News and Information from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association

Siobhan Greene

Program Spotlight

30 Advocates in 30 Days:
An Inventive Volunteer Recruitment Campaign

Siobhan Greene
Executive Director
CASA of Monterey County
Salinas, CA

As CASA or GAL programs, we’ve all been there…wishing we had more volunteer advocates, knowing we are not meeting all the needs in our communities. This past summer, CASA of Monterey County was going through another round of growing pains. We’d had some staff turnover, and our recruitment efforts were feeling a bit stale. Our list of children awaiting an advocate was growing. Typically our program hosts at least four training sessions a year, and we never want to miss an opportunity to bring on more advocates. But that summer, with fewer inquiries and internal changes, our anticipated training session did not seem to be coming together. So we made the difficult decision to hold off until the fall, when our hiring choices were finalized, staff was properly trained and we had a little more time to recruit prospective advocates.

In early August, I approached the staff with a new idea. Feeling as though we needed a compelling message, I told them I wanted to recruit 30 advocates in 30 days. None of us were sure how we could do that, but we agreed it had a good ring to it. Knowing we needed help, I called on our favorite PR guru Marci Bracco, who does pro-bono work for us, and asked her to work her magic! And so began our campaign.

Marci set about writing press releases and flooded the media. We planned a kick-off event, complete with live music, raffle prizes and a ribbon-cutting hosted by the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce. I wanted a button to wear and charged the staff with coming up with ideas for a catchy slogan to attract attention to the campaign. In no time flat, my program manager, Michelle Arnold, thought of “Are You One of the 30?”

The kick-off event took place on September 1 at a local business that has been very generous to our program. Me-N-Ed’s Pizzeria donated the venue, pizza and soft drinks along with a few bottles of wine. One of our board members gathered a few friends and some talented youth, and together they rocked the house with great music. Board members involved in retail or hospitality donated raffle prizes.

It’s always a little nerve-wracking to throw a party when you aren’t sure who is coming, but by the start time, there was a line of people coming in the door. They were asked to sign in and pick up an information packet in return for a ticket for the raffle prizes. Current advocates, staff and board members were identified to host informal Q&A sessions with our guests. More than 65 people attended, including three judges, chamber members (who gave the campaign its official start) and current volunteers. We had a sign-up sheet for pre-training interviews and held out one raffle prize—a special overnight stay at Chaminade Resort and Spa in Santa Cruz—for those who signed up that evening to schedule an interview.

Staff, board and volunteers wore the “Are You One of the 30?” buttons for the entire month of September. For consistency, we created a cheat sheet for our button-wearers to hand out when someone asked, “The 30 What?” Excitement built as we told each other stories of who asked the question…the teller at the bank, someone at the farmer’s market, a fellow Rotarian, the barista at the local coffee shop and our favorite—the juvenile court judge!

Every print publication in our community ran some kind of news brief on the campaign, including a feature article in the Monterey County Herald. From the press, inquiries were rolling in by the end of August. A total of 45 pre-training interviews were held in September and October. We then hosted two concurrent training sessions in October—one daytime, one evening—to accommodate a total of 37 new recruits. Only three people did not complete the process.

On November 13, we hosted a public swearing-in of our new recruits in our Board of Supervisors’ Chamber. Judges, system partners, staff, board members, family and friends were on hand to congratulate the new trainees, let them know how significant their commitment to children is and assure them we would all be there to support the journey that lay ahead. The Salinas Californian came and took photos for a feature that will run in a future newspaper insert.

With this influx of new advocates, we’re ready to cut our waitlist by almost 40%! It has been so exciting to see these results, we’re already planning an April reprise of the campaign.

It took everyone working together, and my team delivered in grand style. My wish is that other CASA programs will experience the success we have with a similar approach.

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