frame? 

The 80/20 rule is the key to understanding a person’s hot buttons that frame the decision to volunteer. It’s simple—listen 80% and talk 20%.

We are so passionate about our ministry we often practice the 20/80 rule when making a pitch. Passionate people tend to talk 80% of the time when recruiting. Reverse that. As my friend Mike, a U.S. Marine, always says… “Shut your cake eater.”

Today’s volunteers like to be asked, and when asked, they may respond with either “No, I can’t do that right now” or “Tell me more.”  Framing a response to either of those answers is a learned skill that really isn’t that hard. It just takes the discipline to shut your cake eater, ask questions, and listen carefully for the concerns that frame the decision.

How does it work? 

If the potential volunteer responds by saying, “I would never do that because I hate working on committees,” resist the temptation to launch into a sale’s pitch about how your committees are not the traditional inept, micromanaged committees but empowered teams.  Instead, gather more information… and listen.

Ask about past committee experiences and find out why the volunteer hates committees. As you listen, identify the reservations, concerns, and expectations that define the decision frame.  Then use their key framing words for your recruiting pitch.  After listening for 80%, your 20% presentation could be something like this:

“You’d be perfect. We don’t believe in committees either. We put together self-directed, empowered teams of high-capacity leaders just like you.  At the first meeting we define the scope, budget, and schedule of the project and then we turn you lose to get it done. And we really don’t meet very often. We use high-tech methods of communication and our meetings are short, to the point, and efficient. How about it?”

Your chances at “yes” have just increased greatly!

Why did the volunteer say “YES!”?

Because you framed your presentation according to the volunteer’s decision framing issues:  short meetings, high-capacity team members, a well-defined scope of the event, self-directed team, empowerment, and high-tech communication methods.

When we frame our recruitment presentations, we are able to focus our message on the needs of the volunteer. The 80/20 rule helps us to embrace Steven Covey’s communication principle: “Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.”


[Editor’s Note:  Thomas and Jonathan McKee will offer training on recruiting and leading today’s volunteer, September 21-23, at Group Publishing in Loveland, Colorado. For more information and to register, click here.]


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