New activists are coming out of the woodwork across the country right now. In the weeks after the presidential election, existing groups scrambled to find larger meeting spaces that could handle the deluge. New groups started in living rooms and grew from there.
If you’re leading one of those groups, then you know it’s not hard to keep the anger going: the Trump administration provides daily outrages. But it’s a bit harder to turn that anger into the sustained engagement that you need to create change.
How can we keep new members coming back?
1. Help people connect.
The strongest commitments to change come from groups of people who know each other well. Whether you’re in a community where everyone already knows your name, or a big, anonymous city, people are more likely to come back and take action in the future if they feel connected to others in the group.
You can start this through a simple round of introductions: say your name, where you’re coming from, and how you’re feeling that day. You can also get more involved, with small groups breaking out to have deeper conversations about what motivates them.
People connect even more if they’re having fun. Lead everyone in a game, a song, or—if you’re feeling daring—a dance. Creativity fosters connection.
2. Agree on why you’re there.
This is how we go beyond the connection and solidarity of showing up once, into the action that brings people back. Don’t assume that new people know what the group does or why it exists.
Running a separate orientation session can help new members understand your history and mission. If that’s not feasible, doing a two-minute overview at the start of the meeting can be good for both new and old members.
If it’s a completely new group and you’re not even sure why you’re there, that’s okay! You can all figure it out together.
3. Tell them what’s next.
No one should leave a meeting thinking: “okay, so what now?” New members should get an immediate assignment, signaling that you need them involved and engaged.
Fortunately, that assignment doesn’t need to be hard. It could be participating in an upcoming action or joining a committee meeting. You could even assign some reading that helps newer activists get up to speed.
4. Follow up, follow up, follow up.
At a minimum, you should send a quick note thanking everyone for coming. Even without more detail, people will naturally think back to the meeting and reflect on what they learned or what they’re supposed to do next.
Sending a full recap with action steps is even better, of course. Then follow up again as the deadlines or next meeting approaches.
5. Remember: not everyone can come every time.
And that’s okay. Don’t think that someone is gone forever if they disappear for a while. They might be involved in other groups, or have family commitments that take priority.
If they’ve been to one meeting, then it should be easy for them to join up again for town halls, marches, and election day—the critical moments when you need everyone you can get.