ACTION's 1991-92 VISTA Marketing Campaign: An Analysis. RESULTS


1. Did Awareness of VISTA Increase on the Test Market Campuses When Compared to the Campuses Not in the Test Market?

As shown in Table 1, the proportion of students who recognized1 the VISTA program increased by 5.3 percent on Test campuses from 41.1 percent reported in the pre-campaign Student Survey to 46.4 percent in the post-campaign Survey. No change occurred on the Comparison campuses.

Time Test Comparison Difference:
  Number   Proportion
  Number   Proportion
Pre-Campaign 919 .411 805 .366 .045
Post-Campaign   908 .464 801 .365 .099
Difference --- .053 --- -.001 .054

2. If Yes, Can the Increase be Attributed to the Campaign?

To determine whether the increase on Test campuses was due to the campaign, the following pair-wise comparison was conducted. A description of the methodology is shown in Figure 1.2

FIGURE 1. Pair-Wise Comparisons Methodology
For each pair of Test-Comparison campuses, let:
  • Percent who heard of VISTA in the Pre-campaign Student Survey on Test Campuses = COMPPRE
  • Percent who heard of VISTA in the Pre-campaign Student Survey on Comparison Campuses = TESTPRE
  • Percent who heard of VISTA in the Post-campaign Student Survey on Comparison Campuses = COMPPOST
  • Percent who heard of VISTA in the Post-campaign Student Survey on Test Campuses = TESTPOST
  3. Then, for all eight pairs:
    • Compute Mean of eight DIFFDIFF
    • Perform t-test (to see if Mean DIFFDIFF is significantly different from 0).

If the matched campuses are truly alike and the VISTA campaign had no effect, one would expect the net differences to be zero. For example on hypothetical Test campus A, VISTA recognition might have gone from 4 percent to 8 percent and on Comparison campus B, from 3 percent to 7 percent. In both cases, the change over the two time periods is 4 percent. The net difference between Test campus A and Comparison campus B is zero and is obtained by subtracting the two values: 4 percent for B from the 4 percent for A.

Since the survey covered only a sample of students on each campus, a value of zero is unlikely; some variation from zero will probably be found. If the difference between Test and Comparison campuses is in fact quite large, then there are grounds to reject "no real difference" null hypothesis and accept the idea that the VISTA campaign made a difference.

A t-test was employed to determine if the differences in the change over the two time periods for the Test and Comparison campuses were statistically significant. Table 2 shows the result of the t-test.

The marketing campaign was instrumental in modestly raising student awareness of the VISTA program, although statistical significance was not achieved. The t-value was 1.77, which approached but did not reach statistical significance at the .10 level. Looking at individual pairs of campuses, the largest percentage difference was between Princeton and Vassar at 16.3 percent. Princeton had five visits from recruiters during the market campaign. This was the highest number of visits for any campus. All other campuses received only two visits. However, it cannot be assumed from this one instance that VISTA recognition would increase with the number of recruiter visits, since there is no information on the type, extent, or any other indication of the quality of visits made. Finally, the overall significance level for VISTA recognition was higher than that obtained in similar paired comparisons for Habitat for Humanity and Peace Corps recall.

TABLE 2. VISTA Recall: Paired Comparisons (%)
  Difference     Difference:  
Diff T-C
Pair One
1. Brown .495 .670 .175 --- 103 100
10. Dartmouth .330 .390 .060 .115 100 100
Pair Two
2. Princeton .363 .600 .237 --- 102 100
11. Vassar .386 .460 .074 .163 101 100
Pair Three
3. William & Mary .436 .509 .073 --- 101 108
12. Mary Washington .440 .400 -.040 .113 100 100
Pair Four
4. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill .430 .350 -.080 --- 100 100
13. Florida State University .330 .270 -.060 -.020 100 100
Pair Five
5. University of Minnesota .423 .370 -.053 --- 104 100
14. University of Wisconsin-Madison   .460 .380 -.080 .027 100 100
Pair Six
6. University of Texas .436 .350 -.086 --- 101 100
15. Texas A&M .340 .280 -.060 -.026 100 100
Pair Seven
8. University of Arizona .229 .390 .161 --- 105 100
17. Arizona State .210 .267 .057 .104 100 101
Pair Eight
9. University of Idaho .446 .430 -.016 --- 101 100
18. Boise State .432 .480 .048 -.064 104 100
Sum .414 ---
Mean .052 ---
t-Value 1.770 ---
Significance Level .120 ---
Results for Habitat for Humanity
Sum .930 ---
Mean .116 ---
t-Value 1.620 ---
Significance Level .150 ---
Results for Peace Corps
Sum -.061 ---
Mean -.008 ---
t-Value -1.170 ---
Significance Level .280 ---

3. How Did College Students Learn About VISTA?

There were four possible sources from which students could have learned about VISTA through the campaign: (a) publications (b) posters, (c) brochures, and (d) talking with someone. The campaign involved putting up posters, distributing brochures, and directly recruiting students. Multiple responses were possible. Finally, although radio and TV ads were not part of this campaign, students may have recalled VISTA from such ads conducted in the past.

