Finding helpers for your community organisation

You need a plan to recruit new members to share the workload and inject new ideas and resources into the club. This helpsheet will give you some ideas on how to go about finding new members by taking a clear step-by-step approach to recruitment.

The football jumpers need repairing, the oval has two mud patches that never seem to dry out and the invitations for the annual awards dinner still haven't been written, let alone posted. To top it all off, your treasurer has decided to move interstate. You realise that once again it's up to you and one or two other workhorses to make sure that the club doesn't go under.

Sound familiar?

You need to develop a clear written plan to make your search for new members more efficient and effective. It should not be just a once-off recruitment drive but a strategy that will take you from where you are now, an organisation in desperate need of members to an organisation that has a constant supply of new members.

Most groups baulk at the idea of actually sitting down and writing a plan. They argue that the time they would have to spend developing and writing a plan would be better spent actually recruiting. But in nearly all cases a planned recruitment drive will achieve greater results than an unplanned, unsystematic effort.

Planning actually saves time in the long run. It helps to focus on creative and practical ways to achieve the ultimate goal of recruiting new members and increases the chances of accomplishing whatever goals we set for ourselves.

Committing yourself to writing things down is very important. You don't want to waste time going over issues and making decisions that you have already previously agreed on.

The first stage of the planning process is to ask your self the following questions. The answers to these questions will form the building blocks of your plan and are actually the foundations of any strategic planning you may wish to do in the future.

Why do you want or need members?

You are feeling overwhelmed and you just need people to help you out. But what specifically do you want them to do?

  • Relatively unskilled work. For example, folding and sending out newsletters, general clean-ups, repairing uniforms directing parking, answering telephones etc
  • More highly skilled tasks. For example, organising and installing electronic communication technology for the office, designing and writing leaflets, organising special events, relief coaching and umpiring

Write down the sorts of people you need now and over the next twelve months.

How many and what kind do you need?

Under the sorts of people you need, write down the tasks and how many people you need to do them.

Obviously some people are able to do more than one task but these judgements need to be made carefully according to members, skills, expertise and available time.

You need to be careful that you don't overload members, or give them tasks they dislike, otherwise you will be back to square one, with a very small group of people doing everything and becoming increasingly fed-up.

Once you have completed this exercise you have articulated the goals of your membership drive. That is you now know how many people you need and for what purposes.

Who is going do the recruitment?

Determining who seeks out and signs the new members is essential to your planning. You and your helpers can plan together the approaches you will use to get the people you need.

Just a small group of people of recruiters can achieve so much if you are organised.

Rather than taking a scattergun approach of everybody trying to recruit the same people, give different recruitment tasks to different people. Apart from distributing the work evenly, it will mean that different people are not approaching Sue with the accounting experience, every time she walks down the street. This can be annoying and it gives the impression that your club is so disorganised that no one knows what the other is doing.

Where should they look?

This becomes less of a problem now you know what you need and you can more accurately target the people who have the skills you require. For example, you have identified that you need somebody who has an endorsed license to drive your players to matches. Obvious places to look include local bus companies whose drivers might already come to matches or your school community where staff and some parents have endorsed licenses to take students out on excursions.

You won't know who wants to get involved unless you ask. Include all possible avenues for recruitment in your plan. Often with sporting clubs, parents are keen to maintain an interest long after their own children have passed through the club. They become attached to the club and often will wander down to watch, seek them out and get them involved.

One idea that is often overlooked is hidden in your own records. Go back through your membership list from 2-3-5 years previous and write to lapsed members telling them you are looking for new members to take an active role with the club.

At the worst you will re-awaken interest in your club and widen your membership base, from there you should be able to also increase the number of people who are prepared to take an active membership role around the club.

Another idea is when you are signing up members to include a section on helping out, asking people to list areas where they would be prepared to assist the club and also to list their occupation. Normally joining time is a period when new members are full of enthusiasm for the club and prepared to take on an active involvement.

The occupation question will also provide you with an easy reference for times when you do require the skills of the profession they nominated. If they can't they should be able to nominate someone else who possesses the same skills to help out.

When should you recruit? Is there a good time?

Recruitment is not a one-off activity. It should be something that is ongoing. Remember you don't want to be stuck in the position you might be in now, feeling overwhelmed and alone.

It is obviously easier to recruit at some times rather than others. It's going to be difficult to recruit new members for your cricket club at the height of the football season. It is easier to recruit members when your organisation is rallying around a particular project or issue.

These can include:

  • Taking on a new initiative
  • Starting a publicity/fund-raising campaign
  • Replacing former members
  • A drive to involve more local children
  • Moving premises
  • Involving new community partners
  • A new community education program
  • A special event

Include a recruitment timeline with your plan of action. This should include targets to reach each week/month to reach the ultimate goal.

How should you approach potential members?

When you are asking people to help out, remember that they need to feel that they are going to get something out of it. You want to make potential members feel as though selling refreshments at half time will benefit them because they will learn new skills/raise money to buy in a better coach for their children/contribute to the building of a premiership club.

If people agree to help out be ready to give them details about when, where and how they can contribute.

Don't take it personally or get discouraged if someone says no to your request. It might be that they are over-committed at the moment or want to take a break from this sort of work.

What could you have done better?

You have achieved your recruitment goals but you think it all could have happened more quickly or you felt that some of your team were more successful than others. Take time out to review your plan in the light of honest discussions with both your recruiting team and the new members.

Ask them what went well and what wasn't so successful. Listen carefully and review your goals and strategies on a regular basis.

Another way to win active members and help to keep the ones you've got is to pay tribute to your volunteers at very regular intervals. While people don't help out for the recognition, it is an added bonus when they know the rest of the club recognises their contribution.

Have a section in your club newsletter which names the people who help out each week/month and thank them for their efforts. It is a reminder to everyone that the entertainment they enjoy each home game does not come about without the help of a dedicated group of people.

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