6 Tips for Engaging a Lifeless Volunteer Committee
Sunday, July 15, 2018
You’re 10 minutes into a conference call with eight industry experts, and the line is silent. A collection of people with doctorates, years of experience and very little time to spare are suddenly speechless. The awkwardness is palpable, and you’re starting to panic. What did you do wrong?
A committee of member volunteers is invaluable when it comes to finding the pulse of an industry and generating meaningful content for your organization, but building and engaging that committee can be tricky. However, there are ways to breathe life into an inert group of members and gain access to their knowledge and skills.
1. Properly onboard members. The likelihood of a volunteer contributing to a committee when they have no idea what’s expected of them is low. They might have great ideas, but if there’s no committee roles and responsibilities document or, at the very least, a structured introduction, they’re going to feel like a fish out of water and quickly become disenchanted with the experience.
2. Provide a detailed agenda. Having an agenda is table stakes for a committee meeting, but having a meeting agenda that simply lists “1) Intro, 2) Discuss upcoming articles, 3) Misc. discussion, 4) Adjourn” is unhelpful. An agenda for a content development committee meeting could include idea-generating questions (for those moments of discussion lulls); examples of past content on similar topics (e.g., if you are developing content for a specific theme); and items brought up during previous meetings that are worth revisiting.
3. Figure out each member’s strengths and interests. Each member of your committee joined for a different reason. Some of them may be interested in writing articles; some might want to steer the direction of industry coverage a certain way, and some might just want to be used as pinch hitters when they’re needed. Find out what they are passionate about, and then give them options for how they can participate. The more self-directed their contributions are, the more enthusiastic they will be about the committee.
4. Separate your committee into beats. This tip follows from the previous one. If you have a member who’s excited about a specific niche within their industry, let them focus on that niche. Have the committee help you break down the biggest topics in their profession, and assign each member to lead the development of content for that topic. This ensures you’re covering the industry fully, and it focuses your volunteers.
5. Send them to the conference. Most committee members choose to go to their organization’s annual conference, and this is a great opportunity to give them an assignment (e.g., find one contributor, cover one session, speak to one presenter). If every committee member comes away from the conference with even one thing that can be used to create content, you’re on your way to building a pipeline of articles.
6. Give them a reason to participate. Volunteer committee members are busy. Most of them have full-time jobs, and they’re offering up their free time in exchange for very little. Incentivize them by providing them with exposure and recognition for their contribution. This could include creating a bio page for each committee member on the website, creating digital committee member badges they can use on their professional pages, and acknowledging them in front of their peers at the annual meeting.
Engaging a committee of volunteers takes effort, but if you’ve built a solid foundation and continue to steward them through the process, your organization will benefit greatly.
Alexa Schlosser is a marketing manager at SmithBucklin
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