Recruitment for Community Engagement Fellows each year takes several months, starting in the spring well before the current year has ended. It involves a lot of emails and “first dates” with potential Fellows.
We consider the recruiting phase part of the program, not (simply) a precursor. The program is all about establishing and promoting a culture of campus-community collaboration and building relationships. All of our recruitment efforts do that.
Our principles and practices for recruiting include:
Personalize and individualize invitations as much as possible.
If you use email to recruit (we do), avoid sending mass emails if possible. Individual invitations communicate an acknowledgement of individual distinctiveness, elicit a higher rate of positive response, and are just plain nice.
Encourage current and past Fellows to talk with their colleagues about the program.
Also, in email invitations we try to mention people in their organization or department who have been part of the program, and suggest they talk with each other about the program.
Meet one-on-one with potential Fellows.
After someone expresses interest via email, a convener should arrange to meet with the potential Fellow one-on-one at a mutually convenient time and place. We joke that these are Fellows “first dates.”
First dates are time-consuming, but essential to getting people committed to the program. A first date gives them a chance to feel out the culture of the program and get more details, and for us to learn more about them and their goals. First dates humanize the program, and are the first step toward becoming friends and colleagues.
“The meetings allowed me to meet people that work in Western and outside Western in a setting that invited me to a more personal interaction. I felt part of a community of people interested in building a diverse and emphatic community aside the specificities of our jobs."
WWU Spanish Professor Blanca Aranda designed a study abroad course to Mexico during her Fellows experience.
Let them sign up when they’re ready.
If someone is ready to sign up during the first date, that’s fine. If needed, you should allow them more time to think about it and then let you know their decision. In our experience, around 90% of people who meet us for a first date end up joining the program.
Spread invitation “season” out.
If you’re sending out a large number of individual or small group invitations, spread them out over several weeks or even months. That way you can arrange to meet with everyone who responds positively fairly quickly.
Meet in a neutral location.
A coffee shop or the student union is better than someone’s office, because then neither of you is hosting and there’s no hierarchy implied. But, don’t sweat it if meeting away from an office is a big inconvenience.
Make first dates low stress.
Choose a meeting location for first dates that is easy to find, and where you will be easy to find. You’ll likely not have met the potential Fellow before. A favorite place of ours is a downtown cafe that is cozy but has an open floor plan so people can find each other easily. It also has nice large tables, and good coffee.
Always send a follow-up “thank you” after the first date, and welcome them to the program if they have signed up. If they’re still thinking, you might have to inquire a few days later to check in on their decision. People have a lot on their minds, and reminders are good.