Welcoming New Volunteers To Your Chapter

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This training offers tips and suggested strategies for bringing new people aboard CCL so that they acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become empowered volunteers.

TOC and Guide Section

People come into CCL’s organization with many different backgrounds and levels of availability to volunteer. It’s important to have one person (or team) that welcomes new members. It’s also important to have some structure to your chapter so that new people can immediately be introduced to the existing members who are doing work of interest to the new volunteer. With some structure to your chapter, the people who welcome new volunteers can refer them to the point person (or team leader) for the activities they are interested in. The point person/team leader can then include the new volunteer in chapter activities by giving them an orientation of what the team does and how they can start to participate. For example, one person (or team) can be the point person for tabling activities, another the point person for dialing campaigns, another for media relations and so on. In short, the welcome team forms the initial relationship with the new volunteer then introduces them to their team(s) of interest.

The information below will help your group get started. For additional support with onboarding and retaining new volunteers, join the Onboarding Action Team in CCL Community.

Designing The Approach That Works Best For You

As with everything in CCL, don’t feel you need to try all of the ideas recommended below. Experiment with what seems most feasible, useful, and timely for your group, and leave the rest. Take one step at a time and remember that your approach doesn’t have to be the same as that of other chapters. Overall, by showing a sincere interest in and support for others, eventually people will come to you as word spreads about your chapter. Remember that all CCL chapters grow one person at a time and all organizing is personal. Have fun!  

The Basic Welcome Process

Below is a general four step outline of what the welcome process might look like for your chapter. 

Step 1:  Receiving a notification when your chapter has a new volunteer:  

  • It's best to contact new volunteers within 1-2 days of when they first join CCL and become a member of your chapter. To be notified as soon as someone joins, (1) go to your chapter's page on Community, (2) click "Settings", (3) select "Notify me of new members as soon as they join", and (4) click "Save changes".  Another way to see people who've just joined your chapter is for the group leader, or someone designated in the Chapter Roster as a Chapter Admin, to frequently review the "New Members" tab on your Chapter Roster
  • If you're unable to contact volunteers as soon as they become a member of your chapter, you can contact the people who've joined in the last week listed in the New Member Report that is sent every Friday to group leaders (and those volunteers marked in your Chapter Roster with the “Send GL Reports to Non-GL” privilege). 
  • Whatever way you choose to learn about your new volunteers, make it a standard process in your chapter to quickly contact them.

Step 2:  Reaching out to new volunteers:

  • Reach out to new volunteers within 1-2 days by phone, email or text. It will likely take multiple tries. The way you choose to make initial contact may depend on your chapter’s resources and how many new volunteers join your chapter each week.

Step 3:  After making contact:

  • Once you make contact and set up a time to connect (whether over the phone, Zoom, or in-person), let the new person speak about what they are seeking and how/why they approached CCL. Use the Volunteer Inventory Form to help structure your conversation and capture the new person’s preferences at this point. Make sure to invite them to your next meeting and provide more details on areas in which they’ve expressed curiosity or interest. They likely won’t know much about ways to participate with CCL yet, so your follow-up email can contain more information about this as well. 

Step 4:  Getting them engaged:

  • Moving forward, positive, supportive interactions with new volunteers are crucial for helping start to get them engaged in a way that is meaningful for them and for your chapter. For example, your chapter meetings can include a “Guest Room” - a breakout session for new volunteers where they’ll get an overview of CCL, an overview of your chapter’s activities and start to select which activities interest them. At the end of this session, new volunteers can fill out a survey indicating which activities interest them and you can help connect them afterward with the best point person(s) to get more involved with their interests.
How One CCL Chapter Approaches The Welcome Process (NC Raleigh Durham Case Study)

Step 1:  Receiving contact information about new volunteer(s):  

  • NC Raleigh Durham uses the weekly New Member Report as the basis of their weekly outreach to the incoming list of new volunteers for their chapter. Their “Welcome Team” also shares a system with a shared Google Sheet to track who’s reached out to which new volunteers, and they have a strong practice of getting all of the sign-up sheets from events to a designated person on the welcome team within a couple of days of the event.  

