21 January 2019

Patience and persistence are the watchwords for successful council fostering recruitment campaigns not big budgets, says CAN’s Sales Director John-Paul Danon

The cost of recruiting foster carers can be staggering. Going through an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) can eat into local council budgets to the tune of around £30,000 per carer when compared to recruiting directly.

In the commercial world – where 10% of a budget is allocated to marketing – this would mean a communications team getting £3,000 to spend per foster carer: a campaign budget of £60,000 if the target was to recruit 20 foster carers a year.

Have you ever seen a budget like that?

With CAN I’ve co-ordinated many fostering campaigns for local authorities online and on social media using digital advertising through our Citizen Reach™ initiative. Our digital campaign for the London Borough of Hackney  is a good example of the approach I’ve found works best: identifying residents interested in fostering and nurturing them towards engagement through re-targeting.

In the case of Hackney, around 80% of the target audience saw the campaign, and of the more than 8,000 who clicked through to the website in response to the ads, some 67% went on to our next engagement step – viewing a video on fostering.

I’ve put together a framework for how to make a smaller budget go a long way based on my learning from these campaigns.

Building your audience of potential foster carers: what I’ve learnt

  1. Define what you know about your audience
  • There are people in your area who could become foster carers.
  • We don’t yet know who they are.
  • Of those able, only some are willing to even think about it.
  • The audience you need to build through your marketing is those willing to consider.
  • Other players in the market are also trying to reach these people: agencies and, in some cases, different local authorities.
  1. Be patient with your audience
  • The decision to become a foster carer takes a lot of consideration. This means recruitment times should be measured in years rather than in months.
  • When a person is ready to take the next step, the lengthy process of decision-making to get there will have involved many different factors: seeing campaigns, having conversations, knowing someone who is a foster carer and so forth.
  • So, the value of enquiries generated by each individual campaign phase can’t be attributed to one campaign only.
  • Rather, the return on each campaign should be that your interested audience grows, and you should give them many opportunities to take the next step.
  • Your audience-building and nurturing campaigns should be viewed long-term – and you’ll demonstrate an increase in interested audience size and enquiries over time.
  1. Use tactics we know generate above-average levels of engagement
  • Roll out targeted campaign messages to the demographics you want to attract two to four times a year.
  • Use multiple creatives and retarget your audience with them over time, giving people multiple chances to take the next step.
  • Make sure your messages emphasise the benefits of going directly through your council fostering team.
  • Check how you’re doing in search results to see if you’re competing successfully with fostering agencies.
  • Build a database of those who have shown an interest (using technology that features opt-in GDPR consent).
  • Use contextual advertising – ads placed in relevant content: for example, target empty-nesters next to an article about children going to university.
  • Retarget people who have clicked on your ads with video testimonials.
  • Make use of free display advertising on your own website and of marketing emails.

How we CAN help with foster care campaigns

We can support your campaigns with digital advertising – online and on social media – using all the tactics above and more.

You can cut campaign costs with ‘share to save’, where we offer councils the option to buy advertising space together on certain themes across the year – including foster care recruitment. With this scheme, your own campaign runs in your area, but the cost to you is reduced as we buy advertising at scale across a number of locations.

If you’re planning a fostering recruitment campaign – maybe around Foster Care Fortnight in May – read about how we run targeted campaigns for councils or just contact us for a chat.