Getting New Volunteers Engaged

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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 volunteer experience. For many groups, one specific leadership role that will help your chapter grow and develop is finding someone to take on being the new membership coordinator. For smaller groups just starting out, this is often the group leader until someone else steps in. Remember that all CCL chapters grow one person at a time and all organizing is personal. 

Chapters are encouraged to welcome new people as soon as you have their information, letting them know about your upcoming meetings and how to get involved and providing any contact information they might need. CCL groups have found that the faster you can do this, the better the results. Making contact within 1-2 days is ideal. 

There are many ways to get to know new volunteers and help them become more involved. For some chapters, onboarding new volunteers can be a simple phone call. For others, new folks are invited to have coffee or tea with an existing member.  Do whatever works for you and your chapter. 

Think of the guide below as a menu of options for welcoming and engaging your new volunteers. Few chapters do all of these recommendations, but adding some of these components will strengthen your onboarding strategy and help you create a system that works for your group for getting to know newcomers and finding out more about their skills, interests, and what they want to offer the group.

Welcoming New Volunteers

Every Friday, group leaders (and those volunteers marked in your roster with the “Send GL Reports to Non-GL” privilege) are sent a New Member Report that lists all of the names, emails, and phone numbers for volunteers that have joined in the last week. 

Use this list to call your new volunteers to invite them to your next meeting (even a voicemail makes a difference). 

  • By connecting with them as soon as you can (within the first day is best) you communicate to them that you value their input.
  • A prompt follow-up also gains their trust with your friendly and professional approach before something else gets their attention. 
  • Welcome them to your local chapter! Treat them like they are important and special. 
  • If interested, you could offer new volunteers two ways to participate in your meeting: in person, and/or by Zoom teleconference.
  • Be enthusiastic with new prospects and generous with your attention.
  • If they don’t answer, leave a friendly, brief, and inviting message as if you know the person.
  • Remember: For many volunteers, it will most likely take multiple calls to get engagement. 

On CCL Community, nearby volunteers are automatically added to your local chapter as soon as they sign-up to find out more about CCL.  Here’s a few additional ways you can use the power of Community’s features to more easily create an engaging online space for your new volunteers and save time on automated tasks as well:

  • Set up your Community chapter's Welcome Message to auto-send a general welcome email to all new volunteers added to your chapter with information about your chapter, your preferred contact information, how to get more involved, and the details for your upcoming meeting. 
  • Some chapters find it helpful to include a link to a quick Google Survey (NC Raleigh-Durham’s example) in their initial welcome email to help engage new volunteers and pinpoint their interests rapidly.
  • Consider setting up a “Introduce Yourself” forum question for your chapter and then adding 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 of new volunteers as soon as they get added to your chapter.
Orienting At Meetings

Some groups have a special time devoted to orienting and getting to know new volunteers each month:

  • You could host a ½ hour orientation session just before their monthly meeting begins. 
  • Other groups host a potluck for the whole chapter ahead of the meeting to break bread together and build community. During that potluck, new volunteers can check-in with the new membership coordinator to share more about their interests and help them identify ways to get involved in the local group’s work that they’d most enjoy doing.
  • Later in the meeting, new volunteers could also be oriented during a break-out time with the new member coordinator or other leader when other more seasoned chapter members are doing advanced work.

Whenever your orientation time is that works best, consider circulating CCL’s Volunteer Opportunities Handout or your own personalized sign-up sheet with a few optional tasks that new volunteers can help with right away (i.e. tabling, writing or calling Congress campaigns, snack sign-up, and other bite-sized tasks for your chapter’s teams).

  • During the meeting, be sure to create a warm atmosphere by welcoming new volunteers briefly, going around the group and having everyone introduce themselves briefly. 
  • Invite new volunteers to speak up and please interrupt to ask questions as your meeting progresses, emphasizing that all questions are good questions.  
After The First Meeting
  • Create a system to follow-up with a personal phone call with your new volunteer(s) that attended to check-in and ask how the meeting was for them.
  • Ask if they have any questions you can answer and if they’d welcome further background on CCL.  If so, email link to New Volunteers page,  and encourage them if they haven’t already to participate in the Informational Session (Wednesdays at 8:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 PM Pacific).
  • Beyond offering CCL national resources, check-in to see if they’d like to setup a time to have a more in-depth 1-on-1 together.  Sample script: 
    • I thought I'd check in to see how you're enjoying things, and whether you might want to explore together possible tasks you might want to take on regularly based on your particular skills and interests? If you’d like to learn more about our chapter and how you can plug in, some of our volunteers find it helpful to meet with me for 15 minutes about what tasks they most enjoy. Just let me know if/when you’d like to chat.
    • Offer a specific time to meet up over coffee or by phone, people are more likely to respond with what works for them if they have a few choices to select from. 
    • If you have a large number of new volunteers and not a lot of time, invite everyone to your team’s monthly potluck or other social time, at which veteran volunteers can be paired with newbies to have a 1-on-1 interview check-in simultaneously.  
Meeting 1-on-1

Finding out what new volunteers really enjoy doing is going to help them identify what kinds of involvement will be most sustainable for them and for your chapter.  Social science research highlighted in Dr. Adam Levine’s “How To Be Helpful” resource reminds us that engaging volunteers in the spirit of reflecting on what they are looking for and how we can help fulfill their interests can be incredibly effective.