TABLE 3. How Students Learned About VISTA
  Learned from...   Test
  Campuses: %  
  Campuses: %  
  Difference: Test-  
Comparison (%)
Publications 34.4 37.2 -2.8 2.05
Radio/TV 11.6 17.8 -6.2 5.3*
Posters 31.8 28.7 3.1 0.8
Brochures 6.2 1.4 4.8 9.9**
Talking with Someone   17.3 16.4 0.9 0.1
N = 421 293 --- ---
* Significant at the .05 level
** Significant at the .01 level

To determine how students learned about VISTA, comparisons were made between responses to the post-campaign Student Survey responses from the Test campuses and the Comparison campuses. On the Test campuses, 421 or 46 percent of all students surveyed recalled VISTA compared to 293 or 36 percent of those from the Comparison campuses. (See Table 3.)

Over a third (34.4 percent) of students aware of VISTA on Test campuses had learned of the program from publications, compared to a slightly higher 37.2 percent on the Comparison campuses. (However, for campus newspapers in particular, the situation is reversed, as shown on Table 4 below.) A significant difference3 was found between the proportion of students who learned of VISTA from Radio/TV on the Test campuses (11.6 percent) compared to those on the Comparison campuses (17.8 percent). Students on Comparison campuses were more likely to have learned of VISTA from Radio/TV. (As already noted, Radio/TV were not planned elements of the 1991-92 marketing campaign.)

Higher proportions of Test campus students who knew of VISTA learned from posters, brochures and talking with someone. Significant differences were shown for those students who had learned of VISTA through brochures.4

Within each of these media categories, there were a number of specific possibilities. For example, under publications, the possibilities included a campus newspaper, a local newspaper, Newsweek, People, and Time magazines. Since students could list more than one source of information, adding the raw numbers does not necessarily give an unduplicated count.

As shown on Table 4, a higher percentage of students on the Test campuses relative to the Comparison campuses had heard of VISTA from:

  • the campus newspaper (7.8 percent versus 4.8 percent)
  • television advertisement (6.4 percent versus 8.5 percent) (Note: In this case, the comparison campus percentage was higher.)
  • posters in the placement office (4.8 percent versus 2.0 percent)
  • talking with a friend (7.8 percent versus 5.4 percent) and
  • talking with a VISTA recruiter (3.1 percent versus 1.0 percent).
TABLE 4. How Students Heard About VISTA
  Heard of VISTA by...     Test Campuses     Comparison Campuses  
N % N %
Selected Sources   421     100.0     293     100.0  
   Campus newspaper   33 7.8 14 4.8
   TV Ad 27 6.4 25 8.5
   In Student Union 24 5.7 17 5.8
   Bulletin board 41 9.7 28 9.6
   Placement office 20 4.8 6 2.0
Talking with Someone
   Friend 33 7.8 16 5.4
   VISTA recruiter   13 3.1 3 1.0
Minimum of 20 in a Test campus cell required expect for VISTA recruiter.

Based on these data, students on the Test campuses who had learned of VISTA from publications were most likely to have learned about VISTA from the campus newspaper; those who had talked with someone most often had learned about VISTA from talking with a friend.

In other cases, we conclude that students had either heard of VISTA before the marketing campaign began, learned about it from a variety of sources other than those cited above, or could not recall their source of information.

4a. What Do Students Know About VISTA Service and How Do They React to VISTA?

The student questionnaire asked about the respondents' knowledge of six selected facts about VISTA (Questions 23-28). Respondents were queried on whether they knew that VISTA volunteers--

  • receive a stipend of $7000 (Q23)
  • make only a one year commitment (Q24)
  • have opportunities with local sponsors (Q25)
  • have opportunities throughout the country (Q26)
  • can defer some student loan payments (Q27)
  • receive training for their assignment (Q28).

Similar to the analysis for Question 1 above, each Test campus was matched with its counterpart Comparison campus, yielding eight pairs. For each campus, the proportion of students who answered YES to whether they knew the VISTA fact was calculated using results from the post-campaign Student Survey.

