Growing a sustainable group

It easy to build up momentum and get people excited when there is national awareness of a campaign. Once this is gone or there isn’t an immediate political objective to work towards, this momentum can be quickly lost along with the trained and passionate activists. The key to a successful group is making it sustainable under any political environment, whether the campaign is time sensitive or not. As organisers you play a key in keeping people motivated.

Building Your Local Group

The dynamic of any group will change over time with new people joining and members leaving.  It is important to remember that when people get involved in campaigns there are volunteering their time and are free to leave at any point. The majority of the time this will be for reasons beyond your control.

Your group has to have a reason to exist. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of existing for its’ own sakes.  As a group it is worthwhile to regularly evaluate and assess your objectives. This is especially important to consider when new people join - especially people who are keen to be an active part. It doesn’t necessarily have to be formal but the aim here is to enable the new person to feel there a part of something and not trying to fit into a clique.

How to get new people involved?

A key part of building any group is getting new people involved in. One of the core questions any group asks is how to do this.

You might want to make someone responsible for recruiting and welcoming new members -  you could create the role Membership Officer or at the very least at any meetings you hold make sure someone takes on that responsibility. .

Remember when attending a meeting or an event for the first time can be pretty intimidating. The first few minutes play a big part in how you assess a group – so make all new members feel special – introduce yourself, ask them about themselves – find out how they heard about the group.

So how else can you get people involved? Make everything you do is an opportunity to recruit!

  • Every time you hold an event, whether that is a street stall – have a sign up form with you;

  • Encourage the group to make it personal when they invite friends or family to get involved;

  • Especially when using facebook or email, you get a better response rate rather than sending out block emails.

  • Encourage members to bring a new friend to each social or organiser meeting;

  • Do you live near a university? Invite student societies and lecturers to attend your events/meetings.

  • Speak with similar local groups i.e. civic societies – find out if they could promote your activities and joining your group on their mail lists.

  • Posters and community notice boards.

  • Once you have their details – contact them with a week of meeting them – the sooner the better.

Supporting and working with volunteers/activists

Everyone has different commitments that will impact on the time they can volunteer. It is important that we recognise this, and concentrate on rewarding the time and help that volunteers can contribute. An example of this could be that a volunteer may be less able to stand or walk, so it makes sense to find them work producing literature, stuffing envelopes etc. Another might be that a certain volunteer’s time is limited to certain times of the evening. If people are to stay involved, it is important to make sure that someone has work to do during the time when they can.

Generally, you should be looking at giving volunteers as much responsibility as they can comfortably handle, and make sure that there is an open and accountable way of other activists seeing that this is done.

The golden rule - never do what a volunteer can do for themselves - remember groups are sustainable when they share the workload.

It is however important that volunteers are supported in what they need to do.