This article will discuss the following topics:
- Where to Find Leads in Global Link
- Using the Lead Management System
- The Hosting Onboarding Unit (HOU)
- Tips for Calling Hosting Leads
There is a training on helping to get to "YES!" here: In-Person Hosting Training: Getting to YES. And a 14-minute tutorial on the Hosting Lead Management System and Tips for Hosting calls here.
Where to Find Leads
Sign-in to your MyAFS account and click Global Link on the left menu:
Interested Host Families can be found in the Hosting Lead Management Section of Global Link here:
All Hosting Volunteers have access to this area - if you do not have access but would like to help with outreach to interested families (thank you!), please contact your Regional Field Specialist (RFS), Chair, or Volunteer Coordinator today.
The Leads who appear in this section of Global Link have all expressed interested in hosting but are not yet linked to a specific student. These families might have filled out a Hosting Interest Form or started an application online, hosted in the past and expressed interest in doing so again, told us last year that they wanted to wait a year before hosting, or met a volunteer at an event and have started actively working on a host family application.
The Active Leads for your team should be the people most likely to host a student. If they are no longer interested or have become unresponsive, they should no longer appear in this section of Global Link (we can always add them back if their interest is renewed in the future).
To find past host family leads, check out the instructions here.
Using the Lead Management System
For a handy 5-minute video guide to using the Hosting Lead Management System in Global Link, please click here.
The Lead Management system is designed to log contacts with Host Family Leads so that all members of the Team can know the family's current level of interest. Leads can be labeled as "Hot," "Medium," or "Low" to help the Team prioritize follow up. Hot leads will show in red in the list of leads:
Or you can search for "hot" leads using the Advanced Search filter for "Lead Rating:"
The system is designed around logging phone calls as we believe that is the best way to establish rapport with a hosting lead. So once you click into an individual lead, you click on "Call Lead" to record your call:
And then follow the on-screen prompts to log your call. Sometimes communication can switch to email or text message exchanges and those can be recorded too by clicking on "New Contact Log":
The system will prompt you to choose a time to try a lead again (or to request for a different person to follow up if you are unable). You will then receive an email reminder on the day of your scheduled call.
When using the system appropriately, a lead will be marked as "Not Reached" after three phone calls are not returned. You can still find the person in other sections of Global Link, but we want to be sure the people in the Lead Management System are those most interested in hosting, and an unresponsive lead is not demonstrating a lot of interest.
Families brand new to AFS are given a series of questions as they sign up to be sure they understand what it means to host with AFS. In these questions, the applicant can self-select to stop the application process and talk to someone first if they want more information about the financial commitment and qualifications to host. They will be labeled in Hosting Lead Management with the tag "Review Needed."
Staff will follow up with these individuals as soon as possible to help them stay interested in AFS and to address any questions or concerns they may have. If a volunteer reaches out before a staff member does, simply recording the call as described above will clear the review- no special steps are necessary.
A family is no longer considered a Lead once linked to a student. Families who express interest only in Temporary or Event hosting (including Pre-Screen families) will also not appear in this section of Global Link.
For any questions in using the Lead Management system, please reach out to your Team Hosting Coordinator and/or your Regional Field Specialist (RFS).
The Hosting Onboarding Unit (HOU)
Beginning in February 2021, a new Hosting Onboarding staff unit was added to support volunteer teams in identifying interested and viable leads. The newly developed Hosting Onboarding Unit (HOU) will provide a consistent and timely response to families that are interested in learning more about hosting an AFS student. When a family submits an online hosting inquiry or starts a host family application, a HOU staff member will reach out to the family within a few hours to help answer any questions they may have. HOU staff will provide coverage 7 days per week, from 10am to 11pm EST (7am-8pm PST).
The Hosting Onboarding Unit will support hosting volunteers by:
- Ensuring that new host family leads are contacted within a few hours of submitting their information. We know that many families are submitting interest forms to multiple organizations simultaneously, and this allows AFS to make a great first impression!
- Answering logistical questions about hosting such as host family requirements, the application process, timeline, and financial commitment. Additionally these staff members can also share information on the history and mission of AFS, and detail the strong support network of volunteers and staff that support families and students throughout the year.
- Providing a preliminary screening to ensure that the host families are viable to host: the HOU staff will sort through families that are seeking compensation, want to host a relative or a student who has not yet applied to AFS, and those who just simply don’t answer phone calls and emails!
