TARGET YOUR VETERAN OUTREACH AND ENGAGEMENT
Targeted outreach will allow you to connect with veterans directly and receive good referrals from your continuum of care. There are many populations within the veteran community; young and not so young, combat and non-combat, men, women, LGBTQ+ and more. It is important to identify your target audiences.
- Are they post-9/11 veterans?
- Women veterans?
- Low-income veterans?
- Do they have potential barriers to employment that need to be addressed?
- Is their housing stable?
- Do they need immediate financial support in order to ensure you can take the time needed to place them in a meaningful job?
- Are they the head of household with dependents?
- Do they have competing responsibilities, including school?
- Are they well-suited to a specific training program?
Many veterans will not come in for services, believing they should be self-reliant and go it alone. Seeking employment assistance is not a sign of weakness, it is professional development, and should be framed as such in your materials. Additionally, oftentimes employment offices are the first touchpoint for veterans who may have additional barriers to employment. It is your responsibility as a provider to ensure they are job-ready and have all their needs met.
CREATE EFFECTIVE OUTREACH MATERIALS
- Avoid stereotypically patriotic imagery like Uncle Sam and flags, combat equipment or scenarios. These symbols are not universally appealing to veterans who are moving on in their transition to civilian life.
- Choose a mix of military and civilian images, or images of people in civilian attire with clues to their veteran status like a t-shirt that has their military branch. For general recruiting, images can include different types of attire: business, casual, and trades clothing.
- Be sure the design is uncluttered. White space makes materials easier to read.
- Clearly state:
- Who you are. (Your services.)
- Eligibility for your programs.
- How a veteran can access services (drop-in hours, how to make an appointment).
- Your location, hours of business, and contact information.
- Conduct outreach through social media, especially on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
RECRUIT DIVERSE VETERAN POPULATIONS BEYOND TRADITIONAL MILITARY/VETERAN OUTREACH
Many veterans will not be found through traditional veteran-related outreach channels. Women and LGBTQ+ veterans in particular are less likely to self-identify as veterans and are less likely to engage with veteran groups or seek out veteran-specific services.
Make your programs visible throughout the community; you never know where a potential client may see or hear about you. Be sure to engage in broad outreach to veteran and non-veteran specific locations. This community outreach has the added value of raising awareness of your services and attracting community supporters.
When your team is out and about at these events, make sure to be ready with short pitches and materials, but don’t be too prescriptive. Take the opportunity for an informal chat and follow it up with your materials.
Examples of veteran-specific outreach:
- Universities: GI Bill certifying officials and veteran resource centers on campus
- OIF/OEF/OND coordinators at the VA
- Women clinics and women veteran coordinators at the VA
- Reserve and National Guard units
- Veteran-focused groups that are not veteran service organizations, such as Team Red White and Blue and Mission Continues
Examples of non-veteran specific outreach:
- University disability offices
- Community affinity groups and cultural centers (LGBTQ+, AAPI, etc.)
- Government agencies such as Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly known as food stamps)
- Other community providers in housing and social services
- Sporting events—professional, as well as high school and college
- Concerts, church events, festivals, and holiday events
CREATE A VETERAN-FRIENDLY OFFICE SPACE
- Make sure your space is accessible for people with disabilities, including invisible disabilities. Know the triggers for PTSD and MST. Make sure seating faces doors and exits, provide an additional private waiting room space if possible, and avoid any photos or images of war zones that include scenes of destruction or of service members with weapons. If you display branch-related imagery or logos, display all five branches.
- If your target population includes young veterans, women veterans, and family members, make sure the space is child friendly. Consider having toys and coloring books to keep children occupied while you engage with their parents. This is especially important if you want to create a comfortable space for the veteran to be able to share their experiences.
- Think about women and LGBTQ+ veterans as well. If possible, reserve an area for women and LGBTQ+ veterans to wait (when preferred). Make sure office décor is gender neutral. Are there pictures of women as well as men? What kind of magazines and resource materials are present?