Strategies for Recruiting County Executive Committee Members

It is important to develop a thoughtful and effective recruitment strategy. An ongoing recruitment strategy that uses a variety of sources for soliciting members is more likely to yield candidates who represent the diverse skills, interests, backgrounds, personal characteristics and perspectives needed by the committee and reflect the population of the region. Relying only on word of mouth or news advertisements limits the scope.

Many nominating or membership committees find user-friendly tools that identify the skills and characteristics of the existing committee membership. Some tools mimic a matrix and provide a visual picture of your Committee’s skills or characteristics. When the current membership is mapped, you can see the gaps in skills and characteristics which in turn will inform you about specific recruiting strategies targeted to a specific audience.

Common characteristics and skills desired by each County Executive Committee include:

  • Gender identification
  • Age clusters (e.g., under 20, 21-35, 36-50, 51-66, 67 and over)
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Region of the county and representation of urban areas
  • Program interest (e.g., varied aspects of food systems, varied aspects of youth development — traditional 4-H clubs, SPIN clubs, afterschool programs, STEM projects)
  • Political official or employee (i.e., state, county, town)
  • Specific interests (e.g., impact of storm surges, community health situations — aging population, lack of employment for youth, access to adequate food, etc.)
  • Specific skills (e.g., public relations, financials, works with agencies who support un- or under-employed, disabled, lack of affordable housing, education, New Mainers, etc.)

After you have a map or visual of characteristics and skills that would represent county, develop a recruiting strategy. Most groups also note when the volunteer’s term ends so they can think ahead.

CASE STUDY. A sample matrix (Excel) was developed by one county and mapped skills and characteristics it identified. If you download it, note opportunities for recruitment: nutrition is the only area in food systems; 4-H clubs only represent the variety of youth programming; 75% are women; all are white, non-Hispanic; most retire within a one-year block; all are over 50 years old; half cite caregiving as an issue.

The Community Tool Box was developed to support community engagement and includes a chapter on Recruiting Volunteers.  Although volunteers work without pay, they do it to receive something — no one does things for no reason. Some reasons people volunteer include: someone asked them; they care deeply about Extension, 4-H, local foods, or STEM programs; have personal experience with Extension; motivated to try to improve the quality of life in their communities; feel a need to pay back for opportunities that were extended to them; enjoy the social situation, and value the contacts with other volunteers, participants, and staff members; and many other reasons named in Recruiting Volunteers. Specific recruitment tips include:

Research sources of potential volunteers in your community.  Try schools, churches, neighborhood groups, businesses, civic and service organizations and clubs, youth groups, senior groups, media and grassroots groups.  Ask community leaders, officials, or cooperating organizations for suggestions.

Define target groups to recruit. When you know why current members volunteer, what continues to motivate them, and how they were recruited, you can strategize recruitment with specific groups (e.g., young adults, minorities, women, urban dwellers, underserved or underrepresented persons, care givers, commodity representatives, afterschool providers, etc.)

Get your message out there. Let people know that you need their help. Hold an annual appeal for volunteers, set up booths at local fairs, write letters to the editor, contribute to a community blog, and ask current volunteers to make an appeal to local civic clubs. Consider posting notices at all the places community members regularly visit (grocery stores, post offices, the public library, etc.), the county’s webpage, and with media outlets. Ask staff. Ask staff who work with Extension volunteers (4-H, Master Gardeners, etc.). Network with other non-profits.

Encourage diversity. Promoting diversity in your County Executive Committee will broaden the range of opinions and ideas to which Extension has access. Be familiar with federal and University of Maine civil rights responsibilities and the obligation to make all reasonable effort in diversifying access to program and committee membership.