Once the Hosting Onboarding staff have reached an interested family and the family has indicated a desire to move forward with the process, the lead will be assigned to the appropriate Regional Field Specialist (RFS). The RFS will work with the local volunteer Team to determine which volunteer is able to follow-up with the lead to help them select a student, schedule an interview, and reach out to the school.
If you have agreed to follow up with a host family lead that is ready to work with the local team, we would ask you to reach out within 2-3 days to keep the family moving forward in the process. It is important to know that the HOU is NOT seeking to replace or take over the responsibilities of our dedicated hosting volunteers! Instead, the small staff will funnel the most interested and ready leads to the local volunteers for the next part of the process. The Hosting Onboarding Unit will NOT:
- Send families any student profiles, or speak to the availability of a particular student;
- Submit Family Hold requests;
- Speak to the wonderful strengths of your area team’s volunteers- that is something you should get to do!
Hosting volunteers will receive an email notification once a lead has received an initial contact and is ready to move forward with the hosting process.
Please note: if a host family is already in contact with a volunteer or RFS, the HOU staff will not reach out. This is indicated by a) a volunteer claiming a lead in Lead Management; b) a host family indicating on the application that they are working with a local volunteer; or c) contacts logged by the hosting volunteers or RFS in the contact log of Lead Management.
Claiming Leads and Finding Your Leads
To indicate that you are preparing to be the main contact for a host family lead in Lead Management, you can ‘claim’ a lead in one of two ways. This will let other volunteers and staff know that the lead is being communicated with, and that they do not need to reach out.
The first way to ‘claim’ a lead is from the main Lead Management page. Click on View All Active Leads:
Then select a lead by clicking the box on the left side, and click Claim:
Alternatively, click the name of the lead, then click Claim on the Hosting Lead Detail page:
Once you have either claimed or been assigned a lead, you can find your leads by clicking View “My Leads” in Lead Management.
Any and all contacts with host family leads can and should be logged as described above in the Using Lead Management section. The Lead Management tool is excellent for helping keep track of where families are in the process of becoming an official host family, and provides information to other volunteers and staff working with your team as to the status of your leads.
Tips for Calling Host Family Leads
Beginning the process of integrating a new host family into your Area Team is exciting, though many find they can be a bit nervous before they call a family for the first time! Host families that are expecting a call from Volunteer will likely have spoken to an HOU staff member, and have confirmed their interest in moving forward with the process. Here are some tips and scripts for keeping families excited and engaged while calling both AFS people and new people.
Before You Call
A few things to do before you call:
- Set aside uninterrupted time and create a comfortable and quiet environment for yourself.
- Have these talking points and the Overcoming Host Family Objections on hand when making your call so that you can refer to them.
- Remember, you are reaching out to begin forming a relationship - you do not need to have all of the answers. Instead, be ready to share your AFS experience and to let them know you will follow up with them on any questions you can't answer immediately.
- Learn everything you can about the person in Global Link or even on Social Media. Do they have kids? Do you know what school they might attend? This background information will give you insight into how you can connect with the person and what questions or concerns they might have (e.g. an empty nester might want to know what it is like hosting with no kids in the house).
- If you are calling people not in the Lead Management system described above, look them up in Global Link to see if they have had any involvement with AFS previously.
- Review the Contact Log in Global Link to see what communication the person has received from AFS already and any notes shared from those calls.
- Be yourself, relax, breathe deeply.
Please don’t be frustrated if the family isn't 100% on board right from your first call. Most people take more than one contact (sometimes even 10!) before they say "yes." You are presenting them with a life-changing opportunity, so keep that in mind, count your successes, congratulate yourself, and learn from each call how to make the next one better. And enjoy the chance to meet and talk with lots of interesting new people as you go!
Making the Call
The goal of your first call is usually to start building a relationship with the person, to see what they know about AFS, and to invite them to be involved in our mission. People new to AFS may have already received communication from the Hosting Onboarding Unit, but they might still have additional questions or need reassurance from a local volunteer before taking the next steps.
- Introduce yourself ("I'm a volunteer with AFS living in (city)") and give some sort of context for why you are calling such as "Tamara at the high school gave me your number," "I saw that you hosted one of our kids in the past," or "your daughter signed an interest sheet at a fair."
- Be sure to provide your local community name so the person knows you are local, which provides a personal touch.
- Then try to engage them in talking to build a connection. Some sample questions you could ask might be:
- How did you hear about AFS?
- I see that you have hosted an AFS student before, what was that experience like for you?
- Thank you for your interest in hosting an AFS student! Do you have any questions at this time?
