They Care, Now What? Keeping People Involved
Effective communications and community outreach can be invaluable to your organization, but don’t let your hard work and time go to waste! You’ve made it this far – now keep your organization “top of mind” in your community. Once people attend a meeting, volunteer their time, or sign up for your e-newsletter, it is incumbent upon the organization to maintain the relationship.
Here are some ways to keep people involved and your organization in the public eye:
- Good data is essential – Every interaction with a member of the community is an opportunity to build our database. In every instance, we want to collect business cards, have sign-in sheets and ask for and collect contact information. Once we have it, we must maintain a good database that includes as much contact information as possible. Email addresses are essential in today’s world, largely dominated by virtual communications. Organizations are also now asking for Facebook and Twitter addresses.
- Keep the invitations coming – Independent Living Centers hold all kinds of events throughout the year, educational programs, organizational anniversaries and social opportunities too. Consider extending your invitation list to a broader audience. While everyone may not come to the event, your communication about the event is a great way to keep people informed.
Charitable work is great too. Host a clothing drive, for example, or volunteer day, especially on a weekend. This is a good way to involve existing volunteers and recruit new ones. It has the added benefit of keeping the Center and the important work it does in the community in the news.
- Keep your contacts informed - Regular (relevant, simple, and to-the-point) updates on what’s new, interesting, and happening in your organization keeps the Center relevant to your audience. e-Communications and social media are the best and least expensive tools for staying in touch. Maintaining relationships and staying connected makes reaching out to stakeholders and asking for their support and involvement much easier since they have most likely already read about your project and are informed.
- Ask for opinions or advice – Everyone likes to be asked their opinion. It is easy to engage people on issues by using free online survey instruments such as Zoomerang and Survey Monkey. Many public and private entities keep visitors engaged on their websites by conducting simple surveys from the homepage, and posting the latest survey results. Take a simple “opinion” poll at a community event, and use that opportunity to also capture contact information. It doesn’t have to be this formal either. Simply picking up the phone to ask a stakeholder for their input or advice on an issue will go a long way to maintaining important relationships.
- Find opportunities to serve – Independent Living Centers have volunteer boards of directors, committees and also engage volunteers in other ways. People consider it an honor to be asked to serve. A “task force,” “planning committee” or “advisory board” on a specific project may be less daunting for a busy volunteer. See a rising star? Someone who can make a difference to your Center? You may want to find opportunities for them to serve.
- The power of “thank you” – A well-written thank you letter can make a big difference in your professional relationship or a stakeholder’s inclination to get involved again in a future project. The letter, written in a traditional letter format or handwritten, must in every instance be personal and specific about the volunteers contributions. It is also an opportunity for the Center to reinforce its message as well. For example,
Dear Jane Doe,
Thank you for caring about people with disabilities and their ability to pursue job opportunities in our community. We appreciate your willingness to speak out on this important issue and participate in our community forum. Your leadership is an example we hope others will follow.
We look forward to keeping you informed on our work on this matter and our other initiatives to support full and independent lives for all people in ABC County.
Thank you again for your participation and leadership.With our sincerest appreciation,
Keeping Volunteers Engaged/Overcome Apathy
Two central and related problems are faced by independent living centers in relation to sustaining an effective and committed group of volunteers, maintaining engagement and overcoming apathy. A number of basic principles and topics related to creation and maintenance of an outstanding volunteer program are essential to keep your volunteers engaged, including: recruitment, establishing an orientation program, community and volunteer engagement and volunteer recognition.
Five Principles for keeping volunteers engaged are:
- The concept of volunteering as a two-way street;
- A successful volunteer program takes both planning and effort by staff;
- The necessity for an expansion of recruitment activities;
- Developing community partnerships as a key to a successful program: and
- Recognition is one of the key components for retention, engagement and overcoming apathy.
The Five Principles are explained in this PowerPoint presentation.