Case study: the role of 'Meeter and Greeter'

Ealing District have developed a new role that helps them engage parents. Below, Tom talks about why and how they did this, and how it's helping his group:

Whilst looking at what has worked and not worked well in the setting up of the two new White City Groups, Elfins and Woodchips, it was agreed that something that has worked very well in involving parents from the very beginning was to have someone acting as a Meeter & Greeter every week, preferably but not necessarily, the same person, and who is not directly involved in running the session. I am the contact for the White City Group and the Meeter & Greeter so it works seamlessly to engage with new parents turning up but it would be easy enough for the contact person to let the Meeter & Greeter know the details of people coming for the first time. I of course also let Leaders know when new children are expected.

So as new parents arrive we find out their and their children’s names and ages, what they know about Woodcraft and how they heard about this group. They are invited to stay and meet other parents. They can be given Woodcraft information pamphlets and immediately be given a Health Form to fill in. This has many advantages, that of getting them to feel involved straight away, give them a practical reason to stay, helping them feel that we are a responsible group, and finding out straight away if a child has allergies, needs certain medications or can’t take others, and if they have any special needs.

Generally, we have all the parents staying, sometimes getting involved with the activities, although a couple sloped off to the pub last week. Chatting to the parents has been really interesting, finding out what they expect from the sessions and answering questions as they come up. This lead to the large turn out to the Stoke Poges weekend camp and a relatively painless decision to raise the subs to £2 a week, with the normal discretion for low waged of course. It also meant that the parents talked amongst themselves and asked if we could start at 6.00 instead of 6.30 as the little ones were finding it exhausting. I feel that if we hadn’t achieved such high participation people would have just decided not to come as it was getting too difficult. We have now moved to another hall around the corner which will allow us to do this.

The other part of the role is taking the subs every week as people come in and this has meant that no-one is behind, parents feel really committed to keeping the group going. Ultimately, there is very little us and them going on, they know we are volunteers working really hard to provide children with exciting and interesting educational activities and games and one parent is coming prepared to run activities now and then which further breaks down the barriers.

Lastly, I also email the parents regularly with updates which has gone down very well and it helps that they know exactly who I am. We also invite them to meetings planning the future of the group and although only one or two have turned up so far I know most are pleased to be invited and more will come in future. Also, I contact people who haven’t come for a couple of weeks to see if they have dropped out or if there is something they don’t like that we can consider changing. Oh, and the Meeter & Greeter can go and help run the session if there is a lull in talking to the parents which makes them look less like a bureaucrat.

 

Tom Dunnill