Monday, November 17, 2014

Activist Recruitment and Retention– It’ Not A Numbers Game

In a second series Theresa Anderson-Butcher lays out her thoughts on recruiting and retaining Activists.

Thank you again James for allowing me to post on your blog on another subject of mutual interest – activist recruitment and retention.

During my first full term on the Board in 2010-2011 there was a lot of discussion around succession planning and engagement within the activist base. The discussion culminated at the 2011 Board Retreat where I volunteered to put on paper for discussion, my idea of what that would entail. The following is what I proposed to the board.

Activist Succession/Engagement Cycle

I was not on the Board of Directors in 2012 so the responsibility to carry this concept forward was given to another Board member.

As you see from the above diagram, in my opinion, a succession program requires significant planning and coordination as well as the commitment of sufficient resources.  Only then can we hope to ensure that activists are supported, developed and ultimately choose to progress in their roles.  Without such supports, we cannot hope to guarantee the success of our activists or their continued and hopefully progressive involvement in the Association.

Because volunteering in the Association often requires a significant commitment of personal time, I have always been up-front about the responsibilities of the role for which I have encouraged members to self-nominate. Never have I nominated any member for an activist role without first speaking with them, explaining the roles and responsibilities of the position and gaining their commitment to accept the nomination.

Over the last seven years I have tried to mentor at least one person every year in an attempt to draw them into the organization and hopefully engage them to the level where they decide to continue on their own. It is my hope that they too would continue to develop others in the same way I mentored them.  I have been successful in my efforts and I can say with confidence that those I have mentored continue to be active.

Not everyone recruits new activists in the same way.  There has been significant frustration on the part of the activists and the Association because many of our volunteers have come to their roles as a result of being nominated out-of-the-blue, and without their knowledge, by a member of a governance body. For example, I have often heard that delegates and committee members felt flattered when contacted by staff to confirm their nomination and often accepted the nomination without a full understanding of what the role entailed.

In some cases, members elected this way are quite successful in their new role and in others; they found the responsibilities too time-consuming or not what they thought the role would be and had to withdraw.  This put an added burden on the Elections and Credentials Committee and staff to initiate the process to post and fill the vacancy. It also frustrates the existing activist base because they have to continue the responsibilities of the committee without a full complement of volunteers. This places an additional burden on the volunteer time and potentially, the AMAPCEO financial resources if paid leave needs to be increased in order for the committee to meet its performance objectives.

Perhaps if we publicly post on the AMAPCEO website a .pdf of the completed nomination forms as soon as they are received (and determined in order by the Elections and Credentials Committee) the nominee will be more inclined to reflect upon the significance of the responsibilities that they will be assuming should they be successfully elected. Public posting is a way of achieving transparency in the elections process.

AMAPCEO Constitution Article 55.8 Nominations received by the committee [Elections and Credentials Committee] shall not be confidential at any time, and any candidate shall be free to withdraw in favour of another.

By-law 1, Article 15. The nominations shall not be confidential at any time and candidates shall be permitted to withdraw their nominations at any time up to the election.

When members are nominated for volunteer roles without their initial consent, it is equal to a shotgun approach to recruitment.  My approach, described earlier, is more defined and includes on-going support, education and feedback so that the member has a greater chance of success in their role and may then choose to expand their involvement into other roles. This is also the basis of the above diagram as it is part and parcel of a larger development process.

Activist development and member engagement takes work -- a lot of work. This was most recently demonstrated by they current Vice-President, Sally Pardaens, in her role coordinating the mobilization activities for this round of OPS bargaining. Intensive planning and coordination was required to ensure that members were engaged over a significant length of time.

We need to continue to engage members from the mobilization activities to draw them into suitable, continuing roles so that we can sustain interest at a broader level. Sustained interest ensures that members are aware of the regular cycle of AMAPCEO’s activities and are able to participate fully in those activities.  For example, on-going communication would hopefully keep members engaged to the level where they understand the reason why we are calling for nominations and the purpose of the committee or governance role for which we are recruiting. 

Perhaps, this will lead to greater interest and more self-nominations being submitted. To go further, maybe we will receive an increased level of voter turnout – at least at the chapter level.

The above diagram is my vision of how I see activist recruitment and development unfolding in the Association and how we can move towards attracting a greater level of involvement and volunteer commitment from our members.

As I mentioned earlier, the diagram had been shared with the Board in 2011 and given to another Board member for follow through.  I am not saying my idea is the best, put I have faith in its ability to create a culture of sustained engagement.

If you agree with the concept, please re-elect me as Director so I can continue to champion this concept and help us move closer to a member-driven Association. You should also re-elect James Dawson, who fully supports building and creating more opportunities for meaningful member engagement.

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