TABLE 5. Knowledge of Selected VISTA Facts: Paired Comparisons
Know About...   Mean: Eight  
Mean: Eight
  t-Value     Significance  
$7,000 Stipend 8.0 6.3 +1.7 1.06 0.33
One-Year Commitment 17.0 12.2 +4.8 1.66 0.14
Local Sponsors 12.7 12.8 -0.1 0.02 0.98
Assignments Throughout Country   47.0 46.8 +0.2 0.02 0.98
Loan Deferral 16.3 17.0 +0.7 0.25 0.80
Training 31.8 28.8 +3.0 0.60 0.56

Based on the means for the Test and Comparison campuses, as shown in Table 5, students were most likely to know that VISTA service involved assignments throughout the country and training for volunteers. They were least likely to know about the $7,000 stipend and opportunities with local sponsors.

To determine extent of knowledge, differences were calculated by comparing pairs of Test and Comparison campuses and then calculating a mean for these eight differences. The result was the mean difference in the "knowledge-of-VISTA-facts" between Test and Comparison campuses. A t-test was employed to determine if the difference between Test and Comparison campuses was statistically significant.

Table 6 shows the result of the t-test. In general, a higher percentage of respondents on Test campuses showed knowledge of the six VISTA facts, but no results were statistically significant. Based on the 0.14 significance level, Test campus respondents appeared most likely to know that VISTA volunteers made only a one year commitment relative to Comparison campus students.

The only students asked about their reaction to VISTA were those who could specifically recall a specific slogan, catch phrase, concept, or other message content. The number of these students was small; only 35 students or 8.3 percent on Test campuses and 27 students or 9.2 percent of those on Comparison campuses. However, a very high percentage of those who did recall any content reacted positively: 88.6 percent had either a positive or very positive reaction to the message on Test campuses and 96.3 percent on Comparison campuses.

4b. Who Are VISTA Applicants and What Do They Know About VISTA Service?

According to the VISTA Applicant Survey, the overwhelming majority of VISTA applicants who have either graduated or are expected to graduate from college, are women (77 percent), young (their median age is 22.9 years), White (88.7 percent), and have either graduated from college (50 percent) or are college seniors (49.2 percent). Nearly one in four (24.6 percent) are aged 25 or over and one in ten (10.2 percent) are aged 30 or over. While most VISTA applicants are White, minorities also apply: 4.6 percent are African-American, 3.4 percent are Asian, 0.6 percent are American Indians or Alaska Natives, and 2.8 percent are from other races. In addition, 3.2 percent of applicants indicated that they were of Hispanic origin.

Not surprisingly, VISTA applicants are much more knowledgeable about the VISTA program than students. (See Table 6.) Almost everyone knows that assignments are available throughout the country (98.4 percent), that at least a one-year commitment is involved (96.6 percent), that student loans can be deferred (94 percent), and that training is available (90.5 percent). A lower, but still sizable proportion of applicants knew about local sponsors (82.9 percent) and that there was a $7,000 stipend (75 percent).

TABLE 6. Applicants' Knowledge of Selected VISTA Facts
Know About...   Mean (%)  
$7,000 Stipend 75.0
One-Year Commitment 96.6
Local Sponsors 82.9
Assignments Throughout Country   98.4
Loan Deferral 94.0
Training 90.5

5a. What Features of VISTA Service are Most Salient to Those Students Who Are Aware of the Program?

For this analysis, we compared responses from the Test campuses to those from Comparison campuses on a series of six statements with which respondents were asked to signify their level of agreement.

Following is a condensed version of the six statements, which began with:

"Becoming a VISTA volunteer would..."

  • help with important professional contacts (Q17)
  • help with my career decision (Q18)
  • help me gain self-confidence (Q19)
  • help me make an important community contribution (Q20)
  • help me make an important contribution to my country (Q21)
  • [be] for someone else, not me (Q22).
TABLE 7. Benefits of VISTA Service (Post-Campaign Survey)
    Disagree     Neutral/O.K.     Agree     Total  
% N % N % N % N
Important Professional Contacts
   Test 27.9   12   11.6   5   60.5   26     100.0     43  
   Comparison 45.5 10 9.1 2 45.5 10 100.0 22
   Difference (%) -17.6   2.5   15.0      
Help with Career Decision
   Test 32.6 14 4.7 2 62.8 27 100.0 43
   Comparison 50.0 11 9.1 2 40.9 9 100.0 22
   Difference (%)   -17.4       -4.4       21.9        
Gain in Self-Confidence
   Test 7.0 3 7.0 3 86.1 37 100.0 43
   Comparison 18.8 4 4.6 1 77.3 17 100.0 22
   Difference (%) -11.8   2.4   8.8      
Contribution to Community
   Test 4.7 2 0.0 0 95.6 41 100.0 43
   Comparison 4.6 1 0.0 0 95.5 21 100.0 22
   Difference (%) 0.1   0.0   0.1      
Contribution to County
   Test 7.0 3 0.0 0 93.0 40 100.0 43
   Comparison 4.6 1 9.1 2 86.4 19 100.0 22
   Difference (%) 2.4   -9.1   6.6      
VISTA for Others, Not Me
   Test 46.5 20 14.0 6 39.5 17 100.0 43
   Comparison 40.9 9 13.6 3 45.6 10 100.0 22
   Difference (%)   5.6   0.4   -6.1      

