A Step-by-step action plan to find new volunteers and participants for your project

You’ve committed to setting up a new project in your community, you’re passionate about it, you’re excited, you’re ready and once you want to get started this feeling is creeping up on you, this little fear: What if no one joins? What if nobody comes along, what if I’m the only one who wants to do this?

You’re not alone, most people who start something new, however big or small the idea, get that feeling at some point. The best way to overcome it is to just roll up your sleeves and get things done, step by step and most importantly, starting small.

Usually the biggest challenge in the beginning is getting people behind this idea who share your excitement and join you. You want as much support and as much participation as possible right?

Here are 8 steps that you can take to promote your idea from the very beginning, starting with just dipping your toe into the water up to completely jumping in. No need to rush anything, no-one else is doing this yet in your community right?

It’s all about using a mix of different channels and keeping people engaged who support you.

1. Create a home base for your project

Before you start to spread the word, you need a place you can lead everyone to, where people can look up all the information about your project and reach out to you easily, your homebase.

There are tools that allow anyone with basic technical skills to create a website, like WordPress or Squarespace, but there are quicker and easier ways that might be more suitable for you, because what you really want to do is create a community around your project rather than just having a brochure for your project.

At ChangeX we provide you with an immediate, good-looking site where you can present everything that’s important and build your team and community.
Make sure you answer the main questions people have, who come to your page adequately:

  • What is it about?
  • When is it happening?
  • Where do you meet?
  • How can people get involved?

Mention, what’s most important to you first, for example like Audrey did on her The Way We Were Drogheda page here.

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If you didn’t start your project through ChangeX, you can get access to your page as well. (Please write to [email protected]).

Lots of people also set up Facebook pages, as that’s the platform where everyone hangs out all day. Facebook is a great addition and you should have your Facebook page at some stage. The trouble with Facebook: It provides one-fits-all pages and mechanisms, wether you’re Coca Cola who have a whole team managing their Facebook page and campaigns or a local changemaker.

If you’re not posting updates every week, and follow a long list of tricks, it will be hard for you to actually show up in your Follower’s newsfeed. Soon you end up spending money on advertising in order to reach the people who showed an interest in helping you out or joining you.

2. Make people care and tell your story

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Getting more people involved in your project and teaming up with you is a lot about how you sell your idea. Every one of us has their own worries and interests, in order to get people’s attention you have to make them care, and they want to care.

Mobilizing thousands of voters, the Yes-Equality campaigners took inspiration from a young woman on the Yes-Side of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 who was wearing a home-made placard on which she had painted ‘I’m Voting Yes, Ask Me Why’. After that, people telling their stories about why they were voting yes became the core strategy of the campaign. (See Irish Times)

Ask yourself why you’re getting involved in this initiative and tell others that story when you’re looking for supporters, volunteers or sponsors. Use the story when you talk to people or already go a step further:

Why not post an update on your ChangeX page telling that story? Depending on your project and potential audience, you could also consider sharing a post on LinkedIn, Medium. That might be a good idea if you’d like to get your co-workers involved in setting up a CoderDojo which is coding club for kids or if you are a teacher and get involved with an idea like Playworks. Also think about internal or specific publications of your company. You can also submit your story to ChangeX and get it published on the ChangeX blog.

Don’t shy back from telling your story because you’re not an experienced writer or entertainer. As the American author Grace Paley used to say: “Everyone is eloquent when telling their own story.”

3. Bring people you know on board first

Share your idea and your story with the people you know first. Your friends, family, colleagues. They’re your first supporters and will be happy to help you spread the word further.
Even if they won’t be the ones who’ll have the time or interest to get involved in this particular idea, they’ll know someone who does, so include as many people as possible.

Be sure to be clear about how they can support you when you write to them: Ask them to join, like or follow your page and even more important, to share your page with their networks through mail, Facebook, Whatsapp groups or whatever tools they use.

Having the first people joining your page, may it be on ChangeX or Facebook will be important to show there is an interest already. It will give confidence to everyone who comes across your project next, that this is something worth engaging with, what you’re building up here is called ‘social proof’ and it’s very effective.

4. Talk to everyone about your idea

From now on your project accompanies you wherever you go and you can end up talking about it all the time. No need to hold yourself back from taking every chance of mentioning it, as help and advice often comes from places where you least expect it. The effect of Word of Mouth is one of the most important ones and will pay off over time. Whether it’s driven by ‘offline’ conversations or your online communication.

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Also think about where else to add the link leading to your project page. How about your Twitter profile? Your personal Facebook page, LinkedIn. It might also be effective in your e-mail signature, depending on your day-to-day e-mail usage, or on your personal business cards.

5. Engage with your first supporters

Once you have a solid following and have gotten some feedback from people who showed an interest in your project, bring them together. What ‘solid’ means is up to you. It can be 5 people or 20, but don’t wait too long after you first get the word out so that the excitement is still fresh.

Invite everyone to meet, if you see an opportunity to get free drinks, make use of it, it always helps! Use that meet-up to strengthen the relationships between everyone, to hear the stories of why everyone joined and to give people a chance to bring up their ideas. See what kind of skills everyone has and involve people as much as you can, give them roles and responsibilities, that will make them better ambassadors for the project and strengthens the community spirit.

Don’t forget to document the meetup and take some pictures, even better if you have someone who can take on that job for you.

6. Update people on your progress and keep everyone engaged

The time briefly after your first meeting is just as important as the meeting itself, don’t let things slide now and keep people engaged. For example, share an update about the meetup via your ChangeX page, your Facebook page or via email. Pick up on the energy you felt at the get-together and thank everyone who has been there ( – You can’t say thank you too often -) and incorporate the pictures you took.

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With that update, think about how you want people to feel when they see it? For everyone who joined, how about: “I’m part of something important and impactful.”, for everyone who couldn’t join it might be something like “I wish I had been there”. Keep that in mind while writing your update or email.

And again: Let people know what the next steps are now and how they can get involved. If possible, already share the date of the next get-together.

7. Share your project with a broader influential group

You’re in a good position now to go broader. You have a website, a first solid group of supporters, and something already happened.

Now you could make a list of people who you don’t know yet in person but who you think would be great to join or support you. If you’re starting a Grow It Yourself group that might be the … of the allotment, if you start … , also think of the local council, the local community centre. Anyone really who might have an interest in the success of your project because they share your passion for the topic or your interest in seeing your community thrive. Brainstorm, get all the names together, search for people on Twitter, look up Facebook groups. Depending on the size of your community this might be a big opportunity or a rather small one, but don’t leave it un-tried.

8. Use your local newspapers and radio stations

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Your local newspaper or radio station are one of your most important allies to get the word out once you’ve turned the idea into first action. They want your community to thrive as well and hence like to see you succeed.

Get back to your own story and the stories you heard from the people who joined you and tell it to the local journalists who you’d like to report about your project.

No need to be afraid of giving an interview on the radio or for a newspaper. You might be surprised how easy it is for you: You’re the only expert for this project in your area, you know why you do it and how to do it, that’s all you need.

Good Luck!

For each of these 8 tips we’d love to give you more guidance over time. Please post all your questions and feedback in the comments below or send them via mail to [email protected]

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