Recap: Maintaining Momentum in Community Groups webinar
The third webinar in our Creating Inspiring Rural Community Leadership and Engagement (CIRCLE) program delved into the ways community groups can maintain their momentum, stay relevant and continue to succeed. FRRR CEO, Alexandra Gartmann talked to guests Ian McClelland, founder and chair of Birchip Cropping Group and Kerry Anderson, Project Manager for Community Leadership Loddon Murray, about their insights into what community groups can do to continue to thrive.
It's all about influence
Borrowing from author Steven Covey’s concept of ‘spheres of influence’ from his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, community groups can apply this theory to successfully manage the groups who have an impact on their organisation.
For community groups, spheres of influence look like this:
- Volunteers and members – those people within your immediate influence
- The community itself – those you need to work with and serve
- Supporters and stakeholders – those who could – positively or negatively – affect what you are doing.
Ensure you are clear on your purpose
At the core of your spheres of influence is your purpose – it’s critical that everyone understands what your purpose is and that it’s still relevant. Check in on your purpose regularly and communicate it frequently. Sometimes your purpose may change or adapt, depending on the needs of the community you serve. The Country Women’s Association is a great example of a group who has adapted to maintain their relevance and are really active in communicating that via several channels, including social media.
Share the load, say thanks and celebrate!
Together with a clear purpose, your inner-most sphere of members and volunteers forms the core of your organisation. So it’s important to attract, retain and engage people. After all, as Ian explained “there is nothing like success to breed involvement.”
Some practical tips shared by the speakers included talking about your plans and achievements; getting people involved; and providing them with opportunities to step up and take on more responsibility. Play to people’s skill sets and help them develop new ones - see if you can mentor another member or volunteer to teach them the ropes. Or delegate to others when your load is getting too heavy – people want to help, but need to be asked.
Most of all, say thank you personally and publicly, and celebrate your wins as a group.
Connecting with your community
The community your group serves sits in the next sphere. If you can talk to everyone – great! If not, use as many different channels as possible to reach your community.
“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I worked with the Cohuna community who held a meeting in an old butter factory – the venue was a real drawcard for people. Also consider how you could use social media. It’s free or relatively inexpensive and it makes it easy for people to participate,” said Kerry.
Communicate openly with your community, tell your story, update them regularly on what your group is up to, receive and respond to feedback and use different mediums to do it.
Part of keeping people interested is trying new things. It’s ok to make mistakes, just make sure you learn from them.
Creating a broad base of supporters
The outer most sphere of influence is your supporters and stakeholders, including politicians and local council, funders, or even people who no longer live in your community but still want to feel connected to it.
“It’s about identifying who those stakeholders are and then keeping in touch with them,” Ian explained. “We use a ‘friends list’ and this helps us keep track of interested parties and any support they can offer. You never know how someone may be able to help, or maybe they have tried something similar before and can offer their advice? This list even helped us find our CEO in 2001.”
Another avenue is formally appointing a network of ambassadors and advocates. They can increase your group’s influence in the broader community by helping to spread the word about the work you do.
Maintaining your community group’s momentum means keeping people informed and involved and trying new things to keep your group fresh and relevant. The key to connecting with different groups is communication, and while social media may make it easier to connect with more people, you still need to talk to people about what you are doing – in whatever way you can.
You can listen to the recording of the webinar (WMV file) - feel free to share it with your colleagues.
Some other useful resources include:
- Buloke Shire Council business and volunteer resources including this video:
- Gardiner Foundation has a useful Project Planning Toolkit
- Ian Plowman’s research on innovation in rural communities
- Justice Connect
- Volunteering Australia
There were some great questions asked during the webinar and we have captured them at the end of this article.
Save the date for our fourth CIRCLE webinar on 16 April 2015. Andrew Huffer, Community Development Professional, will talk about how to develop and continue to grow leadership capabilities in community groups. Look out for more information coming soon.
Questions from the webinar
Simply click on the questions below to reveal the answers.
How do you maintain momentum when you've lost key people?
- Ensure you have good systems and records in place. This means that remaining members can continue on with the groups’ plans and activities. Having everything in one person’s head is a risk to any organisation. Team changes can open up opportunities for others to step-up.
- Look at whether your group is still needed. What is your purpose and are you still relevant? You can continue on, but you may need to alter your course or focus.
Tips and tricks about succession planning?
- A skills audit is a valuable tool to give you an idea of the breadth and depth of your member’s experience. It can also highlight any knowledge gaps that may need to be addressed. Invest in your people with training and providing professional development opportunities. Encourage others to take on more responsibility but be forgiving too.
- Have an appetite for risk – try some new things and if mistakes are made, learn from them!
- Tap into other resources like corporates who offer skilled volunteers and community leadership programs across Australia.
How do you delegate and help others let go?
- The more you feel you want to run with an idea yourself, the more you need to share the load. Encourage others to step-up and offer your support. Training and mentoring of others in community organisation is especially important. This will help members feel equipped to take on more responsibility when the opportunity arises.
- Sometimes projects can seem really big and daunting. Breaking them into smaller parts and involving others can make them easier to manage. Plus, this provides an opportunity for growth and learning by getting more people involved.
There is also the Five Rights of Delegation model that could be used to help you delegate. It clarifies the critical components of the delegation decision-making process and is a framework used extensively in the nursing sector:
- Right Task
- Right Circumstances
- Right Person
- Right Direction/Communication
- Right Supervision/Evaluation.