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Yearbook Volunteers: Recruiting Your Perfect Yearbook Team From a Distance

Building a yearbook takes a committee, no single person could take this on themselves (to those of you who do… I’m impressed, Bravo!). My guess, some people have said they would help, but getting them to follow through is another story. I get it. We don’t know if/when/how our school year will even look this year. Committing to anything that’s not flexible is a risk. How can you expect much more when these are volunteer parents and teachers who are already overworked and under-appreciated. Maybe you’ve tried motivating them with everything from baked goods to babysitting and still, no one is coming to your rescue. 

I’ve interviewed a bunch of people in your shoes; you’re not alone. Fed up, one yearbook advisor I spoke with went so far as to offer up free movie tickets, a restaurant gift card, AND babysitting. Sadly, she got stuck babysitting in return for 5 photos from one class. Another yearbook advisor I spoke with managed to get a decent-sized group of volunteers, only to spend the majority of her time managing clashing personalities and opinions. I know, hard to believe right?!

It took some legwork, but eventually, I found 4 steps to recruit the right team for your yearbook, AND get them to follow through. 

  1. Before recruiting your tribe, have a clear plan in place.
  2. Find the right personas needed to execute your plan.
  3. Set your tribe up for success.
  4. Keep your tribe engaged throughout the year.

In the next few paragraphs, you should learn how to recruit the yearbook team you want, which will help you get the job done. 

1. Have a clear plan in place.

Before you start recruiting, determine the number of pages you need for your yearbook. If you haven’t done this before, check out this article on determining the appropriate number of pages, and download a copy of this free yearbook ladder to help you get started. You can reference last year’s book if you had one. You can also list out the number of portrait pages and activities/clubs that should be included and go from there. 

If you can’t do this due to the uncertainty of the school year, be sure to tell your yearbook company you cannot commit to a certain page count. This is absolutely possible, and I know of at least one yearbook company that will allow for this.

Once you’ve mapped out the pages you want to include, determine your guidelines for each page. For example, on each class page, you want to have portraits of each student and teacher, and one group photo (could even be a screenshot of the class distance learning via Zoom). For each activity page, you may want to determine 2-3 different types of photos you would like for each activity such as: action shots, candids, and team photos. In doing this, you will be setting good expectations of what will be expected for each of your volunteers. 

2. Find the appropriate personas.

Now that you know your plan it’s time to find you the people you need to execute. This is less about begging people to help you, and more about identifying personalities that are naturals at the skill you need. Here are some personas for you to consider. #squadgoals

Counselor: Most likely to have a pass to the teacher’s lounge.

You’re going to need to have a teacher in your corner who you can go to for advice. They will be able to get you the inside scoop on all things happening at the school. This teacher will be someone who you personally find easy to talk to and is eager to help. Make sure you remember to touch base with them frequently, as they have a lot to juggle, and may not always remember to keep you in the loop on what’s going on. 

Photographer: Most likely to snap more than chat.

These are the insta-parents who always have their phones out snapping photos. You might be lucky enough to find a parent who is a professional photographer, but thanks to smartphones, this is not a requirement. Depending on your yearbook plan, you might want to have a few photographers, such as one for each class or one for each activity and club. 

These people are taking photos already, so you’re not asking for something out of character, they just might need a little coaching (such as: please don’t only photograph your own child.) Consider passing along some of these yearbook photography pointers:

Designer: Most likely to be spotted in a screen print t-shirt.

These are the creative types who will inspire great ideas. They will follow a few Pinterest boards for inspiration and come up with a style guide for others to use on their pages that will ensure consistency in look and feel. This parent will want to participate, but not be able to take on hours upon hours of work. Let them be flexible, give them clear direction on what you want and when you want it, then let them walk away and do their thing. 

Marketer: Most likely to insist on a yearbook hashtag.

This person will love socializing and hearing other people’s stories. They likely won’t be the most popular parent at school, but they will always know what’s going on. They will take care of your sales campaigns and make sure everyone knows how, when, and where to buy the yearbook. They will help build your yearbook hype. To help them get started, you can arm them with this advice from Clara Wallace, a yearbook volunteer from Lisa J. Mails Elementary School.

Editor: Most likely to act like Ross from Friends.

Come on, sometimes it’s “who” not “whom!” Your editor will have an insane eye for detail and be hyper-organized. You know the person, the one who makes you feel like you really don’t have your ducks in a row. They show up to drop off perfectly pressed and ready for the day, unlike myself who usually shows up sporting the latest kids breakfast on my shirt. 

This person will not only help spell check but look for consistency in layout and design. They will help the rest of the team stay on task because let’s be real, you don’t want to be the only bad guy. If you don’t already know who this person is, just look for the kid whose life has clearly been organized with a label maker, and introduce yourself to their parents. 

Now that you have an idea of who you need in your tribe, let’s figure out how you’re going to get them to be successful.

3. Prepare them for success.

Let’s face it, you give someone a blank canvas and the sky’s the limit. If you give someone a very clear direction, you’ve got a better shot of getting what you are looking for. For each of your volunteers, be sure to tell them exactly what you want. For example:

  • Photographers: Provide them with a shot list of types of photos you are looking for. 
  • Designer: Let this person know what your theme is, or let them decide, then ask them to plan the layout for each type of page and the style guide that everyone should follow given the photos you have requested. 
  • Editor: Be clear about what you want them to review such as class names, typos, and consistency. You can also be clear on what you don’t need feedback on such as theme, colors, and layouts. 

If you set clear parameters on what you are looking for, the odds are in your favor that people will get you the help you need, rather than the help they want. 

4. Keep them engaged and on task.

Like any other task, it’s easier to be engaged at the beginning of a project than at the end. Here are a couple ideas to keep the momentum going all year long without too much caffeine.

  1. Build a project plan to determine your deadlines, tasks, and roles. Here’s a list of free online tools that might help you organize your project:
    • Trello (Web, macOS, Windows, iOS, Android) for individuals and teams who need a work pipeline
    • MeisterTask (Web, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android) for combining project ideation, planning, and execution
    • Freedcamp (Web, iOS, Android) for managing all projects and communications in a single tool
    • Asana (Web, iOS, Android) for creating a to-do list powerful enough to manage projects
    • Yearbook Planning Spreadsheet A free, easy to use planning spreadsheet already designed with all the things you’ll want to have in your yearbook.
  2. Schedule regular meetings to make sure everyone is on task and your project plan is up-to-date. Zoom meetings are all the rage, take advantage, and see your team face-to-face.
  3. Celebrate successes, and help those who might be struggling. Start every meeting with everyone going around the table and sharing a success they had and celebrate it! Everyone is their own worst critic, rather than pointing out what someone did wrong, give them suggestions or ideas on what might make things easier for them in the future. 

Once you’ve outlined your plan, found the right personas, set them up for success, and know how to keep them engaged you should be well on your way to building a beautiful yearbook. Now all you need to worry about is what you’re going to do with all of that extra free time on your hands. Let me guess, it’s sleep, right? You’re going to get some sleep. 

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