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Growing Your Astronomy Club
Part 3: Cultivating Volunteers

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2. Implement Effective Recruiting Strategies

Which recruiting technique you use depends on what type of volunteers you need. Recruiting volunteers for public astronomy events requires a very different strategy than recruiting for positions on the Board or for committee and support/administrative roles

Recruiting for Public Astronomy Events

How often do members volunteer to help at outreach events? Is it always the same group?

camp sunburstClub members may not know what’s involved in sharing astronomy with the public. So they may be hesitant to volunteer. So, to introduce members to public outreach, invite club members to attend your public events just to see what goes on. Ask them to simply observe the different ways they might participate. They don’t need to bring a telescope or talk with the public if they’re not ready yet.

All they need to do is watch and learn, so they can make an informed decision about participating in a way that fits their interests and skills. This is a no-obligation introduction to public outreach.

The Volunteer Coordinator can send general emails to the membership encouraging participation and offering support for new outreachers. If you offer an outreach training program, make sure your members are aware of it. Many clubs use the Night Sky Network Toolkits* to conduct training and give members ideas they can use to excite and inform the public. Your Outreach Coordinator or other experienced member might be interested in leading such a group in order to encourage more participation in your outreach events.

checkTIP: Refer members to the Sharing the Universe Video series, Outreach Training, for tips on successful public outreach: http://www.astrosociety.org/SharingTheUniverse

Recruiting for the Board and Committees

Problems clubs experience with recruiting volunteers for the Board or Committees:

People are reluctant to volunteer if they don’t know:

So who does the recruiting?  What does the recruiter need to prepare?  How do you recruit and support a volunteer?

Effective policies clubs have instituted to recruit for Board & Committee positions

a) The incumbent prepares the job description

The best person to prepare a job description is the person who holds the job now. Just have the incumbent list what they do, what tools they use, who their contacts are, and anything they feel is important for anyone holding the position to know.

Checklist for job descriptions:

checkTIP: You may want to make a policy that the Board reviews the job description for accuracy and completeness.

b) The incumbent recruits his/her own replacement and commits to training the new person.

Make it a policy that, when appropriate, the member who currently has the job commits to find and train their own replacement -- the incumbent is often the most motivated, can best explain the job, and can effectively train and mentor their replacement. Plan a transition period and plan for the incumbent to be the new person’s coach and mentor for the first two to four months.

c) Create the position of Volunteer Coordinator

d) Recruit one-on-one, preferably face-to-face.

Why not just place a notice in the newsletter? If that has resulted in quickly getting good, qualified members to volunteer, then your club is the exception and you should continue the practice.

What more commonly happens:
An article in the newsletter or an announcement at a meeting asking members if anyone wants to fill board or committee positions can result in either of these consequences:

man“We put notices in the newsletter for three months that we needed a new editor. But nobody volunteered or even asked about it. The editor told us she couldn’t do it anymore and had to quit. We went four months without a formal newsletter.”

woman“Our Meeting Speaker planner had served for five years and wanted to step down. We made the announcement at a meeting and the only person who raised his hand was a long-time member. He thought our club members should be the ones to give all the talks and within a few months, we didn’t have any professional talks. HE ended up giving the talk almost every other month ‘cause he couldn’t get anyone else to do them. We lost a lot of members that year.”

A much better way to recruit a volunteer is to ask a specific person, preferably face-to-face.
Research has shown this is the most effective way. People can be flattered when you ask them for help, especially if you tell them why you feel they would be good for the position.

This assures that you get the right person for the job, and, it gives you the opportunity to say why you think they are the right person. Be clear on why you are asking this particular person. 

Be prepared with:

Recruiting by email. Two approaches here:

  1. If you are sending the message to a selected group of club members: Instead of sending a general message that says: “One of you should be able to this job,” ask their advice on which club member they might recommend for the position. This could result in getting two or three prospects you can personally approach.
  2. If you are personally approaching one member by email: Treat it the same way as you would face-to-face. Outline what the job entails and how much time it takes. Tell the person why you think he or she is good for the job and that the person will receive training from you (if you are the incumbent). Include a job description in the email.

recruitingSteps to recruit:

Examples of what to say:
“Michael, you always attend meetings and seem interested in making the club a success. Since I’m stepping down, we’d like to invite you to join the Board as the treasurer next year. It involves depositing checks we receive and paying the bills. We have a bank account and a PayPal account. Almost all the members renew magazines online now, so there isn’t much of that you’d need to do. I found that it takes about three or four hours a month. During renewal time, a little more. I’m happy to get you started and answer any of your questions during the first few months.”

“Terry, I really admire how you’ve served the club and I know you don't think you’re qualified to fill my role as club President, but several Board members including Craig, the Vice President, suggested we ask you. Both Craig and I can help you through the year and be good resources for you to depend on throughout your two-year term.”

“Lee, the Membership Coordinator is moving out of the area and you seem to get along with people easily. If you were able to take over within the next month, she can show you how the membership is managed.”

Follow up on any expression of interest within a week. The sooner you re-contact them after the initial request, the more likely it is that they will accept.

checkTIPS

*Night Sky Network ToolKits: If your club is a member of the NASA Night Sky Network (NSN), contact your club’s NSN Club Coordinators for more information.  http://NightSkyNetwork.org 

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ASP logoSharing the Universe videos are produced by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) from research conducted by the Institute for Learning Innovation, the ASP, and from astronomy clubs like yours. www.astrosociety.org/SharingTheUniverse

 

NSF logoThe Sharing the Universe project is funded by the National Science Foundation and is supported by the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL) of the National Science Foundation under Grant Number DRL 0638873. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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