Indivisible groups across the country did an incredible job resisting the Trump agenda during the first 100 days. But we know this is a marathon not a sprint—we have a lot of work ahead of us! We’ve heard repeatedly that groups are planning ahead and thinking through how to keep members motivated.
This document covers strategies for group and team leaders to prevent burnout and keep group members motivated for the long haul. You can also watch this video of a recent training session we did on sustaining momentum for more ideas.
Build a Community
People are social creatures: we are motivated by relationships. Members are more likely to continue to participate if they feel connected to each other. Here are some ways that you can encourage a sense of community in your group:
Make sure everyone who joins your group has a one-on-one conversation with an established group member.
- Ask about their motivations in joining the group, explain how the group works, and answer questions.
Encourage members to get to know each other.
- If you can, provide name tags and food.
- If the group is small enough, start with introductions and one or two sentences about what inspired each person to get involved. If it’s on the larger size, make sure to welcome new faces each week.
- Reserve your space for an extra hour after your meeting for members to socialize.
Organize social events for your group.
- Identify something everyone in your group can enjoy that is low cost, such as a picnic or potluck.
- Try to check in with group members from different backgrounds about what type of event they would enjoy: there may be issues with a plan or location that a person from one community would not realize while a person from a different background would feel acutely.
Socialize by team or sub-committee.
- Many of our groups have hundreds of people and it’s hard to build relationships across such a big group. That’s ok! Just make sure that team leaders understand part of their job is to build relationships and community within their teams.
Recognize Members for their Hard Work and Skills
Appreciation goes a long way to making people feel like something is worth their time. Thank them!
- Be specific: for example, it’s better to say “I really appreciate the way that you always offer creative solutions to problems at our meetings” or “that complicated project never would have gotten off the ground without your thorough planning and follow-through” than just “thank you.”
- Congratulate them on the impact of their work “Thanks to your awesome idea, we had more people than ever come out to our event.”
- In fact: don’t just say thank you, say please: when group members do excellent work, give them more responsibility rather than just saying thank you.
Create opportunities for meaningful and interesting work.
- Be open to ideas and promote them, consistently giving credit to the originator.
- Break up the work your group has to do into baskets of responsibility so that as many members as possible own some work and no one person shoulders all the work.
- Value different kinds of contributions: some may be great writers, researchers, community leaders, project leaders, spokespeople, strategists, or social glue.
- Ask members about their strengths early on and keep checking in about whether they feel like they are in the right role for their skills, experience, and interest.
Advertise professional development, when appropriate.
- Have conversations about the skill sets members are using (e.g., organizing, writing, facilitation, design, leadership) and ask what you can do to help them advertise that experience.
- However, try be conscious of where people are starting from to be sure you aren’t patronizing them.
Confusion and a lack of transparency can discourage members from taking part or raising their hand to take on more responsibility.
Ask group members what they think!
- Whether it is through informal conversations, check-ins, or a survey, make sure communication is a two-way street.
- Remember that Organizing is Mainly About Listening.
Explain the things that may seem obvious to leaders or core established members.
- Explain in simple terms to new members what it means to be in the group and how you run the group.
- Make any major announcements multiple times in different forums: for example, email an announcement and then summarize in it in the next meeting as well.
- Advertise who is on point for different activity areas and how to contact them.
- Consider writing up or creating diagrams that communicate key information, such as how your group makes important decisions or explaining your leadership structure.
Be transparent about the vision for your group and your plan going forward.
- After leadership team meetings, send out updates to all your members summarizing key decisions.
Use Group Member Time Effectively
Run well organized meetings with clear expected outcomes so people feel like their time is valued.
- Check out our guides on How to Run a Meeting, Tips for How to Manage Large Groups, and How to Make Decisions as a Group.
Don’t be afraid to set expectations, deadlines, and requirements.
- Talk to groups members about what is reasonable and keep checking in about whether they have too much—or not enough!
- Be conscious that group members have different life circumstances and don’t penalize them for it. For example, a group member with family commitments or who works multiple jobs may have time limitations, but we need that person’s voice in this movement.
Inspire Your Members
Take time to remind your group about why this fight is so important.
- Celebrate successes, even seemingly small ones. Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House. They should be easily advancing the Trump agenda, and yet they’re struggling. What might appear to be small victories are in fact a major demonstration of your constituent power.
- Make time for any group members who are most threatened by Trump’s racist, authoritarian, and corrupt agenda to share their stories.
Use the following questions as a guide for a conversation in your leadership meeting about group member motivation:
- What are we doing now that works well to keep group members motivated and returning?
- How are we currently building a community among our group members? How can we do better?
- Are we recognizing members for their work and skills? How can we do better?
- How are we communicating important information and decisions? How can we do better?
- Are we soliciting feedback? What more can we do?
- Which of these areas need improvement? Which are the priorities?
- What are our specific step by step plans to make these improvements?