Step 2:  Reaching out to new volunteers

  • NC Raleigh Durham’s “Welcome Team” is creative about how to get in touch with new people by reaching over via phone, text, and email at separate times. They include a Google Survey for new volunteers to fill out to share more about how it’s important to always give the new person the benefit of the doubt: people have busy lives, you may seem like a telemarketer, your message may go into their spam folder, you may be saying “CCL” and they may not know what that is, and so on. You don’t want to give up too easily and at the same time you don't want to be annoying. 
  • Providing a welcoming message, either by phone, text, or email and asking them to get back to you is always a good idea. If they don’t respond, try contacting them at a different time of day or on a weekend. At some point, perhaps after 3-4 attempts spaced out over the initial month or two, it’s okay to move on and put a note by their name in your roster “wasn’t able to reach [dates x, y, z].” You may find that people sometimes reemerge a few weeks or months later, ready to get engaged.

Step 3: After making contact:

  • NC Raleigh Durham’s “Welcome Team” seeks out 1-on-1 interviews via phone or in-person meetings and follows the same approach below in both cases:
  • In the early part of the conversation, the best practice is to let the new person speak. Ask them why they are interested in climate. How did they find CCL? What are they looking for in CCL? The reason for this is two-fold: when people express this for others, they are also formulating their own motivation for themselves. They get the experience of being heard. And of course you get important information about them and how to tailor their early participation so that it’s satisfying for them and good for the chapter. 
  • For more help with how to have these conversations, check out Volunteer Engagement Resources based on the research of Dr. Adam Levine.
  • It’s important to include in this first contact a next step that moves them along in their participation. Some ideas for that:
    • Invite them to the next chapter meeting ... or the one after.  
    • Invite them to attend a CCL Intro call or the Climate Advocate Training.
    • Tell them you’ll be sending an email with more details and ask them to reply to it with the ways to participate that work for them.
    • If it’s already clear which activities they are interested in, then commit to connecting them to your chapter’s point person for that activity.
    • Some people just don’t have much availability to volunteer ... and that is fine too. You can ask them if they want to get chapter emails.
    • Finally, it’s important to thank them for reaching out to CCL, for caring about climate change advocacy and for spending time with you.  
    • For additional questions, here is a more extended interview format that CCL NY 23rd District uses with their new volunteers as well as some sample talking points to help you prepare.
  • It’s best to send them your follow-up email immediately (within several hours) after the contact.

Step 4:  Getting them engaged:

  • For engaging new volunteers who attend your local chapter meeting, here are some pointers about how NC Raleigh Durham uses a “Guest Room”
    • Before the general meeting, the new volunteers are invited into a breakout room where they’ll get an overview of CCL, an overview of the chapter’s activities and start to select which activities interest them.  At the end of this session, new volunteers fill out a survey indicating which activities interest them and the Welcome Team helps connect them afterward with the best point person(s) to get more involved with given their interests.
    • A side benefit of the Guest Room is that your current volunteers who are leading the discussion develop skills in public speaking and presenting about CCL. While new people are in the Guest Room, existing members can hold their usual meeting and/or attend the National Call. 
    • Then, when everyone gathers together for the general meeting, be sure to create a warm atmosphere by welcoming new volunteers and having everyone in the group introduce themselves briefly. 
    • Invite new volunteers to speak up and interrupt to ask questions as your meeting progresses, emphasizing that all questions are good questions.  
    • The NC Raleigh Durham team also tries to set aside time for new volunteers to connect with the point people for each of your chapter’s activities so they can start to get engaged. 
    • After the meeting, send a follow-up email to each new volunteer to connect them with the teams of interest they indicate on the survey, just in case they didn’t get a chance to connect with the point person at the meeting (or to reinforce that relationship even if they did connect).
  • If your new volunteer(s) does not attend your chapter meeting:
    • Let them know about the New Volunteers page on CCL Community. Also encourage them to participate, if they haven't already, in the CCL Informational Session (Wednesdays at 8:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 PM Pacific).
    • After your call or contact with them, in your follow-up email you can give them a brief summary of the different chapter activities and the different ways they can participate. You can ask their preferences and introduce them to the point person for the activity in which they are interested.  

It’s important that the point people for each of your chapter’s activities have ready what they need for new volunteers including:

  • The point person’s contact information and an introduction to the other people on the team 
  • A brief orientation to the existing project(s) they’re pursuing and any resources they’ve found to be helpful 
  • Examples of ways a new volunteer can get active right away (such as inviting them to take the CCL training associated with their activity or inviting them to a tabling event)

It’s also important that, as the chapter grows, each point person develops new volunteers into a team around their area of activities. As this happens, it’s helpful to enlist a co-team leader so that over time your chapter develops teams that have a team leader and a team co-leader. For more information on how to grow teams with your group and achieve these goals see the Getting Help with the Work and Creating Highly Motivated Teams training pages.

