participant management

The spirit of volunteering

Every year hundreds of people volunteer their time, completely unpaid, to do construction for a month in 100ºF heat. A week after completion they spend another month in the same conditions, dismantling and picking up other people's trash, again for free. These are the people who build the city infrastructure for Burning Man, an art and music festival in a desert in Nevada. Why do they do this for free? Because while working they:

  1. Develop friends and community
  2. Learn useful skills and knowledge
  3. Become important to the functioning of a hardworking team
  4. Gain new responsibilities as they prove themselves over time
  5. Accomplish satisfying goals
  6. Have fun

You have an opportunity to create a vibrant community around the principles of allyship using these same six themes. People naturally want to be a part of a community and live with purpose. This kind of allyship group does both – and it doesn't have to be an all-consuming, earth-shattering dedication – something simple and meaningful for the times you do get together.

Empowering people

Getting people involved doesn't just help you delegate and get more work done, it empowers folks to care and to see themselves as owners of the subject matter (not just passive spectators).

If you don't already have meaningful roles for people, brainstorm some. Having opportunities to act is pivotal to developing allyship, otherwise it becomes abstract and lifeless. You are in an amazing position to help involve them.


Give people real responsibility as well as support and guidance. Guidance means providing all necessary info for them to succeed and support means being there for questions or nervousness. Encourage them and believe in them.

When people feel true ownership, they'll also be much more likely to participate in other allyship events and activities and look at other content (guides, emails, etc) you send out.


Almost everyone in our society is starved for appreciation since it's so rarely given. Be a leader and express your appreciation for the contributions that people make to the allyship group and to the Partner Group. Acknowledging others goes a long way in helping them feel positively about their work. And if someone does a task particularly well, recognize them for their awesome work! If they're comfortable being recognized publicly, do that! Often times this simply means verbalizing what you're already thinking – just stop holding back the nice things you think about someone else.

A previous leader of Duke's allyship program has this suggestion: "do some social events as a leadership group or with core volunteers to show appreciation. We did a kick off dinner with our cabinet and it was a great way to start the year. I wish we had done more of those dinners throughout the year so the team felt appreciated."