- Be sure to PAUSE to give the person a chance to respond.
- Try to make some kind of connection with them; do you know the same people? what are their interests? are our kids the same age? Worst case scenario you can always make a funny comment about the weather just to let them know you're local.
- Be sure to ask about hosting:
- Have you ever thought of hosting an exchange student?
- Who do you know who might be a good host family for an AFS exchange student?
- Might you help me identify a great family for one of our students? (You could even talk about a specific student you are trying to place.)
Closing the Call
- If they seem interested but hesitant, you can tell them there are different types of hosting opportunities.
- If they aren't able to host this year, ask if you can call them again in the future or if they have any host family recommendations. You could also ask them to support AFS in a different way such as volunteering as a liaison, sharing AFS opportunities with their neighbors of friends, encouraging a young person they know to study abroad, etc.
- Agree to something that you can follow up on such as:
- Sending them an email with more information about what you discussed
- Sending them the profile of a specific student or two
- Calling them back in a week after they have time to talk about it with their household
- Sending them a host family application if they are excited to start!
- Connecting them with another volunteer or your Regional Field Specialist (RFS) if they have questions you don't know how to answer
- Confirm their email address if that is how you will be doing your follow up.
- Thank them for their time and support of our mission.
After the Call
The call isn’t over after you hang up!
- Once you finish the conversation, send a follow-up email letting the person know it was great to speak with them and include any links to www.afsusa.org that may be helpful or any other information you promised to send. Even if you didn't say you would send them, include some student profiles! There are some helpful email templates in Global Link too.
- Be sure to log the call in the Global Link contact log or update it in Hosting Lead Management.
- Schedule a reminder for yourself to call the person back on the agreed-upon time or in about a week if you didn't set a specific day.
Leaving a Voice Message
When reaching out to potential host families, you often reach voice mail instead – especially the first time you call. Here is a sample message you can leave:
"Hello this is _______ calling from AFS Intercultural Programs. I was calling because I know that (connection to AFS). I wanted to talk with you about AFS Exchange Students in your community. Please give me a call back at xxx. Thank you!"
- It's helpful to say your phone # or email slowly and then repeat yourself.
- Please record in the Global Link that you have left a voice message.
- Set up a reminder for yourself to call the person again in about a week.
- If you have an email address, consider sending a follow-up email directly from Global Link with a similar message since people tend to be more likely to respond to emails:
"Dear ____, I left a voice message for you earlier today and wondered if it would be easier to connect via email. (establish connection why you are writing) Perhaps there is a good time for us to talk soon?
I am reaching out to you today to invite you to join the AFS community. That could mean hosting another student, encouraging teens you know to participate in AFS programs overseas and/or becoming a volunteer to support the AFS mission in any variety of ways. Thank you for giving it some thought!
If hosting again interests you - or if you might know a family who would be great for AFS - please note that we have a variety of students available, and I have featured a couple here:
Pareeya from Thailand is a wonderful young woman who enjoys studying the STEM subjects. Outside of school, she loves playing with her young cousin, spending time with friends and family, creating art (by taking photos as well as drawing), and working out. Her family is very close, and they love to travel, cook, and go to the movies together. Pareeya hopes that she will have a similar relationship with her host family in the USA. Going on the exchange, Pareeya is excited to experience a new culture, new holidays, and new friends. She cannot wait to arrive!
Davide from Italy is cheerful, friendly, and active. He is also mature, independent, and helpful. As the eldest of four siblings, Davide has lots of responsibilities; he helps his mother with the housework and takes care of his siblings sometimes. He is very determined and works hard to achieve his goals. In school he gets along well with his teachers and classmates. In his spare time Davide likes to play sports like soccer and golf and hang out with his friends. He can't wait to experience life in a new environment and make lots of new friends!
Thank you for your help in contacting host family leads! Even if you don't get a "YES!" right away, remember there are other successes, such as:
- Early in the process, a genuine “maybe,” “I’ll think about it,” or “I’ll talk it over with the family” is great! When you start, success is finding people who are even a little bit interested and open to learning more.
- Success is also getting referrals to people who might make good hosts, including their phone number and permission to use the name of the person who made the referral in the first place.
Ultimately, success requires follow-up, providing your leads with the information they need, and keeping up contacts with them until they say "YES!." Along the way, you may want to introduce your prospects to someone a lot like them who’s hosted successfully before, or a volunteer who’ll be their support or both. Send them a link to the AFS website, a team newsletter, or an article to show your continuing interest and remind them about AFS.