CCL staffers create Onboarding Best Practices Workshop series

CCL staffers create Onboarding Best Practices Workshop series

By Katie Zakrzewski

As CCL grows, many chapter leaders have questions about how to recruit and retain new volunteers. Thanks to the work of CCL’s Field Development Director Elli Sparks, CCL chapter leaders now have an opportunity to ask their most pressing questions about onboarding and get valuable advice from Elli herself. 

“We noticed that a lot of volunteers from all over were asking us the same kind of questions about onboarding. We decided to host Onboarding Best Practices Workshops in multiple states so people could get direct answers to their questions,” Elli explains.

CCL staffers create Onboarding Best Practices Workshop series

CCLers will find these Onboarding Best Practices Workshops full of constructive advice, as well as knowledge gleaned from experiences in the field and around the country.

“Many people want to evaluate what they’re doing to welcome new potential volunteers. This Onboarding Best Practices Workshop allows for a more intimate look at that. It’s a chance to share exactly what your chapter is doing, and for me to offer specific feedback based on what I am seeing as best practices in CCL chapters across the country,” Elli emphasizes.

The Onboarding Best Practices Workshop complements the monthly Onboarding Action Team meetings and gives attendees the personalized attention that they can’t get in an action team meeting. Additionally, these workshops have everyone thinking about their role in engaging volunteers and not just the person who asked for advice.”

What to expect

Here are some of the questions and answers that Elli encounters in her Onboarding Best Practices Workshops.

CCLer question: We have a small chapter of six people. Within that group, we have people who have specialized their roles to fit their skills, such as media and ENROADS. Our new volunteers come in, attend a couple of meetings, and then become passive members. How can we utilize people who might not want to come to meetings more often?

Elli’s advice: That’s terrific that you’ve got folks in leadership roles in your chapter. Nice work! These leaders can serve as formal or informal mentors to new volunteers. Introduce your new volunteers to your existing volunteers and encourage them to connect and work together. Your existing leaders can ask the new volunteers for specific help. People like having a task to do, and newcomers often don’t know where to start. At the same time, your existing volunteers are probably looking for some extra hands on their CCL projects!

CCLer question: I usually only write an email to new volunteers once in order to get into contact with them. But I know that I need to be more assertive. What are some more efficient and effective ways to reach out?

Elli’s advice: Try contacting new potential volunteers by email, text, and voicemail. We each have a preferred way of being contacted, and you won’t know which way your new volunteer prefers until you try all three. We can divide onboarding into two components: immediate outreach (email, text, and voicemail) and longer conversation. As soon as I notice a new person on the list, I reach out to ask them if they would like to schedule a time to talk with me or someone on the welcome team.  If they accept my offer, then someone on our welcome team schedules a 30-minute orientation/welcome meeting with them by Zoom or phone. After that meeting, we follow-up, share CCL resources, call to invite them to the monthly meeting, and introduce them to other volunteers in the chapter. In this way, the whole chapter shares the workload and the new volunteer has frequent contact with us. 

CCLer question: We have a large volunteer base in my chapter, but most of those people are passive. Are there tips for getting more of them to complete the action items that I mention in our email?

Elli’s advice: Emails are nice, but don’t forget to empower your solution. Ask explicitly for what you want. If you need a certain number of people to do something, mention the number and don’t downsize your expectations. Describe the tasks involved, rather than using CCL jargon. For example, instead of writing “looking for a CCL liaison” you can write “looking for someone willing to schedule a lobby meeting with our member of Congress and coordinate the CCL volunteers who will be attending that meeting.” Additionally, assume that not everyone you’re emailing might know how to do the task at hand, like writing a letter to the editor, for example. In this case, mention CCL resources and volunteers or staff who can help with training. Also, let people know that it’s okay to say no or to indicate they’d rather do something else. 

The feedback

Many volunteers have been learning a lot from Elli’s onboarding Onboarding Best Practices Workshops and have recommended that other CCLers check out the class for themselves. 

CCLer Gary Rucinski writes that Elli’s class gave chapter leaders “an understanding of what the onboarding process should look like and they are striving to implement it.”

CCLer Larry Sprague shares that, “[Elli’s] visit to our humble chapter meeting was more than helpful. We now have a clear system in place. Before, we lacked both a process and focus. [Elli] helped us tremendously in both areas.”

Elli’s Onboarding Best Practices Workshops continue through March so that chapters can bring her their questions and get a direct response. State Coordinators and group leaders can contact Elli to schedule a workshop, if one is not available already in their state.  

Elli says that she is not the only one to thank for putting on these classes: CCL volunteers are. “I’m just facilitating the wisdom that is out there. We’re already good at onboarding but, by facilitating a conversation, we ensure that people can enjoy and share their best practices with each other.”

Elli’s Onboarding Best Practices Workshops currently scheduled:

Thursday, February 17, 2022 7:00 pm ET Southeast Region North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida
Thursday, February 24, 2022 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT/ 6 pm MT Idaho
Monday, February 28, 2022 6:30 pm ET Maine
Thursday, March 3, 2022 8 pm ET New Jersey
Monday, March 7, 2022 6:30 pm ET New York City
Tuesday, March 15, 2022 7 pm CT/8 pm ET Indiana


Please email Elli () if you would like more information about joining one of these Onboarding Best Practices Workshops.

Katie Zakrzewski, CCL Communications Coordinator, is an avid reader, writer and policy wonk. With published pieces, as well as podcast and radio appearances spanning the country, Zakrzewski looks forward to using her talents to create a healthier planet of tomorrow.