Boosting Engagement Through CCL Community

On CCL Community, nearby volunteers are automatically added to your local chapter roster as soon as they "join" CCL. Here are a few additional ways you can use CCL Community’s features to more easily create an engaging online space for your new volunteers and save time on automated tasks:

  • Set up your Community chapter's Welcome Message to auto-send a general welcome email to all new chapter volunteers with information about your chapter, your preferred contact information, how to get more involved, and the details for your upcoming meeting. 
  • Consider setting up an “Introduce Yourself” forum post in your chapter's forum and then add a link to it in your “About Us” block or Welcome Message to encourage a quick action new volunteers can take right away to feel connected and share more about themselves and why they joined.
  • You can also adjust your individual group settings to be notified when new volunteers are added to your chapter roster.
Ongoing Engagement Ideas

Below are other ideas for engaging new volunteers after their initial welcome.

  • Make it Easy to Connect Within Your Chapter
    • Consider creating a spreadsheet like this example of CCL NY-23’s Chapter Roles Sheet to track who does what in your chapter so that volunteers new to your group see who to contact for specific questions or areas of coverage. Or you could provide a list of chapter connections to help new volunteers connect with veteran members doing the same kind of work. 
  • Connect New Volunteers With Other Mentors 
    • Your group might create a buddy system to pair veteran volunteers with incoming new volunteers. Here’s an example description from CCL Portland. When new volunteers do things with others, they learn quickly and find their volunteering more rewarding. 
    • Ask veteran mentors to check-in with their “buddy” regularly to answer their questions, recommend CCL resources like the weekly live Informational Session and identify the next steps as well as barriers in their involvement.  
    • During your next monthly meeting, invite new volunteers to fully participate, ask questions if needed and interact with members of their preferred action team.
  • Ask For Help
    • People come into CCL waiting to be engaged. Many group leaders have found one of the best ways to engage new volunteers is to ask them to help. If any of your teams or volunteers are feeling overwhelmed, reflect on how you can change the way you are asking others to share the work. In the words of CCL Group Leader Jean Ritok, “in areas where you are struggling, there’s an ‘ask’ missing.”
    • Make it a practice to ask new volunteers to help with the work as soon as possible. Find fun, simple ways to get started by asking for help setting up, cleaning up, writing something, finding something out, bringing snacks, etc.  
    • Get comfortable asking for all of what you need as well, not just part of it. For example, if you need five volunteers, don’t just ask for one volunteer, try “we’re looking for five volunteers. Are you interested in being one?”
    • Try out phrases like: 
      • Would you consider ...? 
      • Have you ever thought of being trained to ... (write a letter to the editor)? 
      • Other ways of phrasing questions that make volunteers comfortable saying yes or no.
    • As group leader, it is also important to be aware of your group’s power dynamics. Model being open to sharing power and decision-making. As you practice asking for help, let new volunteers know that they can be proactive to take on roles that interest them.
  • Creating A Team Wish list and Other Chapter Connections
    • While preparing to meet with incoming volunteers, brainstorm a list of tasks (see CCL NY 23rd District’s example) that your group identifies as important and are looking for others to take on leadership.
    • Once you have a draft, share it with others in your chapter to see what they think should be added or changed to keep the list updated with current priorities and goals.
    • Be bold in your envisioning and don’t get bogged down in feeling your chapter needs to accomplish all these things - it’s a wish list. 
    • Your ongoing wish list can help provide ideas for what projects your new volunteers can help with or get them plugged in right away with ongoing work being done for which they are interested.
Press play to start the video (27m 06s)
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Introductions & Agenda
(from beginning)

Onboarding Overview

Basic Welcome Process

Building Teams and Getting Help

Boost Engagement via CCL Community

Ongoing Engagement Ideas

  • Elli Sparks

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To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Introductions & Agenda
(from beginning)

Onboarding Overview

Basic Welcome Process

Building Teams and Getting Help

Boost Engagement via CCL Community

Ongoing Engagement Ideas

  • Elli Sparks
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Please note: there are many ways to get to know new volunteers and help them become more involved. In our experience, most important is to figure out -- what does the new volunteer really enjoy doing? That’s what’s going to be most sustainable for them, and for your chapter.

How to find out what volunteers enjoy, and empower them to do that? Here’s what works well for us in NY23.

NY23 Model for Onboarding New VolunteersNY23 Model for Onboarding New Volunteers87 KB
Chapter Organizing
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