How to Hire Right for Engagement

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The most sustainable nonprofits have talented teams. Have you considered that your staff must be engaged before they can effectively engage members? Staff engagement starts during the hiring process. Associations with successful engagement programs say it has changed the way they hire. Even when you have all the right people in place, it is important to continuously engage your staff just as you would your members to get the best outcomes. Here are some staff engagement ideas featured in Entrepreneur from Dwight Merriman (founder of several successful startups):

  1. Ensure that those you hire understand your mission at the outset — those that understand the mission will be a better fit for the long haul
  2. Foster collaboration between staff — open huddles and team meetings encourage collaboration and engagement
  3. Educate staff regularly – when people feel they are growing and learning they stay connected
  4. Be transparent to build trust – communicating the good, the bad, and the ugly encourages open communication and engagement

Staff engagement stays top of mind at the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast. It’s a big part of the overall engagement strategy. Kathy Cannon heads up their engagement efforts and she fosters engagement with her team by facilitating a staff huddle twice a day to talk about training topics and highlight engagement achievements at the branch. The team also devotes 10 minutes to “Connections” (discussing connections with members) at their bi-weekly staff meetings and they regularly involve branches that are seeing the most success in team trainings to spread good habits across the association. The team there has a laser focus on quality interactions. Thanks to a strategic engagement plan and consistent tracking, the team doubled interactions logged from 3% of all check-ins to nearly 6% of all check-ins (that represents an increase of nearly 3,000  interactions per month!)

This is an excerpt from our recent Engagement Insights Report. You can view or download the full report on the Insights Report page.

Step by Step Guide To Assemble An Engagement Team

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Even the best engagement plan fails without the proper backing and follow through. In fact, the number one reason engagement plans aren’t successful is the lack of team commitment to execute  the required initiatives. If you are looking to engage more members and improve member retention, then you’ve probably considered putting a member engagement plan in place. Don’t let your engagement goals languish before they even get started. Here is a step-by-step guide to establish a member engagement team and help rally them around your cause:

Gather your stakeholders: Who are the folks most invested in gaining and keeping members at your organization? Who is in charge of membership, marketing and recruitment of members? Stakeholders need a leadership team member that can champion the cause for member engagement at your organization.  Ideally, stakeholders include representatives from:

  1. Leadership
  2. Marketing
  3. Membership
  4. The frontline
  5. Your volunteer baseyour-engagement-team-deliverable-web copy

Keep in mind your Member Engagement Team may only involve some of these representatives, but they need to be aware that they are responsible for driving member engagement initiatives. Gathering all stakeholders on the front end ensures proper communication later in the process. The Member Engagement Team will be responsible for keeping all the teams they represent in the loop while driving member engagement initiatives forward. Learn more about Engagement Team Roles in this Engagement Team  Fact Sheet.

Take time to establish your goals and objectives. Being specific about your goals helps measure success and stay on track. Are you trying to retain members, gain members, or connect your members to your mission? We all want to achieve these items but it helps to nail down one or two things that will lead to these outcomes and make the most impact with a quick win. By creating one goal and attaching a measurement to it you are creating clarity for your staff by defining priorities.

Establish a baseline and a way to measure progress. Once you have a goal in mind it is important to measure your success. By establishing a benchmark from your current status, you can measure your success incrementally based on when you want to achieve your goals.

For example, the team at the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast had a goal to engage more members by having quality in-person conversations. They decided to focus on increasing in-person conversations as a percentage of total check ins. They established a baseline that their staff was having meaningful conversations with 3% of check ins. They wanted to more than double their quality conversations to 7% of check ins. By creating a clear goal and maintaining a laser-focus on one metric, the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast achieved dramatic improvement to 7,000 monthly in-person conversations across their organization!

Once goals are set, everyone at the organization needs to be very clear on when and how they will be measured. Setting attainable goals at the beginning gives a firm foundation for growth and expanded achievement plans. For example, for the first three months an organization will work to reach 5% of all check ins with a quality in-person conversation. Once that is reached, up it to 7%.

