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Help Sheet

Finding helpers for your CDI

The funding proposal is due this Friday, the guest speaker you had scheduled for the next education session has pulled out, so the invitations haven't gone out yet, and the newsletter is behind schedule.

To top it all off, your treasurer has decided to move interstate. You realise that once again it's up to you and one or two other workhorses to make sure that the group doesn't go under.

Sound familiar?

Are you tired of trying to do everything yourself?

You need a plan to recruit new members to share the workload and inject new ideas and resources into the group.

This help sheet will give you some ideas on how to go about finding new helpers by taking a clear step-by-step approach to recruitment.

In other words, you need to develop a clear written plan to make your search for new members more efficient and effective.

It should not be just a once-off recruitment drive but a strategy that will take you from where you are now, a group in desperate need of help, to a group that has a constant supply of new helpers.

Why plan?

Most groups baulk at the idea of actually sitting down and writing a plan. They argue that the time they'd have to spend developing and writing a plan would be better spent actually recruiting.

In nearly all cases, however, a planned recruitment drive will achieve greater results than an unplanned, unsystematic effort.

Planning actually saves time in the long run. It helps to focus on creative and practical ways to achieve the ultimate goal of recruiting new members and increases the chances of accomplishing whatever goals we set for ourselves.

Committing yourself to writing things down is very important. You don't want to waste time going over issues and remaking decisions that you've already agreed on.

The planning process

The first stage of the planning process is to ask yourself the following questions.

The goals

The strategies

Evaluation and continuous improvement

The answers to these questions will form the building blocks of your plan and are the foundations of any strategic planning you may wish to do in the future.

The goals

Why do you want or need members?

You're feeling overwhelmed and you just need people to help you out. But what specifically do you want them to do?

Write down the sorts of people you need now and you'll need over the next 12 months.

How many and what sort of members do you need?

Under the sorts of people you need, write down the tasks you need done and how many people you need to do them.

Take the example of a small but incorporated advocacy group that meets monthly in a rented room, hosts occasional special events, engages in fundraising, produces a newsletter and responds to issues of concern as they arise.

Tasks Number of People Frequency


Liaison with council re venue & Room bookings 1 (Administrative) Monthly
Organise morning tea including cups tea coffee milk, biscuits 1 (Administrative) Monthly
Organise payments for venue & food/drink/postage etc 1 (Treasurer) Throughout the year
Correspond with members - send out agenda & minutes 1 (Administrative) In between meetings
Meeting minute taker & type up 1 (Administrative) After meetings
Chair meetings 1 Monthly


Solicit articles and news from other groups 1 (Editor) Throughout the year
Maintain mail list, organise printing & mailout 1 (Administrative/publishing) Throughout the year


Liaise with & book guest speakers 1 (Administrative) Throughout the year
Advertise events through networks and other newsletters 1 (Administrative) Throughout the year
Communicate with group on issues that need a response 1 (Systemic Advocate) As required
Funding proposals 1 (Grants Coordinator) As required


1 Ongoing throughout the year

Some people are obviously able to do more than one task but these judgements need to be made carefully according to members' skills, expertise and available time.

Taking time to teach and learn valuable skills that individuals in the group have is another way of decreasing burnout and enlivening a group.

You need to be careful that you don't overload members, or give them tasks they dislike; otherwise you'll be back to square one with a very small group of people doing everything and becoming increasingly fed up.

Once you've completed this exercise you've articulated the goals of your membership drive: that is, you now know how many people you need and for what purposes.

The strategies

Who's going to recruit them?

Determining who seeks out and signs up the new members is essential to your planning. You and your helpers can plan together the approaches you'll use to get the people you need.

Rather than taking a scattergun approach of everybody trying to recruit the same people, give different recruitment tasks to different people. Apart from distributing the work evenly, it will mean that different people are not approaching Sue (the prospect with accounting experience) every time she walks down the street. This can be annoying, and it gives the impression that your group is so disorganised that no one knows what anyone else is doing.

A small group of people can achieve so much if you're organised. In the words of Margaret Mead:

Where should you look?

This becomes less of a problem now you know what you need and you can more accurately reach the people who have the skills you require.

For example, you've identified that you need somebody who knows how to handle money. Obvious places to look include business, accounting firms, local government, or academic institutions.

You won't know who wants to get involved unless you ask. Include all possible avenues for recruitment in your plan.

One idea that's often overlooked is hidden in your own records. Go back through your membership lists from two, three or five years previously and write to lapsed members telling them you're looking for people to take an active role with the group.

At the worst, you'll re-awaken interest in your group and widen your membership base; from there you should be able to increase the number of people prepared to take an active membership role in the group.

When you're signing up members, include a section on helping out, asking people to list areas where they would be prepared to assist the group and also to list their occupations, skills or interests. Sign-up time is normally the period when new members are most full of enthusiasm for the group and prepared to take on an active involvement.

The occupation question will also provide you with an easy reference for times when you do require the skills they nominated. If someone with appropriate expertise can't or won't do the task themselves they should still be able to nominate someone else who possesses the same skills to help out, or at least to let you know what sort of questions you need to ask.

When should we start?

Recruitment is not a one-off activity. It should be something that's ongoing. Remember you don't want to be stuck in the position you might be in now, feeling overwhelmed and alone.

It's obviously easier to recruit at some times rather than others. It's easier to recruit members when your organisation is rallying around a particular project or issue - for example:

Include a recruitment timeline with your plan of action. This should include targets to reach each week or month on the way to the ultimate goal.

How should you approach potential members?

When you're asking people to help out, remember that they need to feel that they're going to get something out of it. You want to make potential members feel as though being involved will benefit them - that they'll learn new skills, or raise money to do more of the important work that they believe in.

If people agree to help out, be ready to give them details about when, where and how they can contribute.

If someone says no to your request, don't take it personally or get discouraged. It might be that they're over-committed at the moment, or want to take a break from this sort of work. Make a note to try again at another time.

Evaluation and continuous improvement

What could you have done better?

After you've run your membership drive, review your performance. Even if you have achieved your recruitment goals, you may find that it all could have happened more quickly, or you may have noticed that some of your team were more successful than others.

Take time out to review your plan in the light of honest discussions with both your recruiting team and the new members. Ask them what went well and what wasn't so successful. Listen carefully and review your goals and strategies on a regular basis.

Another way to win active members and help to keep the ones you've got is to pay tribute to your volunteers at very regular intervals. While people don't help out just for the recognition, it's an added bonus when they know the rest of the group values their contribution.

Have a section in your newsletter which names the people who help out each week or month and thanks them for their efforts. It's a reminder to everyone that nothing comes about without the help of a dedicated group of people.



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