There's a popular phrase which states “build it and they will come.”
This saying is sometimes true but oftentimes not realistic—especially when it comes to developing and implementing fatherhood programs.
There are a great number of fatherhood programs with great staff, curriculum, facilities, and community support—but lack participants. Logic dictates that there is no actual program without participants to serve. Unfortunately, some fatherhood program practitioners 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.
This may surprise you:
It's not usually the fatherhood program itself that gets them in the door.
We've all heard the saying "Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance." That's why successful fatherhood practitioners plan ahead by strategizing how they will draw fathers in, what other services they will offer that has a "hook", and lay out the demographics and location of their target population.
Begin by asking yourselves:
- 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 our target? e.g. New fathers, teen fathers, single fathers, non-custodial fathers, etc.
- What is our target father's age range? Children's age(s)? Marital status?
Now answer the 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.)
Regarding effective "hooks", NFI’s own research has found that 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.) They often only realize the benefits of learning fatherhood skills after they’ve been enrolled in a program for awhile. So from a marketing and recruitment standpoint, it’s more important to stress how your program or organization can meet the fathers' immediate needs and then introduce them to the fatherhood program. Ultimately, make the fatherhood program an integral part of a larger set of programs or services fathers receive.What's next?
- 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 more urban in nature, 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, skateboard parks, shopping malls, computer gaming facilities, and dance clubs tend to serve as prime locations for recruitment.
Here is a lits of some common male or father-friendly locations (as reported by successful 24/7 Dad™ program practitioners):
- Fishing Locations
- Hunting Locations
- Sporting Events
- “Bass Pro” type venues
- Fire Stations
- Correctional Facilities
- Healthcare Facilities
- Educational Facilities
- Religious Institutions
- Social Service Facilities
- Judicial Courts
- Basketball Courts & Gyms
- Health Clubs
- Public or Private Recreational Facilities
With this knowledge, wrap-around service offerings, and ideas for father-friendly locations that may be unique to your community, you will be more effective and efficient in strategically targeting your program marketing and recruitment efforts.
Now the business of serving fathers can begin! Start by getting them in the door.