There were only 43 respondents from 43 Test campuses and 22 from Comparison campuses. (See Table 7.) The categories STRONGLY DISAGREE and DISAGREE and AGREE and STRONGLY AGREE were combined. Even so, many cells had counts of five or fewer. Hence we did not perform statistical tests, but instead looked for response patterns.

As shown in Table 7, for the first five statements, Test campus respondents are invariably more likely to agree with the statement than the Comparison campus respondents-in some cases (e.g. "important professional contacts" or "help with career decision") by a margin of 15 percent or more. Consistent with this pattern, the students on Test campuses were more likely to disagree with the last statement, thus indicating that the Test campuses developed a more positive attitude toward the benefits of VISTA service than Comparison campuses.

5b. Why Do Apllicants to VISTA Want to Volunteer?

Typically, VISTA is the not the first volunteer experience that applicants have had. Most (74.8 percent) VISTA applicants indicated that they performed volunteer work in college. This becomes apparent in looking at the reasons why people applied to become VISTA volunteers. (More than one reason could be given.) According to the VISTA Applicant Survey, the most popular reason (89.7 percent) for applying for VISTA service was the opportunity to help others. This was followed at 72.4 percent by "my interest in volunteering". The third most popular reason was "the help that VISTA would give my career" at 67.9 percent, followed by "personal private reasons" at 39.9 percent. Less Important were "financial benefits" at 15.3 percent, "the specific Volunteer assignment offered to me" at 14.7 percent, and "health benefits" at 13.7 percent.

TABLE 8. Reasons Why People Apply to VISTA
Reason   Percent  
Opportunity to Help Others 89.7
My Interest in Volunteering 72.4
Help VISTA Would Give Career   57.9
Personal/Private 39.9
Financial Benefit 15.3
Specific Volunteer Assignments 14.7
Health Benefits 13.7

6. What Has Been the Impact of VISTA'S Marketing, Including the Message and the Means?

The VISTA marketing campaign appears to have had some effect in increasing the awareness of VISTA on Test market campuses. Posters, brochures and talking with someone reached more students percentage-wise on the test campuses relative to the Comparison campuses. Test campus respondents showed a pattern of more knowledge about selected VISTA facts than the Comparison campuses. Similarly they indicated overall a more positive assessment of expected benefits from VISTA service.

The number of respondents for many of these areas is small; hence we have again relied in some cases on apparent patterns rather than tests of significance.

TABLE 9. Likelihood of Becoming a VISTA Volunteer
  Very Likely  
  Neutral   Unlikely/
  Very Unlikely  
N % N % N % N %
Test --
Post-Campaign Survey  
  11     25.6     7     16.3     25     58.1     43     100.0  
Comparison --
Post-Campaign Survey
7 31.8 2 9.1 13 59.1 22 100.0
Total 18 27.7 9 13.9 38 58.5 65 100.0
Chi-Square = 2.624 (significance = 0.62)

The likelihood of becoming a VISTA volunteer is slightly greater on the Comparison campuses, but the difference based on a Chi-square test is not significant. (See Table 9.)

7. What Has Been the Impact of VISTA'S Recruiters?



The numbers to support an analysis of these questions on the student file are too small: 13 students on Test campuses indicated they had learned of VISTA through a recruiter compared to 3 on Comparison campuses. These differences are further attenuated since only the Test campuses were to have been part of the marketing effort; yet 3 Comparison campus students Indicated they had spoken to a VISTA recruiter.

Unlike students at large, a high proportion of VISTA applicants learned of the program through personal contact. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of VISTA applicants talked with a VISTA recruiter. By contrast 51 percent had talked with a friend, 23 percent with a family member and 24 percent with a former VISTA volunteer. Regarding other media, 47 percent had seen information in a publication, 11 percent had heard of VISTA on radio or TV, 41 percent had seen a poster and 81 percent had seen a brochure.

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