10 ways you can increase member engagement in your union

#7: Hold a logo contest!
Trying to increase member engagement in your union? Here are some ideas that work.

1. Always make time for your members' concerns.

This is number one through infinity. If you don't make time for your members’ concerns - if your members don't know that you're fighting for them - everything else you do is a waste of time.

I made a pledge to myself and to our members: I will never say, "I don't have time for you," or "Your concern is not a priority for us." I often cannot fix the member's problem. But I can empathize. I can affirm and validate. I can let them know they're not alone, that someone is fighting for them.

2. Identify allies.

Find one or two members who will conspire with you, and work with them. They may be of totally different backgrounds and have completely different perspectives than you. That's good! Come together over your shared concerns. Sit down for a coffee or a pint, talk about steps you can take to improve the situation. Make a list, then each of you find one or two more people to bring in, and make a few things on that list a reality.

3. Offer specific tasks to volunteers.

When specific, self-contained tasks come up, put a call out for volunteers. "Can someone go to the Library Board meeting next week?" "I'm looking for a member to update the job postings spreadsheet." "Can someone look after this location's union board?" This extends your reach - you and your small band of allies aren't doing all the work - and it engages more members, gives more members ownership.

4. Find ways to make your union more accessible and more inclusive.

Our meetings used to be held on the same night of the week, such as the second Monday of the month. But our members work shifts, and in many different locations. Now we rotate the nights of the week and the location of meetings. Even if meeting attendance doesn't increase, our members feel more welcome, more included.

For you, making your union more accessible may mean something else. Think about it. Is there something built into your structure and practices that may be keeping people away? Do you use a lot of union jargon? Do you shoot down every new idea as impractical, or already tried? Are you, however inadvertently, giving the impression of a closed clique? These are good questions to ask ourselves on a regular basis.

5. Find ways other than meetings to get together.

Hold a labour film night. A potluck. A summer barbecue in a local park. It doesn't have to be often - twice a year is probably enough. Give members the opportunity to connect with each other in a non-work and non-union-meeting environment.

6. Keep your members informed.

Be generous with information sharing. Tell your members as much as you can. How will they know what their union does for them if no one tells them? Why would they care about a union they never hear from? Show your members you are fighting for them.

7.  Hold a logo contest!

Do you have a good logo? If not, consider holding a contest. We put out a request for designs, and members voted online. One result was the awesome logo pictured above. The other results were creativity in support of our union, member involvement, and increased feelings of pride.

8. Think small.

What little things can you do that will involve more members? CUPE's colour is pink. On the day our bargaining team returned to the table, we held our first Wear Pink day. Each Wear Pink Day, we challenge members to get more people involved at their location. I got a bunch of CUPE gel bracelets, and we give them away to members to wear in the workplace. With your allies, brainstorm ideas that may work in your own workplace.

9. Get in touch with history.

Every so often, answer the questions "What has your union done for you?" "How has belonging to a union benefited your working conditions?", and "How do unions benefit society as a whole?" Sprinkle labour history in meetings, in your emails, and on social media. You know that pride you feel in being part of the labour movement? Share it.

10. Rethink your union bulletin boards.

Are the union boards in your workplaces up-to-date? Or have they been stagnant so long that members don't see them anymore? Bulletin boards can do more than announce meetings and minutes. Try a "Clause of the Month". Labour-themed cartoons. Jokes. Find members - not officers, not stewards - who will tend the board like a garden.

11. What else??

Your ideas here.

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