You meet some people who share a common idea. You decide to band together to change the world. You take action. You get started. You meet. But people become disengaged. They loose interest. And before you know it, that inertia you grabbed in the beginning starts to fade until you're alone, a mission unfulfilled.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Let's look at a few ways you can keep those flames burning:
- Be clear about your mission. You want your community involved for the right reasons. Otherwise they won't stay interested. And equally as important, you want your mission clear so you can make sure it's worth pursuing.
- Have a narrow focus. Let's make the world a better place. That's not a mission. At first, bite off as little as you can chew. Don't do too much. Get some quick wins. Those quick, early wins will help invigorate your volunteers.
- Be ready and willing to pivot. Staying true to the mission doesn't mean that you won't ever refine your position. Instead, it means stay true to doing a great thing for the world. Pivoting helps you get closer to the truth of what you really want, or can, accomplish. Just make sure everyone involved agrees!
- Be clear about expectations and requirements. Are you asking volunteers for 2 hours per week? Or to make ten phone calls a month? Or to attend an event a month? Or to commit to fundraising a thousand dollars a year? In the beginning, just getting a verbal "yes I want to be involved is fine. But over time you will need more from volunteers. Codify what that commitment looks like; but be willing to make exceptions for special cases.
- Be generous and public with accolades. I practice this in business as well. But when people are helping out for free, they need to be thanked for the work they do, and it's important to do so publicly (unless they opt out of that - which some will do).
- Admonish in private. There's no quicker way to alienate not only a volunteer, but the others who see you get into a situation with a volunteer. Volunteers are hard to recruit; don't mess it up by getting all hotheaded!
- Build a rewards system. It is amazing what people will do for a t-shirt, a badge on a website, a sticker, or button. Identify a currency that your group can use, and provide rewards based on that currency.
- Connect with, but don't inundate your community. What's the right cadence of messaging to your constituency? Monthly emails? Weekly text invitations to meet up at an event? Annual requests for donations? All legitimate communication mechanisms are opt-in. Find the right pace that allows you to get enough information to and from your members without having them opt right back out.
- Ask members to find new members. The first organization I was ever a part of had been around for over a hundred years. Their number one ask of me: replace yourself. And I did. As did the next person. And the next, with a clear lineage over the course of 20 years since. Priorities in life change and it can be hard to stay engaged. Only by empowering your members to find the next generation.
- Share the successes. Finally, it's going to be impossible to keep your members engaged if they don't see that you're accomplishing anything. This is one reason not to bite off too much in the beginning. Biting off less and expanding the focus intentionally is a great way to not only have an impact, but also galvanize your cause into a movement!
There are tons of other ways to keep your members involved. What are some of the ways you've found success with?
Note: This post is also available at: http://www.notonmywatch.solutions/10_ways_to_keep_your_volunteers_engaged