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Get Involved: Supporting members and keeping people

Supporting members and keeping people

By Alison Rogers, EcoNetwork Port Stephens.

Soldiers Point – Salamander Bay Landcare is thriving. Over 16 members regularly participate anywhere from once a week to twice a year. The longest serving member, Margaret Lamond has been participating for over a decade. Some members even travel from as far as Lemon Tree Passage just to join this vibrant group. 

When I asked the coordinators, Irene Jones and Kathy Brown, about their strategies they suggested it was essential to keep members informed through regular communication, make sure everyone has a role to play, and plan regular activities. Irene said, ‘It is also important to make sure our members know how their work is contributing to the bigger picture – such as our advocacy goals or how our local plans feed into regional plans’. 

Kathy and Irene have a calendar of events that is distributed to all members at the beginning of the year but they also encourage members to contribute outside of the designating meeting hours. This level of flexibility means volunteers can contribute as much or as little as they want at a time that is convenient for them. Locking in regular social catch ups mean people who cannot participate during the working week or who are not physically able to undertake activities, can keep in contact with the group. Everyone tries to attend Bob’s morning teas because homemade goodies and birthday cakes regularly appear on the morning tea table.

It is not easy to keep members focused, inspired, connected and working effectively. Understanding more about organisations who maintain members over the long term can help with identifying the essential ingredients. Here are a few things to help your group maintain momentum: 

Key points

  • Understand the reasons why the members of your group want to participate and tailor your activities. Are people involved for social connection, passion for the cause, feeling useful, applying their knowledge or skills, increasing their physically activity or for other reasons…? 
  • Establish strong, regular, relevant and tailored communication using suitable channels that members are willing to access.
  • Listen and respond to feedback and concerns. Be open to adapting and changing. 
  • Share the group’s strategic vision and long-term plans. Involve people in planning, setting goals, listing and prioritising tasks.
  • Acknowledge contributions, reward dedication and demonstrate gratitude openly and in meaningful way. Ideas may include saying thank you in a card, highlighting the efforts or skills of a particular individual to the group or following up an activity with an appreciate text.
  • Offer opportunities to learn new skills or facilitate occasions for some members to teach other members.
  • Regularly hold social activities to help people to feel welcome, valued, connected to each other and part of something bigger than themselves. 

If you have enjoyed this segment in Get Involved keep an eye out for next month’s topic ‘Preventing burnout.’ Send comments, feedback or ideas for new topics to alisonrogers@econetworkps.org 

References and further reading:

Ideas for how to keep volunteers engaged from Volunteering Australia

12 Ways to keep your volunteers engaged and inspired 

8 steps to organise volunteers to maximise impact

The essential guide to managing volunteers at your nonprofit