Heather Comstock Connects

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

No, Really! We’re Lots of Fun!

Always a party!  Who wouldn’t want to hang out and stick plastic army men between your toes?

This week I ran across information saying that in this day and age, people are less likely to join and participate in groups than they were a generation or two ago. That was cheerful news to hear as I embark on a spree of recruiting efforts for one of my volunteer positions as the school year cranks up. It was good information to know that it’s not just me, but that membership numbers in our organization are trending downward. Knowing this, how can we counter that trend and boost recruitment in our little corner of the world?

Take advantage of any training and support provided by parent organization. I attended one of the scheduled recruitment trainings to prepare for our pitches at the various Back To School nights. The most value I got from the meeting were tips and some great ideas I can adapt from the seasoned veterans.  I plan to embrace the next round of local meetings to continue to build those contacts!

Who’s the REAL audience here? I had already started on a flier for our organization and while I was sitting in the training, I realized, the flier was really more of a calendar and not a compelling piece to share the story of why this organization is important. I took a step back and thought about who we were trying to recruit. ME. We need to get moms and dads like me on board because they are the ones who get the kids to the meetings. What did I want to know when I first got involved?

What message is going to resonate with them? I was sort of on the right track in that as a mom, I want a calendar so I can figure out who has to be where and when and the logistical details that inevitably surround those decisions (dinner, baths, and bedtime). But the reality is, I hadn’t sold the moms on why its important for the kids to be there. I opted to pull together a new flier with action pictures for the kids and quotes from our current parents.

Why should they do this? One of the questions asked at the training is “What was your trigger for getting involved?” I thought back to my initial motivation.  Another volunteer pointed out that you need to have a personal reason that will resonate with the parents. I thought about the parents I know and why they would  join us.  I’m going to include some of the personal reasons in a few blurbs on our flier.

How do we get the message out? Now this is one where we haven’t been particularly good. Research from our parent organization discovered our target audience is women in their mid-twenties to thirties. My own experience is that most of them are online. I spent some time creating a WordPress blog (free!) for our group where I can post our information. Its also a great place for us to toot our group’s horn and brag. I connected it to a Facebook page (free!) to help make it easier for our parents to keep up with us.  It also allows us to curate and share useful related information. While fliers have limits, if I can drive potential members to our site they can access more detailed information. It’s also easy enough to transfer this task to another volunteer to manage.

Show we’re active and what we’re doing. The main goal is to show a unit that’s active and doing stuff. Many of the sites for other units were stagnant and hadn’t been updated. As a parent, I want to make sure my kid is joining an active group. Using a blog format for our site and linking to our Facebook account means it will be easier to keep current information on the site and showcase our activities.

Divide and conquer. One of the most interesting things I have learned during my participation in this organization is that there really are differences in how men and women approach children’s activities. I cherish little hope of truly understanding how a man’s brain work but I know that while moms connect with other moms, I’ll have more success if we have dads connecting with other dads. Fortunately, we have some great dads involved that will help with talking to the other dads. Hopefully having both genders there will make moms and dads feel comfortable approaching us.

The bottom line is that the key to getting people involved in organizations is personal relationships. People want to forge connections and feel welcome.  My goal is to make sure our recruitment materials start a conversation that leads to a long-term relationship.

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