It’s a question that every member who signs up will ponder after being confronted by that confused aunt who just won’t drop it. It’s a question staff and program managers have to ponder as they try to attract more young people to apply, and as enrollment in programs have generally dropped in recent years.
It’s not always an easy question to answer.
With the unemployment rate low, cost of living up, and the competition for candidates high, it’s not easy to compete with other options potential members may be looking at. Especially when competing with opportunities that don’t require food stamps or a 15 person transit van full of sweaty members to commute in.
Sure, there are real and tangible benefits members receive from serving an AmeriCorps term such as the education award. But in my experience serving a term, these were often not the real motivations behind my fellow members joining.
When talking to my fellow members about their decision to serve, there were two selling points that seemed to shine through for almost everyone I met: that of action and experience.
Let’s start with action.
Perhaps more than any other time, youth today are aware of the often dire state of the country and world.
Whether it’s regarding climate change and the environment or education and poverty, so many youth are tired of feeling helpless and numb as they scroll past memes and social media posts about the most recent negative news story, the most recent national tragedy, or the most recent environmental setback.
They want action, and they want to be a part of it.
I think that can be one of AmeriCorps most significant selling points: there are a lot of problems in the world today; come be part of the solution.
The feeling of doing something that matters, that’s bringing real progress, no matter how small, is powerful. It certainly got me and my team through the last few long hours of hot days building affordable houses south of Chicago.
And it’s a selling point that is not only inherent in AmeriCorps but also often lacking within the other options young people may be looking at, from a service job to something in the corporate world.
Now to experience. That may seem pretty obvious but I am not necessarily referring to work experience gained while serving.
I’m referring to the experience overall. “The whole chimichanga,” as we liked to say on my crew.
In that way, selling a term in AmeriCorps may not be unlike selling any other experiential opportunity such as studying abroad.
The opportunity to for a limited and predetermined amount of time, see new places, meet new people, do new things and face new challenges. That is the case with almost every AmeriCorps program be it on a conservation corps or with Teach for America.
It’s an adventure.
For me, as with so many of my fellow members, it was a mix of both of those aspects that spurred me to join. And of course, there are even more reasons to join each individual program you may help manage and many ways to best communicate that message.
For more information on those strategies, Do Good, Be Good will be hosting a free virtual workshop on the subject at 2 p.m. EST on April 13, hosted by AmeriCorps alum and former Program Director, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. An award-winning speaker, Sharon will discuss techniques and messages for encouraging potential members to join your program.
This workshop is free for all clients and non-clients of America Learns. If you are an America Learns client, please look out for information regarding registration or reach out to email@example.com. For everyone else, please feel free to book your seat here.