Recruiting and Retaining the Best Volunteers
Internet Society Chapters quickly learn that without an active and engaged membership, it is hard to realize the Chapter’s mission, gain credibility in the community, or grow. In other words, it is one thing to get 25 interested individuals to sign up during your Chapter’s formation; it is another thing to get even a handful of those individuals to roll up their sleeves and get involved in specific Chapter activities. And without volunteers to take on the tasks involved with getting events, campaigns, and other types of activities off the ground, the Chapter will find it hard to thrive.
You don’t have to look far to find Chapters that have developed winning strategies for getting members and others to spring into action. For example, the Internet Society Hong Kong Chapter tapped into the growing popularity of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) (and the growing interest in Internet policy and governance) to organize the first Asia Pacific Regional IGF in Hong Kong (a formidable undertaking – we recommend you start with smaller projects if your Chapter is just starting up or does not have experience with larger events). The Internet Society India Kolkata Chapter responded to the problem of rogue elements penetrating public and private servers through unsecured WiFi networks to launch a public awareness campaign around the need to keep WiFi secure. And the Internet Society U.S. San Francisco Bay Area Chapter addressed the Internet Society’s theme of Internet trust and identity at a regional INET meeting it organized.
When it comes to connecting with members, nothing beats face-to-face events. The Internet Society Puerto Rico Chapter has been organizing monthly events for members and the general public nearly every month for the past five years. During those activities, Chapter leader Eduardo Diaz personally greets everyone who attends. "First I tell them who I am and what the Internet Society is about," Eduardo wrote by email.
"After that, I ask them what they do and what kind of Internet exposure they have had. If I am not sure I understand, I ask other questions to clarify. I ask these questions so when I see a possible connection between attendees with the same interests, I invite the person to meet other people who have more or less the same backgrounds and experiences. I also ask them how they heard about us and then invite them to become a member of our Chapter. Finally, depending on the number of people, I ask everyone to say who they are and what they do. As a result of these interactions, I have heard of people who have connected to do future business together or who are currently cooperating with each other in other ways. And I see them coming back to our activities. It feels really good when you see people opening up and start networking with each other."
In all of these examples, the Chapter was able to inspire its members, making it easier to engage members in the Chapter’s work.
For your Chapter to be active, the leadership needs to have a plan and it needs to stay focused and organized. That means taking the time to find out who your members are, what they can do, and how much time they have to spare for chapter activities. At most meetings there are no limits to how many great ideas are thrown on the table. The real challenge is knowing which of those ideas is worth pursuing, then getting your members engaged and excited enough to volunteer to help get them done. The Internet Society’s Chapter toolkit on Mobilizing Volunteers is a great place to start.