VSO goes 'Back to the Future'

A campaign to engage and connect its volunteers of the past

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) is aiming to re-engage with previous volunteers in the UK through a targeted campaign devised with marketing agency WPNC.

The charity has launched the initiative to track down people who volunteered with the organisation between 1958 and the 1990s. VSO wants to find them, connect with them, and give them the opportunity to share their stories and experiences with others who volunteered.

WPNC’s campaign, using press, radio and digital, including LinkedIn, advertising will initially run in the south of England - predominantly Surrey and Middlesex - with the potential to be rolled out nationwide. VSO is supporting the initiative with promotion internally and across its networks.

In exchange for volunteers’ renewed involvement, VSO intends to hold a series of events where they can connect to share cherished memories and experiences. The campaign aims to attract at least 100 former VSO volunteers to the first event.

Central to the project is a data segmentation by WPNC of previous VSO volunteers over more than three decades - starting in 1958, the organisation’s founding year - and an engagement strategy that builds on the agency’s previous work for the charity. Online and offline creative executions for the campaign were developed using a test audience.

The charity intends to inspire people like Jo Rhodes-Jiao, who volunteered for VSO in 1984. After some training, Jo and a colleague travelled to the then little-known north-west region of China to teach English and to train other teachers.

Jo said: “They were the best years of my life.” Like many past VSO volunteers, Jo has kept in touch with friends from those days. 

Hannah Williams, Client Services Director at WPNC, commented: “Our segmentation strategy pinpointed regions to target based on the volume of known former volunteers within those communities, with the insight that like-minded people will gravitate towards each other. VSO has a wonderful history of working with active, outgoing, can-do community members. This is their opportunity to reconnect, share their success stories, and get back involved.”

Gillian Claugher, Head of Public Fundraising, VSO, added: “We’re taking a truly audience-led approach to re-engaging a key and valued group of volunteers. We want our past volunteers to feel proud of their time working alongside us on some groundbreaking projects from the past.

“It’s time to celebrate those achievements, but also to support once more the important international development work we do today. We’d like as many former volunteers as possible to get in touch.”

Volunteers who worked with VSO between 1958 and the 1990s can find out more at vsointernational.org/reunions; email [email protected]; or call 020 8780 7500.