Insight & Acquisiton

How do you create a powerful connection
with people you haven’t spoken to for decades?

VSO came to WPNC with an interesting challenge at the start of the year… one we accepted. Since 1958 more than 80,000 VSO volunteers had worked across 90 countries, but where are they now, how can we reach them and is there value in re-engaging them? The vision was to make contact with people who’d volunteered in the past, and this was driven by a strong belief that some might become valuable donors or even legators in the future. 

Given that many volunteered decades ago, a lot of the data had been lost or impacted by legislation.  A VSO x WPNC team combined to design a plan to ‘reconnect’. First through qualitative research we sought to understand what would motivate these ‘returned volunteers’ to get in touch with VSO again. Using interviews and data analysis, we built a picture of the core audience and what might drive them to respond. This then inspired a powerful idea: a reunion event where returned volunteers would have the opportunity reconnect with their peers and rekindle memories of their volunteering days. 

To prove concept we ran a test in an area with a high volume of known returned volunteers with a highly localised print, radio and social campaign, to encourage them to get in touch. Results far exceeded expectation, so we set about planning our pilot reunion event.  

The very first Returned Volunteers Reunion was held in London. Hundreds responded to the event invite and more than 70 were catered for on the day. It proved to be a special event attended by VSO Trustees, management and WPNC team for a day of presentations, debate, discussion and inspirational stories of time gone by and the impact on the communities they helped. True reconnection and engagement. One story of two Returned Volunteers (both in the room), one a midwife delivering the baby of the another whilst overseas, will stay with us. Its one of the many inspirational outcomes from this first Reunion. The final say from the floor was… can we do this again soon, that was echoed by the many who couldn’t attend today.   

The levels of engagement and connection from all was wonderful to see. Our next challenge will be to build on this momentum, ensuring the life-changing work these volunteers started all those years ago can continue in years to come.