The following are ideas were gathered during a National Zoom Gathering in April 2022 in response to the following questions:
How do you attract new members and volunteers? How do you keep them involved and excited to stay with your group?
Please reply to this post if you think we missed anything mentioned during the zoom session or have other ideas or examples that you are willing to share with other groups.
The key things mentioned about having good groups that people want to join were:
Warm welcomes – so people didn’t feel like they were on the outer of an ‘in’ crowd. It was recognised that this wasn’t usually the intent but that it was a common feeling for new people.
Making space – ensuring that new people weren’t excluded from activities because of not knowing what to do or even a physical lack of space. Inviting new people to take on various roles to contribute to the group.
Good communication – regular, clear and open to feedback. Checking in with new people regularly to make sure they know their input is appreciated and they are valued. Make sure they understand how things work and what they can do.
Activities first – have the projects/activities in place first to attract people. Don’t wait for there to be enough people before deciding what to do.
Meeting people where they are at – actively finding ways to allow everyone to contribute regardless of their experience or skill level or available time.
The activities undertaken by groups to reach out and let people know about the local seed saving activities they can join include:
- Attend markets and festivals with displays of seeds and seed related activities.
- Attach to other local groups already established in your area with overlapping interest areas (eg. permaculture groups, small farms associations, garden clubs, food banks etc.).
- Do talks at local libraries, garden clubs and community gardens.
- Give short workshops as part of school garden programs.
- Advertise events, including meetings, through social media, local radio and other local media.
What New Members Want
The reasons attendees shared for starting seed saving and/or joining a local seed saving group included:
Learning new skills
- Gaining information about the local conditions, particularly if new to the area
- Learning how to grow food
- Learning how to save seeds, or improve seed saving skills
Building community connections
- Meeting new people
- Connecting with others & feeling part of a group
Contributing to the community
- Doing something about food security concerns
- Sharing excess
- Keeping heirloom varieties alive
How Groups Look After Members
Meeting their needs is critical for engaging new people and keeping them active in a seed saving group. The examples offered by the attendees of what they do during their meetings/gatherings to meet one or more of the needs above that were offered as reasons for joining.
Speakers – Have a speaker at each gathering/meeting on a topic of interest.
Local Varieties – Have fun gatherings like ‘Pumpkin Idol’ and ‘Tomato Taste Testing’ where people share what they have grown and how that variety worked for them locally.
Local Knowledge Collection – Create a junk journal of local growing tips and recipes for the varieties grown locally to honour and retain the knowledge of elders before they retire.
Welcome Table – have a dedicated space and volunteers to help newcomers feel really welcomed to events. This table also helps with signing people up for memberships or handing out information.
Kid Friendly Space – Mareeba will be trialling a ‘Pumpkin Patch’, a dedicated area or table, for crafts with the children to get them interested in being in the garden.
Contributing & Sharing
Give Away or Swap Table – varied between groups but could include excess produce, used garden magazines, plants, bulbs, etc., as well as seeds.
Community Seedling Program – Canberra Seed Savers run a program with volunteers that start seedlings at home, which are then distributed via food banks or community garden programs.
Flexible Options – Groups find different ways for people to contribute if they are unable to attend meetings or contribute seed. Options included packing seed at home, doing administrative or organising roles.