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Examples of Participant Motives for Participating in the First Year of the Baltimore Experience Corps Trial: Baltimore, MD, 2006–2007 School Year

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EC = Experience Corps Baltimore City. The total number of participants who were screened and were eligible was N = 368.

Between participants recruited and not recruited.
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The social marketing conceptual framework presented here demonstrates how EC, as initially designed, 5 is consistent with the social marketing principles of product, place, price, and promotion. Recruitment for this first year of the BECT also provides a template for future social marketing campaigns based on national or community service programs that also serve as public health interventions. The messages developed in this first year of recruitment for the BECT—“Share your wisdom” and “Make a difference”—reflected the actual product of generative activity rather than the core product of increased physical, cognitive, and social activity. We demonstrated that a promotion message that appealed to leaving a legacy and contributing to the next generation could recruit older adults successfully across multiple strategies that included (1) word of mouth, (2) selective media such as community outreach and direct mail, and (3) mass media in the form of radio advertisements. Our recruitment results also confirmed 2 other aspects of the EC model: that the local public school represents a place that is attractive to older African American volunteers who are at high risk for poor health outcomes, and that although the associated stipend was important in overcoming the price or cost of high-intensity volunteering, it was not the primary motive for participation in the first year of the trial.

These recruitment results support the EC model of embedding health promotion programs in local community service programs, and demonstrate that these programs can be promoted through word of mouth, selective media, and mass media. There was some preliminary evidence for synergy between strategies, as 23% of participants reported more than 1 source of information. This is consistent with prior research reporting that individuals need to hear a message as many as 3 times before it registers. 39 Given many older adults’ concerns about financial scams, we theorize that our most successful recruitment strategies were associated with trusted sources of information, such as a referral from a friend or a bulletin at religious services. Although word of mouth and local grassroots media channels were important recruitment strategies for this community-based model, we do not know if they would be as effective in recruitment for a national service program. Finally, although mass media is an important source of recruitment for this ongoing National Institute on Aging–sponsored trial, local community service programs would probably require outside support to be able to afford a mass media promotion campaign.

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