Step 4: Build A Base
Once you’ve clearly defined your mission and outline goals to accomplish, you’ll need to build a base to help your group achieve success. Recruiting supporters and teammates who genuinely believe in the cause is crucial to creating growth and sustainability. You’ll need to build relationships to ensure this group remains active and engaged. Remember that quality far outweighs quantity, so don’t be discouraged if building support is slow. Invest your time in the teammates you have recruited and develop them to be advocates and recruiters for further cause support.
An effective core team consists of between five and 10 individuals. This way everyone on the team is ensured a personalized task and feels responsibility for upholding the overall mission. When the team grows past this size you may consider creating subcommittees or project teams, but make sure that no one is left without projects, tasks, or a reason to be involved. There are typically two roles that can be distinguished within an organization: 1) Teammates; those who work for the group in a leadership role on your core team or sub-committees and 2) Supporters; those who come to events and serve as volunteers.
When you look to recruit a new audience, it is important to create different levels of engagement to provide anyone who is interested in getting involved with an opportunity to do so. Some individuals may simply want to “like” your group on Facebook or sign a petition supporting your cause, others will attend events and donate money, while more engaged supporters may want to attend regular meetings and contribute to project planning and execution.
a. Where to Recruit
You can begin recruitment by targeting areas of high youth concentration like college campuses, high schools, youth centers, and community organizations. You can also use your online networks and social media platforms like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn to begin conversations to identify strong leads and potential areas for support. By utilizing online networks you can access a larger, more demographically diverse population. Encourage supporters to suggest friends and other network contacts to engage or use as resources for future organization needs.
B. Hold a Meeting or Event
Meetings and events are an effective recruitment and engagement tool for your organization. In addition to holding regular planning meetings with your core team, you should also start building visibility for your cause through public convenings.
The first step is to find a venue, share your mission and goals, and start planning the activities to achieve the stages of your strategic plan. The goal of your first meetings and events should be to generate interest in your group and raising awareness about the issue.
a. Finding a Venue
There are many spaces where you can hold meetings and events for free. Consider community centers, classrooms, conference rooms, your family’s business or your home for your core team meetings.
If you are hosting a public meeting or event where you will need a larger facility, schedule a time to visit the space to ensure it meets your event needs. Remember, it’s better to have a crowded room than one that look empty.
Once you’ve identified a location, draft a letter containing your request to use the space (including event date(s) and times, the event purpose and attendees). Make sure to introduce your organization and tell the venue or business manager what your team is doing to benefit the local community. Talk about the importance of a meeting place to help your team thrive and work toward its goal of empowering youth to affect positive social change in your local community.
You may decide you want something additional than just venue space. This could be a percent discount, a drink with a purchase, or other benefits. These incentives to attend are especially important if you are hosting a fundraising event. Outline these desires in a clear and concise manner in your request letter. Be sure to hightlight how your program will benefit the venue through increased business or publicity.
b. Organize and Plan Your Meeting
When organizing and holding your meeting or event, be as prepared as possible. You want your team, supporters and potential supporters to view you as professional, dedicated and credible. Here is an overview of the planning that goes into a meeting:
1-2 weeks before the meeting
Make an agenda for the meeting so you know who will be speaking on what topic and for how long. Aim to make your gathering as interactive as possible; do not talk at people for more than 10 minutes.
Email agenda and calendar invite to attendees so they can not only add the event to their schedule immediately but also can have a brief overview of what will be discussed. Personalize the emails so people feel connected and want to come to the meeting.
Day before the meeting
Send reminders. Assign team members a list of contacts to reach out with personal reminders via phone/text, email and Facebook. Use other social media, such as Twitter, to message about the meeting if it is open to the public. As new members or supporters join, make sure to ask them what form of communication they prefer so that you can know what is the best way to reach them.
Print agendas and sign-in sheets. Giving everyone a copy of the Agenda will help your meeting stay on track. Use sign-in sheets to collect personal information (name, email, phone number, Twitter handle, preferred form of communication, etc.).
Day of the meeting
Bring your materials including agendas, sign-in sheet, nametags and any literature or swag you have for your group.
Bring a sign with your logo or group name so that new people know that they came to the right place.
Arrive at your meeting location 15-30 minutes before the start time; this way you will catch everyone who comes early and be able to set up your space.
Now that you have a venue and a plan, you are ready to convene your meeting. Use these meetings to discuss important local, state, and national issues, but remember to come away from the meeting with action steps. Continue to have these meetings once or twice a month to fuel people’s passion as well as recruit more supporters for your cause. These meetings are also a great time to regroup, assign tasks, and take a look at your accomplishments.
At your first meeting, you may want to open with your strategic plan and goals to get feedback from the new group members or supporters who were not involved in the initial planning. It is important that all of your team members feel involved in the process of determining the group’s direction, but make it clear that not every input or idea will be implemented. Take suggestions by all attendees into consideration and ask your core team to decide which changes should be made at your next executive meeting.
i. Tips and Tricks
Make sure everyone gets an agenda and signs in. The sign-in sheet is important for follow up and collecting attendee information.
