I have been trying this week to disseminate some of the information presented at the At-home Dads Convention to many of the dads who were unable to attend the event. It dawned on me that I should publish the document that I shared while facilitating a break-out discussion group on “achieving a successful at-home-dads group.” I should add that I am no expert on this topic, but I am passionate about sharing some tips & best practices that worked for our group & may enable some dads in other cities to find camaraderie & support by starting a group…so here you go.
STARTING Your Local Group
1. Set up an internet site &/or email account for your group.
At a minimum, set up an email account so people can contact you. For a website, it can be a free blog with WordPress or Blogger, using the national at-home-dads Daddyshome, Inc, or Meet Up.com for a small fee. You can also use Yahoo or Google groups to set up a group message board. You can purchase or design a more advanced website with your own domain name, but this is more time consuming. The objective of having a site is to offer dads a destination for contact information, general information about your group, and a calendar of future group meetings/events. You need to decide whether to make the group private or public. NYC Dads Group is public so others can get a true picture of the group before joining.
2. Establish a consistent meeting day and time (and place if possible).
Dads with kids live by schedules and structure so it will be easier for members to attend if they can plan ahead. NYC Dads Group meets every Wednesday at noon. The locations change frequently based on the geography of the group – zoo, local parks/playground, museums, indoor playroom, or parent & me classes. One suggestion is to have different members hosting in their homes and rotating weekly. Remember to incorporate travel times, naps, school schedules, etc.
3. Get your name out there!
A. Contact local media organizations. A phone call or email notifying the media that you exist & you organized a group with contact information is necessary. Type up a formal press release as well. There are the main broadcast stations, newspapers, and smaller community and parenting papers to contact.
B. Make up a simple flyer with contact info and meeting time/place. Post at hospitals, playgrounds, library, pediatrician office, and mothers groups.
C. Business cards can be made at a low cost. You can create these on your computer or at a local print shop. You can hand these out to dads you run into across town & encourage existing members to network as well.
D. Link Love: Contact other at home dad websites or blogs with your website/group information. Try http://www.athomedad.org/
GROWING Your Local Group
4. Be confident, patient, and persistent.
Groups take time to build and dads are not always easy to organize. The first month was frustrating – only 2 or 3 dads at the first few events. Our group took over four months before we had a core group of members that participated weekly.
5. Empower your members & listen to them for ideas.
The organizer is the “heart” of a group, but they get their best ideas for future meetings and events from the other dads in the group. Everyone’s opinion counts! Dads are more apt to attend group events when they were responsible for planning it. Encourage dads to step up!
6. Plan interesting, fun, and meaningful outings.
A. It is easy to hit the local playground or use someone’s home/playroom so the kids can play & interact while the dads socialize. These locations are easy to organize and should be a frequent group outing.
B. Use your community: Contact the local parent & me companies, YMCA/Community Center, or play-spaces. It is amazing how the power of a unique group can get you a free trial class at a local children’s venue or inexpensive & affordable opportunities
C. Dads Night Out: About once a month, it is important to schedule a fun night out without kids – sports bar, poker night, BBQ, etc. This forum truly enables you to get to know the guys better.
7. Create membership criteria
Will there be any criteria for entry? Charging a fee, providing information, privacy of the group, open to moms as well, open to working dads, etc.
MAINTAINING Your Local Group
8. Communicate with your group often.
Keeping in touch with your group as it grows is challenging. Send out a weekly email sharing upcoming events and other news. Always give credit to dads that stepped up and planned a group event, assisted in their home, or assisted in some other way. Make sure to send an email to the dad you haven’t seen in a while to see what he is up to.
9. Offer opportunities for your group to communicate with each other.
Set up an email list so people can stay in contact with one another. Create a message board so dads can share best practices, frustrations, or ask questions. Encourage the dads to make plans outside of the “scheduled” group outings so they build friendships.
10. Don’t do it alone.
An “organizer” is just a title. Ask for help from your group. Ask for meaningful feedback or constructive criticism after group meetings on ways the group can improve or be enhanced. Talk to other group organizers (including moms groups) for ideas or solutions to challenges in maintaining a vibrant group.
*I did NOT recreate the wheel in documenting this information. Some information was borrowed from Phil Andrew & Mike Njus of the Lincoln/Omaha At-Home-Dads Group as well as Tony Peters & Bill Beagle of the Dayton Dads (information posted on Rebeldad website). My appreciation goes out to those dads for sharing the information that has made their group a success.
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