Meeting 1-on-1 also allows you to truly get to know other new people and what interests they have. When you meet, be prepared to ask new volunteers what do they like to do, what they want to learn, what is rewarding for them. Here are some questions that have worked well for groups: 

  • What interests do you have?
  • How would you like to grow and be involved locally?
  • What are you excited to plug into and receive training on?
  • What skills and connections do you bring with your experience? (It’s okay to brag)
  • 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. 

During your chat: 

  • Listen and take notes. 
  • Learn more about your volunteer and help them find tasks and roles that they find meaningful and manageable.
  • Bring with you a few ideas for tasks they might like to take on or priorities your chapter has decided you want to focus on.
  • If none of these seem enticing to them, ask them if they have ideas of what they would like to do or consider suggesting one of CCL’s Action Teams.
  • You can also have your computer open to your chapter roster to update the ”Interests” fields for your new volunteers as you go through the interview and encourage them to update their profile and explore CCL Community.

Something to keep in mind: CCL recommends to start by giving smaller bite-sized tasks rather than more ambitious roles to new volunteers. You get to know people (and they, you) by starting small and scaling up. As new volunteers show they want and can handle more responsibility, give them roles.  People who don’t feel useful and productive don’t stick around and if people feel they have an important role (and even a specific title instead of just “helping out”) it keeps them coming back.

At the end of your 1-on-1, make sure to wrap up with a specific action plan and next step to take that your new volunteer feels comfortable with. 

Connect New Volunteers With Other Mentors 

Think about how your group might create a buddy system to pair your veteran volunteers with incoming new volunteers.  Here’s an example description from CCL Portland’s system.  Inviting new volunteers to do things together will not only help them learn more and feel connected, it will also help them feel more motivated. 

Ask your veteran mentors to check-in with their “buddy” to talk through any questions, recommend support like the weekly live Informational Session and find next steps to connect your new volunteers right away.  

During your new volunteers next meeting, invite them to jump right in (or be a fly on the wall) and join one of your chapter’s team’s breakout workgroups when they meet to get a sense for the different types of tasks your group works on and o feel empowered to switch teams if they don’t feel the fit is right.   Ideally, new volunteers could eventually also connect with a mentor on their preferred action team.

Asking For Help

People come into CCL waiting to be engaged. Many group leaders have found one of the best ways to engage with new volunteers is to learn how to ask for help. If you are feeling overwhelmed reflect on how you can change the way you are asking others to share in the work. In the words of CCL Group Leader Jean Ritok, “If you’re suffering - there’s an ask missing.”

Find ways to feel comfortable asking new volunteers to help with the work as soon as possible. Ask 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? 
  • Other ways of phrasing questions that allow the volunteer the right to say yes or no.

As group leader it is also important to be aware of the power dynamics your group might have. Set a strong example of modeling being open to sharing power and decision-making. In your practicing asking for help, role model letting new volunteers know that they should feel free to invite themselves to take on roles that they are interested in.

Creating A Team Wishlist & Other Chapter Connections
  • As part of your team’s planning ahead of meeting with any new volunteers, brainstorm a list of tasks that your group identifies as important to pursue if there were someone taking lead on each topic area(see CCL NY 23rd District’s example ). 
  • Once you’ve got a draft, share it with others in your chapter to see what they think should be added or changed. 
  • Don’t feel your chapter should accomplish all these things, it’s a wish list. 
  • As you find the right volunteers to take on various tasks, your wishlist can help provide ideas for what projects your new volunteers can help with or add to. 

If you find it helpful, consider creating a spreadsheet like the NY-23 Roles sheet to track who does what in your chapter or provide a list of chapter connections to help support new volunteers connect with chapter members doing the same kind of work aligned with their own interests.

Designing The Approach That Works Best For You

As with everything at CCL, don’t feel you need to try all of these recommendations. Experiment with what feels most feasible, useful, and timely, and leave the rest.  Take one step at a time and remember that your approach doesn’t have to look like what other chapters have done.  Overall, by showing a sincere interest and curiosity in others eventually, people are going to start coming to you, as word spreads about your chapter. Have fun!

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Introductions & Agenda
(from beginning)

Welcoming New Volunteers

Three Phases on Onboarding

The Power of Asking For Help

Smaller Chapter Considerations

Setting Up Your Group On Community
  • Miranda Phillips
  • Jean Ritok

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

Introductions & Agenda
(from beginning)

Welcoming New Volunteers

Three Phases on Onboarding

The Power of Asking For Help

Smaller Chapter Considerations

Setting Up Your Group On Community
  • Miranda Phillips
  • Jean Ritok
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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
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