One of the first projects started at Indivisible Somerville was our #Outreach lab. The Outreach lab focuses on getting people engaged in Indivisible Somerville for the first time. They do targeted, personal outreach to connect new volunteers with the issues they’re passionate about. The focus of this lab is to turn passive allies into active and engaged supporters.

Since it’s been going for a while, and we’ve seen the positive results, we wanted to share what we’ve learned with others.

The first step in the new volunteer process is our join form. When someone signs up on our website, their information is automatically sent into a database on a service called Airtable. Creating an Airtable database that works just right can take a little bit of time, so we’ve created the Indivisible Somerville Outreach Database template that you can use to get started. Let’s walk through it step by step.

The first thing you’ll want to do is familiarize yourself with the different views. A “View” is just a different way of displaying the same data. Airtable has your full list of volunteers, but it can display certain data in a different way. Let’s walk through each view one-by-one.

Join Form

This is your join form. New volunteers will fill this out when they’re interested in joining your group. It asks a number of questions about what they’re good at, and what they’re interested in working on. One of the great things about this form is that once someone’s taken the time to fill it out, you know they’re at least somewhat interested. They’d probably love to hear from you.

You can find more information about how to use forms on Airtable’s Guide to Forms.

All Members

This is everyone who’s ever signed up. You’ll be able to use this data to produce mailing lists, or search for volunteers with particular skills or interests. Use this view to figure out how many signups you’ve received, or to see who you haven’t made contact yet.

Assignments View

This is where the Outreach team starts their work. Every week, the lead assigns new volunteers to a member of the outreach team. As you can see in the screenshot, we have one new unassigned volunteer, and I have one assigned to me. You can assign a new volunteer to someone on your outreach team by dragging the record to the appropriate column. I might assign this new volunteer to either Nina or Peter.

Outreach Liaison View

This is my personal view of everyone who’s assigned to me. Each member of the outreach team should have their own copy of this view that they can use to do their work. When you make a copy of the Outreach Liaison View, you’ll want to update the filters. You can find a great explanation on how to do this from Airtable’s Guide to Views.

Working in my view, I’ll send an email to each volunteer every couple of days. We find that five separate attempts at contacting someone works best. Not everyone responds the first time, but after the third or fourth attempt at reaching out, the response rate improves dramatically. If someone doesn’t reply after the 5th contact, we assume they’re disengaged, and they go on the “Disengaged” list.

If you scroll to the right in your Outreach Liaison View, you’ll see a couple of other columns.

  • Disengaged: These people haven’t replied, even after we’ve reached out on 5 separate occasions. They might just be interested in the news letter.
  • Wrote Back: Great! You got a reply. Now it’s your mission to help them find the best way to get involved. Ask them about their skills or hobbies, and suggest that they come to your next meeting. We find that giving new volunteers a small task that they can accomplish quickly is a great way to build their involvement gradually.
  • Do Not Contact: Who knows, maybe someone really doesn’t want to hear from you. Hopefully this doesn’t happen often, but it’s nice to leave a way for the rest of the team to know about it.

Engaged Members

The last view is the “Engaged Members” view. Volunteers will show up on this list once they’ve been moved to the “Wrote Back” column on your Outreach Liaison View. This is a nice way to get a concise list of everyone who’s more likely to respond to a direct call to action.

Putting it All Together

Technology is great for keeping information organized, but there aren’t very many problems that it solves all by itself. Ultimately, Indivisible Somerville’s outreach process is a system that people follow, more than a set of tools. Don’t get too hung up on Airtable: You could build the same system with Google Forms and Sheets, or just pen-and-paper signups.

Building an organization is all about relationships, and the best way to build a high-quality working relationship is consistency. In summary:

  • Email your volunteers 5 times.
  • Offer a variety of ways to get involved with your organization.
  • Even if they never wrote back, they went through the trouble of filling out the form. Add them to a mailing list where they can receive updates about what your organization is working on.

If you’d like to find out more about our processes and how to make them work for you, you can reach out to us at link@indivisiblesomerville.org.