There are many fatherhood programs with dedicated staff, curriculum, a facility, and community support – but lack participants. This is the biggest complaint we hear.
It's a fact that getting dads involved in your programs and services takes planning and skill.
So let me ask you: what's your hook?
Fathers and fishing go together. It just makes sense to use a fishing hook analogy to talk about getting fathers into your program by deciding first, who you're targeting and second, how you'll get them in.
Marketing your fatherhood program involves recruitment, retention, and creating a positive image of your program or service in the community to generate referrals. Unfortunately, some fatherhood program practioners are very skilled in the business of program operations but do not know the location of their target population or how to get them in the door.
The "Field of Dreams" quote, “if you build it, they will come” does not apply here. Just because you're passionate, your staff is ready to work with fathers, and you have a plan in mind, doesn’t mean they will come. It is with careful planning that you must proceed.
Successful fatherhood practioners plan ahead by strategizing how they will draw fathers in, what other services they will offer as “hooks”, and lay out the demographics and location of their target population.
It's ideal to determine the "hooks"
that will attract fathers into your program,
even before choosing your fatherhood curriculum.
START with these questions:
- What are the immediate challenges fathers in our community/in our target audience are facing? (More on this later in the blog.)
- What kind of other “wrap-around” resources do we offer that have a “draw” for potential participants?
- What could be the “hook”?
- What kind of fathers are we targeting? (e.g.: New fathers, teen fathers, single fathers, non-custodial fathers, and so on.)
- What is our target father’s age range? Children’s age(s)? Marital status?
NEXT, answer these questions:
- Where can we find the specific types of fathers we want to reach (that we listed above)?
- Where are the fathers that have the “need” we serve? Where would they hang out?
- Where can we post a flyer? (e.g. bulletin board in community center or grocery store; flyer on pizza boxes or other food delivery service, etc.)
- Do we already serve mothers and can we get the message to fathers through them?
- What are some other creative things we can offer to attract the fathers to our center? (food, prizes, credits, etc.)
- Who can we partner with in the community to get fathers referred to our program/center?
It's important to stress
how your program or organization can
meet the father's immediate needs
and then introduce them to the fatherhood program.
Regarding effective hooks, NFI’s own research has found most fathers enroll in a fatherhood program because it helps them address their immediate needs (e.g. job training and placement, access and visitation with their children, getting a GED, etc.) To learn more about the top challenges fathers face, check out this blog post.
In addition to the challenges addressed in the aforementioned blog, other challenges fathers face are:
- The financial and emotional devastation caused by their own absence from their children's lives.
- The belief that they are constantly extorted by the mother of their children with their children being bargaining chips in a constant tug-of-war between them and the mother in which the mother has the upper hand.
- The loss of control over their lives and hopelessness about the future.
- The belief that the judicial/court system fosters poor fatherhood.
Often, fathers only realize the benefits of learning fatherhood skills after they’ve been enrolled in a program for a while. Ultimately, make sure your fatherhood program is an integral part of a larger set of programs or services fathers receive.
On that note, NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program is an ideal compliment to wrap around services such job training, support, and financial literacy because the program speaks to WHY men do what they do. Fatherhood can provide men with a greater context and purpose for life, and when you tap into that, you can make significant in-roads in the other service areas as well. To see an example of this in action, read Catholic Charities' story in this blog post.
Depending on your location and types of fathers you will serve, you may find fathers in different places.
- If your program is located in a rural setting, you may find program participants in locations such as hunting lodges, fire stations, fishing equipment stores, and sporting events.
- If your setting is urban, you might recruit program participants at shopping malls, libraries, social service buildings, business venues, and sporting events.
- If you’re looking to recruit teen and younger adult fathers, skate parks, shopping malls, computer gaming facilities, and coffee shops may serve as prime locations for recruitment.
Starting a fatherhood program will be incredibly rewarding for you, your staff/program facilitators and the dads you serve. Now that you’ve read this blog, download the full ebook and think about who you'll serve and what hooks you will use.
Download the full eBook 7 Steps to Starting a Successful Fatherhood Program for free!