Marketing and Recruiting Volunteers

Volunteers are fickle and usually you’ll get about half of the volunteers that sign up on your events page to actually show up at the hack events. It can sometimes help to ask volunteers to pay to attend Hackathons, but depending on the notoriety or lack-there-of of your organization, this might not always make sense.

You should usually expect about 55% of volunteers who sign up for your event to actually show up. Obviously, marketing the event is key to getting people signed up, but it’s also important to provide the right incentives and messaging so people actually come. You should be sending out emails, surveys to gather skills and interest, and reminders about once every 15 days leading up to the event, and at least twice a week about 2 - 3 weeks before the event start date.

For Recruiting, we’ve found that volunteers like to join coding events because:

  • They are specifically passionate about the subject matter
  • Their friends, managers, or teams ask them to get involved
  • They are specifically passionate about the nonprofit or idea
  • They have the specific skills and time necessary for the project

Usually, people sign up for events through word of mouth – because someone they know told them to. Once they’re interested, we’ve found that most people gravitate towards projects that meet a special social interest first and then gauge whether or not they meet the skill and time requirements.

It’s very helpful to recruit teams for social good hackathons. While it may not always be possible to do so, reaching out to engineering managers and team leads and getting them to sign up their entire teams for a project brings loads of success on event day. It has automatic accountability built right in.

Also, if possible, it’s always great to recruit volunteers in person. You can setup a booth or a specific “tech talk” at least 6 weeks before the event itself and should ask people to sign up for specific projects that day.

As discussed, sending targeted emails is also pretty important. If you have the names and emails of specific people, it can help to customize your messaging based on what you know about that person’s interests in social impact.


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