Tuesday, October 6, 2015

6 strategies for recruiting men to M-groups: Mpowerment Best Practices

Here are some helpful suggestions on recruitment strategies including: 
  • general considerations when developing an approach to market the M-groups in your community, 
  • specific marketing activities that we have found useful, 
  • recruiting approaches that have been successful, and 
  • logistical tips regarding scheduling, record keeping, and evaluation. 

What are M-Groups? M-Groups are peer-led, one-time meetings of 8-10 young adult bisexual and gay men that give participants an opportunity to talk openly about prevention issues. It is the only scripted part of this intervention. The meetings, which last about three hours, are an extremely important part of the Mpowerment Project (MP). To learn and read more about the M-Groups register at mpowerment.org and download Module 9: M-Groups.

1) Achieve a critical mass

“Diffusion of Innovations Theory” accounts for how new behaviors spread throughout a community (See Module 1: Overview). Simply put, it states that if 15-20% of a particular group adopt a new behavior and let their friends know that they are practicing it, the behavior will spread naturally throughout the rest of the community. For example, groups of friends are quick to adopt a new catchy phrase or fashion made popular by an influential person. In much the same way, young gay/bisexual men can spread the norm of safer sex and knowing one's status. Therefore, the goal of the Mpowerment Project is to have at least 15-20% of the young gay/bisexual men in your community attend an M-group.

See Figure 9.1 in the Appendix in Module 9 M-Groups features a guide about how to estimate the number of gay/ bisexual men in your community. Once they do, it is likely that the safer sex message will spread naturally through existing friendship networks within the community.

2) Make sure groups reflect the community’s diversity 

It is important that the composition of men attending the M-groups reflects the composition of your community. (Download Module 2: Community Assessment for more information about how to assess the different groups of young gay/ bisexual men in your community. Module 2 is a free download when you register at mpowerment.org.)

What's the T? (M-Group) via De Colores | Mpowerment Oakland CA

3) Emphasize the social aspect of M-Groups

We promote M-groups as a fun way for young gay/bisexual men to meet other young men; hear how other young men are dealing with issues of importance to them, such as sex, dating, and relationships; and find out more about the Mpowerment Project. All men who are interested in being involved with the Mpowerment Project should be encouraged to attend an M-group as an 'entry' into the Project. It is very important not to describe M-groups as “safer sex workshops.” We have found this is an immediate turn-off for most young men, and particularly for those who would benefit most from attending.

4) Get creative and keep developing new strategies

Since no one method will reach all the men you want to attend M-groups, use many different approaches. You may find that different approaches work at different times, and that recruiting participants is easier during some periods than during others. Keep trying new methods and improving upon ones you’ve already used even when your recruitment efforts are going slowly. Also keep contacting those men who have been contacted numerous times before without success. As the reputation of the Project and its M-groups spreads through the community, these men may become more open to participating. Module 7: Formal Outreach—Social Outreach Events and Outreach Team describes in greater detail some methods of recruiting men at outreach activities to M-groups. (Module 7 is accessible here.)

RELATED:  5 easy tips on conducting a successful Venue Based Outreach

Below the Belt (M-Group) via A.C.E. | Mpowerment Chicago IL

5) Let others catch your enthusiasm

Although recruiting men to M-groups is not always easy, the vast majority of guys tell us they really enjoyed the groups and found them to be a valuable experience. Furthermore, many lasting friendships have been made among men who met at a group. You will be more effective in recruiting guys to M-groups if you believe in the importance and value of the groups, and if you are warm, enthusiastic, sincere—even charming! Most of all, be persistent, but don’t be pushy. You needn’t feel any reluctance at bringing up the topic of M-groups when you have the opportunity.

6) Use a teamwork approach

Since recruitment is a large task and there are so many different recruitment strategies, we have found it helpful for the M-group Coordinator to work with a team of volunteers. The use of volunteers effectively multiplies the efforts of the M-group Coordinator. Volunteers should be highly motivated and taught how to describe the M-groups so that they sound appealing. There are many jobs that volunteers can perform, such as making initial recruitment phone calls, calling to remind men of an upcoming M-group, networking with their friends and acquaintances, inviting men to attend Project-sponsored events, and so forth. Working successfully with a team of volunteers is an acquired skill, and requires careful attention to a number of things, including coordinating volunteer activities, evaluating the success of events, and keeping volunteers motivated. As suggested in Module 5, Core Group and other Volunteers - volunteers always appreciate tokens of appreciation for their efforts and commitment, and respond positively to little things such as thank you notes and snacks.

RELATED: 4 easy steps for involving volunteers: Mpowerment Project best practices. 

Constantly evaluate your recruitment methods. 

The Mu Crew have participants attend the M-Group as part of their weekend RETREAT. | Mpowerment Dayton OH
RELATED: Retreat planning blog with the Mu Crew, Mpowerment Dayton OH

RELATED:  5 important questions for the Mpowerment Project to ask itself. 

Module 9 M-Groups is a free download. 

Borrow and improve on these M-Group publicity campaigns (click to make larger):

A.C.E., Mpowerment Chicago IL

The Q Austin, Mpowerment TX

M Society, Mpowerment Houston TX

GCMC, Mpowerment Columbus OH

Miami Mpowerment Project, FL
Generation L, Mpowerment Chicago IL

The Evolution Project, Mpowerment Atlanta GA
Toledo Mpowerment, OH

RELATED: Mpowerment Project share materials: Find more M-Group promotional examples here.

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