Heather Comstock Connects

Helping nonprofits and other volunteer organizations develop strong relationships and a clear voice in the community.

My Mom Can Drive!

Unfortunately, there’s no magic machine that crank out member engagement like the way this one made pancakes at one of the hotels on our vacation!

Alright, so vacation is over.  School is about to start.  That means some of my volunteer work is about to kick into overdrive.  Two of the organizations I work with are membership-based groups for kids.  With autumn approaching, it is time for us to get our program planning into gear and recruiting plans developed!  The big challenge I have, is how do I get people engaged and participating in events?

With one organization, I am having a parents meeting in a  couple of weeks to go over the national program and start slotting dates on the calendar for the school year.  Last spring, we didn’t have our annual elections meeting already scheduled and we very nearly didn’t have enough people for the required quorum!  I intend to avoid that mistake this year by getting the dates on the calendar now!

The other organization membership is way down.  We currently only have about three active kids.  If we don’t get a few more, our parent organization will disband us.  From the excitement perspective, if we don’t get up to at least 20 kids, I don’t see any reason for us to continue.  Running regular meetings for three boys doesn’t provide enough interaction and energy to keep it moving.  If our recruitment efforts fail, we are going to have to take a close look at disbanding and joining up with another group.

So here’s the plan:

Parent involvement is the key.  The Parents are the ones who drive the kids and get them to events.  I am having a parent meeting with one group to get their input on the activities and dates.  I am hoping that by doing that, I can get enough buy-in on the activities that they will bring the kids.  By choosing dates with their input, perhaps we can avoid the worst of the scheduling conflicts.  But, can we sustain the momentum into spring?  Will something that seemed awesome and exciting in August still be that way come April?

Get program input from the kids.  In both instances there’s a national program plan for the groups.  It is up to us to interpret the information and find activities.  Suggestions are given but we’re not locked in.  I have asked all the parents to talk to their kids about what they’d like to do.  I don’t want activities that require small children to sit passively and look at stuff without touching.  That isn’t going to satisfy and ignores the basic nature of kids.  If we can incorporate the kids’ ideas that might keep them coming back.

Recruitment means selling to both parents & kids. As we prepare to attend recruitment nights, I know that the materials need to appeal to parents and kids.  I know what parents are looking for and I plan to tap my own in house focus group for input on the activities.  Moms are looking for comprehensive calendars and schedules so they can see if the activities match up with availability and kids are looking for something cool.  Fortunately, one of the parent organizations knows this and they provide customized materials for us.  One side has a cool picture of an exciting activity and the other side allows us to print a calendar.

The one problem I don’t know how to counteract is over-commitment.  People want to be involved with these organizations but when the rubber hits the road, we lose participation to other things such as sports.  The older our kids get, the worse the participation when homework loads and part-time jobs eat into available free time.  My goal is to focus on quality not quantity when it comes to our activities this year.

Do you have any other suggestions on how to take on recruitment and over-commitment?

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