Assign Tasks.  Once you meet with the team to discuss overarching goals and define first steps, you must assign tasks. This is where each representative may consider involving other team mates. Break down your one measurable up-front goal into specific steps. If your goal, like the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, is to have more in-person conversations and to monitor the quality of those conversations, you are going to need to establish the following processes:

  • Create a tool to establish a baseline (this could be as simple as an excel spreadsheet)
  • Train all member-facing staff to track their interactions
  • Set interaction goals per staff member and review the interactions and tally the results
  • Monitor those results

Once you have your tasks, assign them to your team as appropriate.

Rally the team. Get your team invested in the results and be sure to check in regularly to prevent or work through any roadblocks. Member engagement initiatives must be supported and encouraged from the top down. Senior leaders are responsible for setting the tone for the organization and defining goals with achievable expectations. Without that, engagement rarely makes it out of the leadership level. Other ways to rally the team include coaching for staff that are struggling with engagement goals and applauding staff when they meet or exceed goals.

Have you started engagement initiatives at your organization?  How did you assemble your team?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Video: Adapt to Change

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“To change lives, you have to adapt to change.”

That’s the premise of a new video from Daxko, out last week. Daxko is the largest provider of mission-critical software for YMCAs, JCCs, and other member-based health and wellness centers. The video talks about the changing health of communities, the changing ways community members connect, and how health and wellness organizations can stay ahead of the trend with processes and software dedicated to staying with current trends. Watch the video here:

“Community health is changing. Obesity and type 2 diabetes are on the rise. Daxko helps you promote healthy living to reverse this trend.

Demographics are changing. From millennials to boomers, Daxko helps you connect with members through social media, targeted email, and text notifications.

Technology is changing. It can be challenging to keep pace. Only Daxko provides the integrated software, predictive analytics, and expertise that allow you to stay ahead of the curve.

With Daxko it has never been a better time to join forces with the largest peer network of community wellness centers, Ys, and JCCs.”

Akron Area Y More than Doubles In-Person Engagement

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Earlier in the year we published a story about the Akron Area YMCA’s efforts to increase in-person engagement at their centers. We spoke with their Technology Director, Ken Hoyt, about his efforts to motivate staff to create good engagement habits.

Today we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of conversations that his staff is having with members but also an increase in the quality of conversations initiated and tracked. In fact, looking at the first half of May, the Akron Area Y is reporting 899 in-person conversations. This is more than double the 404 conversations that were tracked during the whole month of April.

Why is it important to track these conversations? This is the best way to get stories. The stories the staff at the Akron Y have logged range from basic:

“Since joining the Y ___ has tried to come every weekday. He really enjoys his new routine of working out before work.”

To the inspirational:

“___ just lost her husband 2 months ago. Trying to get back on her feet. Coming here has really helped her cope. She is interested in water aerobics for her bones and joints. She thinks she will try it next week.”

By having these conversations, the Akron Area Y is connecting with their members on a deeper level and they are logging these stories to help tell the Y story to those who don’t know or don’t understand it. These stories serve as a foundation for community outreach as well as donor and volunteer recruitment. The mission of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility is reflected in stories like these:

“[I] talked about her 11 year old using the fitness room because school will be out soon. I told her that if he is big enough to use the machines and goes through teen wellness that would be okay for the summer. We discussed making the teen wellness a one on one session with a wellness coach for several sessions. We also talked about camp and volunteering for day camp for the summer as an option for him to be involved in the Y…”

“I asked what his workout goal is and he said, ‘not to worry about his wife for an hour.’ He talked extensively about his wife and her medical condition. She is home now and resting.”

“Got to sit with ___ and her newest little princess who is 2 weeks old now. Said they were all doing very well. She is ready for a run and the doctor has permitted her to start back because she was so active throughout the pregnancy. She and the kids just came in to play with the other kids in CW today. The kids were missing their friends.”

You can set your staff up for success when capturing conversations with members. By tracking and recording these interactions you have the stories that support the Y mission, inspire staff, donors, and volunteers, and benchmark your engagement efforts with your members.