Bobbie Carlton InnovationWomen.com When people are getting started with an Employee Resource Group (ERG) or Employee Affinity Group, there is often a good deal of initial energy that could dissipate over time. As you start the planning for your group, one of the most important things you can do is plan ahead for continuing engagement with the members. (And, if you create an engaged group of charter members, you have a better chance of turning them into evangelists, advocating on the group’s behalf and bringing in new members.) Start with an ask – what do the rank and file members want from the ERG? Is it networking? A sense of community? A survey can help you identify issues that your members (especially remote members) are looking f or you to solve but talking one-on-one with key members may help you uncover additional issues and helpful details. Ask them why they joined. Have they been involved in different groups that worked? Or those that didn’t? What did they like and what didn’t they like? What made them feel like a member of the team? What made them feel productive and valued? Members are busy and they are looking for you to provide a lot of information and value before they commit to continuing to be involved. Instead of planning just your first event or gathering, considering planning out your first 2-3 events. Work with your organizing committee to schedule out a few months in advance. Look to your survey results for topics the group can get addressed. Preparing a calendar of topics in advance also gives you the opportunity to book outside speakers, get budget and adequately market the events. Pre-planning allows your members to put more than one date on their calendars right from the start. Some groups try for a consistent date (always holding meetings on the second Wednesday of each month for example.) Others vary the day in order to give the largest group of people the opportunity to participate over time. At the first event, you can announce your second and third events in person. If you plan just your first event, you will have to follow up separately to schedule a second one. While calendar invitations, reminder emails and even physical flyers can help remind your group of upcoming events, that in-person ask is often the highest value. Meanwhile, ticketing platforms like Eventbrite allow you to create event pages and have members sign up and produce automated reminders. You will also likely want to create an email list and send around emails. While it might sound basic and maybe a little old-fashioned to some, pushing messages into someone’s email box is often the simplest and most effective ways to go. A lot of people will tell you that they aren’t thrilled about adding a new app to their phone, but they already have email. Most commercially available email platforms will provide information on open and click rates, allowing you to monitor continued interest from your group. Once you have your group up and running, you will need to continue to engage your members regularly – create a device to do so. While newer tools like Slack, HipChat, and WhatsApp offer a way to keep communication flowing, there are numerous platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) that people already participate in that allow you to create a private group. A private group can be used to do more than just share event information. Encourage members to ask (and answer) questions, make suggestions, share tips and tricks, and news. While continuing and ongoing communication is important, you also need to ensure it is valuable content. Too much repetition or committee talk can cause group members to tune out. Be selective, especially at first when you are setting the tone. If you surveyed your group, you should have good information on what they want.