Start with introductions/icebreakers. You may think icebreakers are trivial, but it can be a fun and important way to get to know the meeting participants. Be creative and ask them to share their story and why they came. As people are introducing themselves write down some key facts: where they are from, what they are studying, unique things about them, etc. This will help everyone get to know each other and their motivations, as well as give your working relationship a personal touch by noting their interests.
Keep your talking to a minimum and allow input from others. Present yourself as an informational resource, but allow others to debate and discuss. The less you talk, the more others will listen.
Create action steps. Once you have a goal, break it down and start assigning tasks with measurable results and reasonable deadlines. No one should leave the meeting without a task. Try to give people the tasks they volunteer for, and assign smaller tasks to newer people who are just getting their feet wet.
Write down what tasks are assigned to each person in your notes or next to his or her name on the sign-in sheet. This way you will know what everyone is working on and be able to follow up with them to ensure the tasks are completed.
Encourage everyone to bring one or two friends and your meeting will grow quickly.
Make sure everyone leaves the meeting with a task, even one as simple as drafting a flyer or getting five signatures on a petition. Giving people a role and responsibility makes them feel connected and they will want to remain involved.
Put something simple at the beginning of the meeting so latecomers do not miss the issue discussion.
Breakdown goals and assign tasks before the end of the meeting. This way people on a tight schedule can leave with a task.
Keep it fun. Consider a monthly happy hour, book club, group bowling night, movie or museum outing, etc. By offering fun and engaging activities to your group members, you will build relationships and strengthen your team morale. If your members have fun, it will also encourage them to recruit others to come to the next meeting or event.
Use meetings to synthesize future plans of action. After you establish those plans and the necessary actions to support them, work with your team members and volunteers to find time commitments that fit comfortably in their schedules. Be conscious to not overwork or overwhelm anyone to prevent burnout. Start new members off with small tasks and increase responsibility over time.
People do their best work when they have a task that interests and challenges them. During the meeting, listen closely to find where people are most engage and encourage them to assume tasks and assignments related to those interests. Holding members accountable to their commitments is essential to ensure no one is left with more than their fair share of work.
While it is important that you keep track of all your group’s projects, you do not need to micromanage, but you do need to lead. Do not be afraid to step in if things are not going well. The most important quality of any team leader is the ability to lead by example. Although delegation is necessary to complete any project, you need to stay involved and be helpful, encouraging, and keep the team on task. You should give guidance and direction to the different committee chairs while still allowing them to retain control of the actual project. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through one-on-one meetings with your different teammates to hash out goals, timelines and ensure expectations are clear.
D. Post-meeting wrap-up
Database your sign-in sheets so you have everyone’s contact information in the same place.
Write follow up emails to everyone who came. Make the emails brief and personal while reminding people of their task and when it needs to be done.
Write follow up emails to everyone who didn’t come. In the email explain what was discussed and show a task breakdown. Encourage potential volunteers to contact you if they still want to get involved. List tasks that still need volunteers; this may spark someone’s interest.
Create a tracking system for assigned tasks, persons responsible and due dates. This can be done through the meeting minutes, shared Google Docs or in your project timeline. It is important to hold yourself and your team accountable for the priorities you identified in the meeting.
Send reminders to everyone on your list before the next meeting. Aim to send notifications a few days before assigned due dates. You can also ask how the task is coming and see if there is anything you can do to help. This way the task will get completed and you can get to know your teammates better.
Send a thank you card or email to the venue and any people who were key in the planning of your meeting. A thank you note can go a long way to future support and willingness to help.
i. Create a Timeline
A shared timeline or calendar is an important tool for keeping your team on track to accomplish your goals. The timeline should include all relevant dates including assignments, benchmark goals, conferences, partner events and meeting conflicts of interest such as school holidays.
Start by selecting the date for the event, program launch, etc. and work backwards to outline tasks that have to be done in order for that initiative to be successful. Consider the project from all aspects including Press and Communications, Advocacy and Outreach, Volunteer Coordination, Fundraising and break down the timeline by each of these categories to ensure a thorough action plan.
Tools like Google Calendar are helpful because you can share and update deadlines, program/event dates and meetings in real time. You can also use color coding to organize subcommittee or category-related tasks.
E. Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings are not ideal, but sometimes necessary due to geographic limitations or time constraints. There are many free webinar or conference call tools like GotoMeeting, AnyMeeting or FreeConferenceCall.com that allow you to convene people virtually. You can also do video chats for more personal interaction using Skype or Google HangOuts. Make sure that you test these tools in advance on your own system, as well as communicate to the meeting participants to download and install any necessary software or set-up accounts in order to participate.
When holding a virtual meeting, it is even more critical that you outline an agenda and share it in advance with the meeting participants so that they can track the conversation. If there are any additional materials or items they need to review, make sure to have them loaded into the platform or email to the participants ahead of time.
Try not to have one person dominate the meeting conversation or agenda. Ask different team members to provide updates on their tasks or subcommittees and allow pauses for questions and feedback. Some platforms allow opportunities to incorporate interactive tools like polling or chatting to communicate during the meeting.