Finding and recruiting fathers into your program takes a little creativity. While some men actively search for programs or hear from friends about a program to help them improve their role as fathers, some only learn of available programs when ordered to enroll by family court or probation officers. Still, many more dads are disconnected from their children and never become aware of father-focused programs. The best way to reach these fathers is to meet them where they are. Getting to know and visiting locations fathers frequent is an effective strategy. This could include barbershops, basketball courts, community centers, employment programs, or churches. During the early phases of your program, you should plan to carry out a variety of different approaches.
Successful fatherhood practitioners use diverse ways to find and connect with fathers. Key to these strategies are:
- Conducting outreach where fathers are;
- Building powerful partnerships;
- Using well-known public figures to promote programs; and
- Keeping detailed notes to monitor recruitment efforts.
On this page, we help you brainstorm recruitment strategies by offering tips and promising practices from veteran practitioners on what works best for them.
Tips & Best Practices
- Develop a community presence to reach fathers. There are many ways to do this. For instance, you can attend community events and set up tables, using this time to speak to dads informally about their needs. You could leave door hangers with contact and other essential program information at the homes of potential participants. Spend time at family court or child support offices to talk to fathers who might be eager for assistance. Finally, neighborhood barbershops are a trusted space to discuss personal and public issues, ranging from family to politics, health, money, and other life issues. Check out how the A Guide for Community Based Organizations and Barbershops used barbershops to increase awareness around responsible fatherhood and parenting issues and increase family access to support. Using social media is another effective strategy.
- Consider different types of community partners who can provide referrals to your organization. For instance, the Dads Make a Difference program of Healthy Families San Angelo works with WIC centers, where low-income women and couples enroll for government benefits. Working with local groups of OB/GYNs or midwives could be another innovative strategy of using referrals to attract program participants.
- Recruit high-achieving program participants to deliver presentations at radio stations, schools, social service organizations, health fairs, and jails. The FATHER Project, a program of Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota, does this, calling them “Dadvocates” or Citizen Fathers.
- Work with recognized names in the community to build program credibility. Consider asking local professional sports or political figures to publicly support your program. This can also include respected community members such as a grandfather who coaches Little League or a young man who used to be a drug dealer but is now following a positive path.
- Keep detailed statistics in simple databases to monitor recruitment efforts. The data will help in identifying the most effective strategies and improving others with adjustments in personnel, approaches, or targeted groups and geographic areas.
- Be prepared to “over-recruit” and target materials and trainings to different fathers. Not all recruited fathers will enroll or stay in your programs.
- Neighborhood barbershops are a trusted space to discuss personal and public issues, ranging from family to politics, health, money, and other life issues. Check out how the A Guide for Community Based Organizations and Barbershops used barbershops to increase awareness around responsible fatherhood and parenting issues and increase family access to support.
Young Fathers of Santa Fe conducted a scan to identify its focus on teenagers and other young fathers. The focus on young dads was instrumental in forging relationships with school health clinics, government agencies, and other community agencies with services for a similar population.
Compile a community map in a text document, spreadsheet, or other master file that includes: the name of the organization or agency, the mission and description of its work, key staff, and possible ways of contributing to your fatherhood program.
“I never hesitate to talk with other seasoned practitioners. I don’t always have the expertise, but I have learned from those who taught us.”
What is the best way to follow up with dads after initial recruitment efforts?
Use text messaging and social media for initial contacts. Many recruiters have found that calling and leaving messages on phones can be problematic and not engage fathers, especially younger fathers
What incentives can I use to draw fathers to my program?
Offer to help dads file taxes, search for employment and training opportunities, navigate child support enforcement policies and processes, or provide other small incentives such as bus tokens or cab vouchers, children’s books, or other incentives that seem to work well with your population of fathers.
What kinds of organizations should I reach out to for presentation opportunities?
Some ideas to start with could include local WIC centers, OB/GYN groups, health clinics, Job Centers, and adult training programs. Once in contact, you can use these contacts to build your network.
What is the most effective way to recruit participants?
In the long run, word of mouth from program graduates, partner agencies, and satisfied employers will likely lead to the majority of referrals. In the short run, using a variety of strategies is best.
Who should be responsible for recruiting participants?
In the early stages of program development, it is a good idea to have 1 or 2 people focus solely on recruitment. However, all staff, including board members, should be prepared to talk to potential participants – anytime, anywhere.