Many groups start out with enthusiasm, good attendance, and exciting plans. But, as time progresses, attendance drops off and a few dedicated people end up doing most of the work. These conscientious people then feel frustrated, disappointed and let down.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Some groups flourish with active participation. Others flounder for a while but then really take off. There is no magic formula for group health, but the following six steps are important. Serious thought about the questions listed under each step might help you build a strong and vital group.
1. Recruit and cultivate members.
- Do you reach out for new members all through the year?
- Do those who might be interested know what you are doing and how they can get involved?
- Do you cultivate new members, getting to know them, making sure they know how our group functions, and letting them know you really want their participation?
- Do your members feel they can be active without committing their whole life to the group?
- Are meetings held at a time that most members can attend?
- Do members like the space in which you meet?
- Are members notified about all meetings? Are they contacted in person to remind them of the meeting and let them know about interesting items on the agenda?
- Do you have ways to let the community know about your achievements?
2. Do important work.
- Do members have a clear understanding of the purpose of the group? Do they agree that the purpose is important?
- Is your group doing significant work that members care about?
- Is the group doing enough? Do members feel they are part of an important group that makes a difference?
- Do you take time to brainstorm new projects or activities that seem exciting and significant to members?
3. Take members seriously.
- Do the members of your group feel needed?
- Have you spoken with members individually about what they think the group should be doing and how they want to be involved?
- Are there things for members to do, even members who don’t have much time?
- Does everyone get a chance to speak in meetings or do one or two people do most of the talking? Do members feel their ideas are taken seriously?
- Do you make a place on the agenda for people to report on the progress they have made on the tasks they have taken on?
- Do members find ways to thank and appreciate each other?
4. Run meetings people like to attend.
- Are your meetings enjoyable? Are there times for group members to socialize? Is there a good balance between socializing and business? Is there a sense of community within your group?
- Is there a clear agenda for each meeting? Do members know ahead of time about important agenda items?
- Do you have skilled facilitators for your meetings? Do members in the group need training in facilitation skills?
- Do decisions get made at each meeting? Do members feel part of the decisions? Do members leave a meeting feeling that good things were accomplished?
- Do you make time to evaluate your work and the process of the group?
5. Do what you say you are going to do.
- Does the group take meeting minutes to keep track of decisions?
- Does the group follow through on decisions it makes? Are clear plans made for how to follow through on tasks? Are realistic time lines set?
- Do you break big projects down into many manageable tasks? Do you get assignments pinned down at meetings?
- Is there someone to remind people of their tasks, encouraging them and helping to solve problems that are encountered?
- Do members who take on responsibilities know how to carry out their tasks?
- Do members work in teams or subcommittees, so responsibility is shared and members feel they have help with hard tasks?
6. Resolve major problems.
- Are your meetings too long?
- Is the group trying to take on too much, so that members are worn out, and the group spins its wheels? If you need to cut some things out, what would they be?
- Are there philosophical or personality conflicts that need to be addressed? Do you need an experienced facilitator to help you resolve these conflicts?
Peace Action can arrange for someone to work with you on a plan to strengthen your group.