Onboarding Action Team makes it easy to welcome new CCLers

By Katie Zakrzewski

CCL group leaders have a lot on their plates. From juggling chapter operations and outreach to preparing for lobby sessions, CCL group leaders usually oversee the task of onboarding new members as well.

In July of this year, CCL staff members Sandy Simon and Elli Sparks set out to take a load off of the shoulders of group leaders. The two created the Onboarding Action Team to provide a place for education, sharing and resources for the onboarding process in a nurturing, interactive and enjoyable environment. 

Sandy Simon is the Help Desk Coordinator and National Resolutions Project Coordinator for CCL. Elli Sparks is CCL’s Director of Field Development.

Onboarding: Making new volunteers feel welcome

Sandy defines the onboarding process.

“We look at onboarding in its most expansive definition — how to make people feel welcome in CCL and how to get them started right away,” Sandy explained. 

Elli explains how the two got started and how this action team is designed to help group leaders save time.

“Onboarding by default is a group leader’s job, but we realized that it needed more specific focus that group leaders just didn’t have the time to give to it,” she says. “With this action team, we’re bringing in the experts who know about efficiency in volunteering. We want to continue to make volunteering a better experience.”

Learning from others’ onboarding success

The Onboarding Action Team hosts meetings with guest speakers — people who, according to Elli, are not only good at onboarding, but share how their unique paradigms, resources, and perspectives shape their influence in the onboarding process. In an upcoming meeting, CCL staff member Brett Cease will explain the pyramid of engagement in climate advocacy.

Elli and Sandy have begun compiling resources, documents, and strategies from chapters around the country that have demonstrated unique and successful onboarding processes. 

“As I started talking to chapters that were doing a good job with onboarding, they would share details that I thought others needed to know,” Elli explains. “These chapters had figured out not only how to recruit people, but also how to get these new volunteers engaged and taking on roles.”

Sandy, who since the inception of the action team has been talking with chapters about their onboarding processes, reflects on the success that chapters can have if they master the onboarding process.

“All of those successful chapters were doing things that I thought were good examples of onboarding components. Every chapter starts out small. Once they figure out their onboarding processes, they begin to grow. There are lessons that can be learned and tools that can be utilized for a chapter of  any size.”

Dig into onboarding resources

The Onboarding Action Team’s page has several helpful files to help chapters, such as a volunteer engagement practices guide, an example of a nudge email sent by one chapter to encourage new volunteers to get involved, as well as a large welcome manual put together by the Texas team.

Elli explains the value of these resources.

“Before COVID, I had the chance to travel around three states where I met with each and every chapter. The group leaders often asked for tips for onboarding new volunteers. This challenge remains. Group leaders are dealing with so much, and we thought that an action team might be an excellent place for content such as this.”

Despite being founded on July 6 of this year, the Onboarding Action Team has boomed with popularity, and has 110 members at the time of this writing. 

Elli credits CCL volunteers for the Action Team’s success.

“CCL provides a framework and the volunteers provide the creativity,” she explains.

Elli and Sandy emphasize the influence that volunteers have had on the Onboarding Action Team’s development and growth.

“Because there wasn’t something like this before, people didn’t have a place to share their challenges and ideas and resources, and then use the resources that our guest speakers share with them,” Elli says. “Our members are very generous, and they want everybody to succeed. That gives everyone a positive way to be more successful in their own onboarding efforts.”

The Onboarding Action Team has a wide array of events coming up, designed to focus on specific facets of onboarding. Some of those events include The Pyramid of Engagement, Volunteer Activation and Retention, Mentoring New Volunteers, Using Social Media to Grow Your Chapter, The Psychology of the Climate Activist, and Team Development for Chapter Growth. 

The creativity and determination of CCL’s volunteers has allowed every seed planted by staff members to flourish. The Onboarding Action Team’s success is another example of CCL volunteers’ willingness to thrive, and to help others do the same.

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.