Experience Counts – Marketing Volunteering to people aged 55+


We conducted some market research in 2016 to learn more about the appropriate language, imagery and messages to use to help attract more older people to volunteering. Participants in three focus groups, divided into ages 55 – 64, 65 -74 and 75+, were shown a series of posters and asked to discuss their preferences. The groups also discussed their motivations for volunteering and the benefits they gained.

This presentation illustrates the key themes and recommendations from the research:

Experience Counts - marketing volunteering to people 55+

Experience Counts – Marketing Volunteering to People aged 55+ 

Feel free to download and share with colleagues. It is a practical tool to assist you when designing marketing recruitment campaigns; adverts, leaflets and posters, to attract more older volunteers to your organisation. Below is a summary of our key recommendations:

Language & Message

  1. Language in a poster should have a clear message
  2. Use fewer and simpler words where possible
  3. Avoid having two or more competing messages
  4. Message should be self-explanatory and not requiring too much interpretation
  5. Use active rather than passive language to grab readers’ attention
  6. A ‘call to action’ (phrase designed to prompt an immediate response) could be effective e.g. ‘Calling all adults 55+’, ‘Want to change the world again?’ or ‘We need you’
  7. ‘Volunteer’ to be used as a verb (action word) rather than a noun

Text and Typeface

  1. If including a lot of informational text, better to use leaflet or flyer rather than poster format
  2. Use a typeface that is big enough and easy enough for older people to read, particularly for posters and notice board flyers
  3. Reversed out type (white text on a dark background) can be used for posters provided it is used skilfully
  4. Reversed out type perhaps best used sparingly for leaflets or flyers with lots of textual information

Imagery & Colour

  1. Avoid imagery that looks very commercial, sterile, generic or formal
  2. Imagery should show some aspect of a volunteer activity
  3. Graphic design elements of a poster should use bright, saturated colours e.g. yellow, blue or green
  4. Use a clear colour contrast e.g. blue and white
  5. Avoid use of grey clothing as a marketing gimmick
Barnardos Wizards of Words poster
Barnardos Wizards of Words poster

Images of People

  1. Models in photo imagery should be informally dressed, unless a particular volunteer role requires a uniform e.g. St John Ambulance cadet
  2. Avoid heavy airbrushing of photo imagery
  3. Avoid making a sole model look isolated, incorporate some element of social interaction e.g. other people in the background
  4. If using a group photo, include older people with coloured hair as well as grey hair
  5. Models should be smiling or have happy faces; A smile should be genuine and not too posed; Ensure model is not smiling at someone in a patronising way
  6. Try to include a mix of men and women if a photo includes more than one person
  7. Older, white Irish demographic needs to be included in imagery


A series of posters is recommended if trying to show ‘full range of volunteer activities and interests’ of older people.

Use leaflets and/or notice board flyers:

  • They can provide a lot of information
  • Leaflets and flyers don’t necessarily require an image or photograph – their main function is to deliver information
  • Flyer should not be smaller than A4 size for ease of reading

In order to attract a large and diverse range of people, use a varied range of promotional methods, such as:

  • Church talk
  • Leaflet through the door
  • Local newspapers
  • Newsletters e.g. parish newsletters
  • Social groups

Focus on recruitment events and volunteer opportunities in the locality. Advertise in areas where older people are likely to go in their normal day to day life. Flyers could be advertised on notice boards in:

  • Coffee shops
  • Local libraries
  • Churches
  • Post offices
  • Government buildings

Experience Counts Coffee Morning

A monthly event for people 50+ seeking volunteering to learn about opportunities available in Dublin City takes place on the 3rd Tuesday of the month 11.00 – 1.00pm. We welcome organisations to come along to meet volunteers and chat about their opportunities. You car read more about it HERE. Please contact us if you are interested in attending or have some volunteer information leaflets we could display.

Buyer Personas

Built from the real words of real people, a buyer persona tells us what prospective volunteers are thinking and reveal insights about their decisions — the specific attitudes, concerns and criteria that drive them to choose a cause or organisation to support. They can help us to design more targeted messages to reach our key audiences. Here are two examples we have developed:


Retired Rory – Buyer Persona

Catherine the Cause Crusader – Buyer Persona

Further Information?

To discuss your needs and see how we can support you best, please contact your Organisation Support Officer Frances Hayden

frances@volunteerdublincity.ie or (01) 473 7482