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How do you get people to join your program?
“We went to already formed groups with captured audiences. For example, we went to the Senior Centers and spoke with them while they gathered to eat lunch.” —Diane Phillips, Program Dietitian previously with the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in New Mexico
Check out our three Recruiting Scenarios (PDF, 229 KB). You’ll learn ideas for your own recruiting.
Recruiting is a great way to connect with community members and your networks. It is also a great way to explore new networks and opportunities to reach people who might join your program. It is your time to be visible and let your heart health program shine!
As you probably know, recruiting involves more than hanging up a few flyers about your program. While this is important, think about many ways to attract people to your program. The biggest thing that affects your recruitment success is offering something about heart health that people want. If you are not sure what that is, see Decide Who to Reach for help.
To recruit, put these strategies into action:
Helpful Handouts and Tools
- Recruiting: What Is Your Approach? (PDF, 440 KB)
- Recruiting Scenarios (PDF, 229 KB)
- Stakeholders and Messages (PDF, 184 KB)
Do Your “Behind the Scenes” Work
Allow several weeks for recruitment. This is especially important if your program will last many weeks or months.
Below are tips to help you stay organized when recruiting. Following them will lead to successful recruitment. They can help you know what to do the next time that you recruit.
“Our team develops a timeline for recruiting. This includes a community dinner, followed up with phone calls, knocking on doors, talking to parents at school bus stops, flyers, [and] setting up a table at the local farmer’s market….” —Bernadette Murphy, Lead Case Manager with Housing Opportunities Unlimited in Boston
Recruitment can take more time than expected, so be sure to set up a timeline that allows time for:
- Doing team check-ins
- Conducting outreach
- Working with partners (Remember, they have their own deadlines!)
- Media promotion (both traditional and social media)
- Following up with people in your program before your program starts
- Develop your timeline as you go. To start, your timeline may have only a few planned recruitment activities, but as you “get out there” it will fill up quickly.
- Make sure everyone on your team follows the timeline and keeps it updated.
Make sure your team has a way to quickly report their recruitment work. One way to do this is to use a progress sheet for the whole team. This way everyone knows what has been done and what needs to be done. Be sure to keep track of:
- Contacts – who you promote your program to and who you ask for help and referrals (include dates of contact and follow-up information)
- Outreach to do – where it will happen and what it will include (e.g., announcements, events, hanging flyers)
- Outreach that has been done – where you went, who was there, and how it went
- People who are interested in joining and those who do join
Plan for team check-ins where everyone can share what has happened, what will happen, and what is working. This is also a time to re-think ideas that have not worked.
Plan Your Approach
“We always have a community ‘Healthy Dinner’ night, with discussion in several different languages. We’ll play a health trivia game with small prizes and talk about the heart health program. We recruit for each specific language group.” —Bernadette Murphy, Lead Case Manager with Housing Opportunities Unlimited in Boston
In Plan Your Program, under Decide Who to Reach, you learned who and where to recruit. Now think about your recruitment approach. You want to find as many people as needed for your program in as little time as possible. To do so, use the handout, Recruiting: What Is Your Approach? (PDF, 440 KB), which covers how to
- Use community health workers (CHWs) as recruiters,
- Use other recruiters,
- Work with gatekeepers,
- Go to places where the people who may join your program go, and
- Use your networks.
Examples from the Field
Here’s how three organizations planned their approach:
- The Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC). Located out of Washington DC, the ABC does heart health training across the country. To recruit, they asked CHWs and other contacts in the cities where they would do their training to help promote the program. Since most of their contacts already had an established network, this made for efficient recruiting.
- Big Bend Area Health Education Center. This organization serves 14 counties in northwest Florida. The senior citizens whom they recruit for the program would have a hard time attending if not for Big Bend’s partnership with local community centers. Since the community centers regularly bus in the senior citizens for meals and community time, Big Bend offers their heart health program at the community center before or after these activities.
- Centro San Vicente in El Paso, Texas. Their CHWs would hand out information about their heart health program at health fairs and in the lobby of their clinic. They mainly recruited people, though, through referrals from their doctors. For example, if the doctors had patients with high cholesterols or diabetes, they would refer the patients to the program.
“Build relationships one block at a time. Go door to door, connect with people. If you don’t build a relationship with them first then they won’t come to your program.” —Fayetteville Housing Authority
Do people already know about your heart health program? If yes, keep up the good work. If no, follow the tips below to successfully find, talk with, and get people to join your program:
Meet One-on-one with People Who May Join Your Program
Personal contact is important in recruitment. It is a time to meet people and put a face on your program. You can also answer their questions. Be sure to have flyers ready. Also, think about what to say about your program so people can see how it benefits them. Use the handout Stakeholders and Messages (PDF, 184 KB) for help.
Make Announcements, Give Short Presentations, and Attend Events
A great way to recruit a lot of people at one time is through announcements or short presentations about your heart health program. You can do this at classes, in groups that people already belong to, or at events they go to. For example, think about going to parent groups, GED or ESL classes, and neighborhood association meetings. Also, you may want to participate in local health fairs, back-to-school nights, or other events where organizations share health and community resource information. If you have an opportunity to provide a short presentation (usually 5-10 minutes), think about doing the following:
“Session 1, ‘Are You at Risk for Heart Disease,’ was used as a kickoff event to introduce the program and spread the message of awareness for heart disease prevention and to screen for cardiovascular disease risk. We used this session to recruit our participants.” —Diane Phillips, Program Dietitian previously with the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in New Mexico
- Talk about what you will teach in your program. Pick out a few specific examples from the manual and describe them.
- Show pictures of past groups.
- Provide details about when you will meet, the schedule, and logistics (e.g., how to get to the session, child care information, and transportation options).
- Hand out a flyer that has your program details.
Remind People Who Said They Would Attend, and Keep a Waiting List
Even after people have been recruited, be sure to remind them about your program before it starts. You might want to call them both one week and the day before the program starts. Contacting people a week in advance lets you know if anyone needs to drop out and gives you enough time to recruit more people if needed. Think about keeping a waiting list if you think people may drop out.
Plan to use:
Traditional and Social Media
- Use both traditional and social media to recruit people for your program. Traditional media includes flyers, posters, and brochures. It also includes sharing information about your program on your website and in email, or going on the local radio to talk about your program.
- Use social media, including Facebook, blogs, and Twitter, to announce and talk about your program and to have conversations about heart health topics.
Examples from the Field
Gateway Community Health Center in Laredo, Texas, used traditional media to their benefit. They partnered with a local radio station to help promote their program.
Make it clear to people what they will get out of going to your program. All the outreach and promotion you do should share the same basic message. Include information about program logistics (when, where, cost, how to sign-up) as well as any perks your program may have, such as free child care, gift cards, give-away items, or help with transportation.
Here are some messaging examples you can use as a guide to make your own:
- Be heart smart! Learn healthy recipes, exercise ideas, and ways to stay heart disease free. Everyone who graduates gets a $40 gift card!
- Want to be healthier? Wondering how to live heart healthy? Join us for learning, activities, and group fun at our heart health program.
- Struggling with
- High cholesterol?
- High blood pressure?
- Living smoke-free?
Join us for heart health program.
Free child care!!