15 November 2012
By Christina Fuentes
-Make the learning curve shallow for engagement. The faster volunteers can get involved in an activity and accomplish something, the more likely they are to try. And to stick around.
-Provide face-to-face invitations between people who know each other if possible - these are often most effective.
-Set out clear roles for who does what, and goals for what needs to be done. Make volunteers feel rewarded by their engagement, and give them titles that define and reward their contribution.
-Get high-level support. Perhaps this won't be possible, but a clear statement from university leadership that they value the associations and encourage research staff involvement will help, if only because research staff are protected from PI complaints about time out of the lab.
-Make the activity fit into the volunteers' work routine. Indicate that involvement in an association is a component of transferable skills training, should be considered a part of their professional development, and provides opportunities for leadership.
-Bring in a popular, engaging, well-known speaker. Ideally this person would be high-level, a champion for research staff, and could speak about the value of transferable skills, engagement in policy, careers, innovation, choose-your-buzzword.
-Free food and drinks is not enough, but it doesn't hurt either!