Pictured above: It was a joyous occasion when the CA, Thousand Oaks-1 chapter – fully vaccinated – met in person again after a long absence.
You had an active and thriving chapter … meeting regularly, fully engaged. And then COVID struck and social distancing began. You put your chapter meetings on hold, fully intending to restart when it was safe to do so again. What you thought would be a brief hiatus turned into months and months, and now here we are one year later. How do you get things going again?
Or perhaps you have been meeting virtually but with fewer members attending … you haven’t seen some of your regular members since before COVID. How do you get them back?
Here are some ways you can jump-start your chapter to start meeting again, or to engage more members. Whether you meet virtually or in-person, the key is to get everyone engaged again in our mission to achieve global gender equality!
- Ask your Regional Leader or Mentor – They are available to offer suggestions or help you in any way. Please click here for a listing of Regional Leaders or email our Volunteer Manager, Melissa Matthews, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Seek member input – A great way to start is by asking your members! Reach out to your members, explain that you would like to get the chapter going again, and ask them what they are comfortable with.
- Send a postcard – Emails and texts often get lost or ignored. Go “old school” and drop a note in the mail to your members. Let them know you are thinking of them and miss them, and that women and girls need their support! We are in the process of printing some inexpensive, “We Miss You” postcards for chapter leaders to use. Each chapter will get a supply of cards in the mail in late May/early June.
- Meet in person, where possible. – As vaccination rates continue to rise across the U.S., many chapters are considering the possibility of holding in-person meetings again. This decision must be made by each chapter, in accordance with local health guidelines and the input of your members. For recommendations about returning to in-person meetings, please click here. If you have a large chapter, you may want to consider holding multiple meetings with smaller groups – split up your chapter alphabetically or randomly. Members may appreciate a more intimate gathering as you start to meet in-person again.
- Hold your meeting outdoors – According to the CDC, outdoor activities are generally less risky than indoor activities. Consider a backyard gathering or a picnic in the park. Each member can bring their own chair, food, beverage, and utensils. You can ask everyone to watch the monthly video ahead of time.
- Take a hike together – Looking to get your mind and your body re-energized? Ask your members to meet at a local trail and catch up while on the move!
- Hold a “hybrid” meeting – Everyone’s situation is different — you may find that some members are comfortable meeting in person again while others aren’t quite ready yet. Have a hybrid meeting – those who are comfortable meet in person while others are connected by FaceTime or Zoom.
- Break the ice – If you are meeting for the first time after a long absence, focus on re-connecting. Perhaps forego a formal presentation or chapter business for this first meeting. A great icebreaker is to give each member two minutes to provide a personal update with a one-minute follow-up for any questions. Someone will need to watch the time and keep everything moving, especially if you have a large group, but it is well worth the organization needed so that every member feels included and valued.
- Open up your Zoom meetings – If your chapter meets virtually, host an “Invite a Friend” or “Invite Your Daughter/Mother” event where everyone brings someone new. It will generate new energy on your Zoom meetings and introduce Together Women to prospective members! And don’t be confined to who lives in your area – virtual meetings allow people to connect from far away. Who knows … you may interest a friend, relative, or college roommate to start their own chapter in another state!
- Read a book together – Send an email to all your chapter members encouraging them to read the next Together Women Rise featured book and then all of you join the virtual Book Club meeting together. May 10 is a great opportunity as we discuss In the Time of the Butterflies and hear from celebrated author, Julia Alvarez, who is our guest speaker. Or recognize World Refugee Day by reading A Hope More Powerful than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Melissa Fleming and joining the discussion tentatively scheduled for June 21.
- Support local – If your members are comfortable, get together at a local restaurant (outdoors seating is recommended). You will support a local business owner while supporting women and girls too! Or find a local service project you can do together: a shared purpose can bring everyone together again and in the spirit of giving back.
- Play some music – Whether you meet in person or online, music can uplift and energize everyone. Ask a member to research music from that month’s featured country and bring some downloaded music to play as everyone gathers.