How to market your conference in such a way that you can attract new people from diverse backgrounds
While relying solely on personal connections can be problematic, as it could result in perpetuation of homogeneous community, sometimes it can be effective. Some ways to encourage conferees to engage in this kind of recruitment while promoting diversity are:
Designate leaders, encourage everyone
For conference chairs, designate 3 to 5 volunteers to act as “Recruitment” or “Outreach Coordinators.” These people can take on the role of recruiting in and beyond their circles off-island: reaching out to members of their congregations and local clubs, sharing stories of their experiences on Star Island, and maintaining a goal of diversity while being sensitive to any cultural differences and being honest about the racial make-up of Star Island (mostly white). If you are interested in recruiting from specific communities, select volunteers who know those communities best. Be sure your Outreach Coordinators check back in regularly with people who express an interest in Star Island, and help answer any questions they might have. Provide space and time for these volunteers to meet and share what is or what is not working in their efforts, and dialogue with the Star Island staff to determine opportunities for collaboration or support.
Pick specific people to reach out to
Think about who you know in your life that you think would love Star Island. Ask your Outreach Coordinators to do the same. Make sure that you are reaching out to specific people, not just doing generalized announcements. Follow up with your specific people to see if they have any questions. Make sure as you pick who you are going to reach out to that you are thinking about building a diverse community, and spend your time intentionally reaching out to people who will help our community become a better reflection of who we want to be. Make sure to be upfront about all expenses, knowing that the cost of a week on Star can be prohibitive to some families. Also provide information about financial aid.
Utilize your contacts
If you are in a church, ask the minister about bringing Star Island and/or your specific conference into a worship service or an event. Some ways to do this might be hosting a slide show and presentation at your church coffee hour, suggesting an Isles of Shoals book for your local book club and most of all, explicitly asking your friends to come and join you on Star Island. As you are doing this, be sure to reach out to people who are from diverse socio-economic and racial backgrounds — perhaps even offer marketing materials to churches with predominantly BIPOC congregations. If you have a contact with a specific skill or talent, connect that person with a conference chair to determine how this new person could participate in conference events; for example, an artist who might lead an afternoon workshop.
Humans usually respond better to stories and emotions than facts. Consider using testimonials, either in written or video form, on your website and other communications platforms. Have people talk about why Star Island and/or their conference is important to them, what it means in their lives off-island. Use testimonials that focus on experiences and aspects of Star Island using concrete detail that may have broad appeal and keep people coming back. If it is helpful, write down a few key phrases or sentences to use frequently when talking about a Star Island experience. For example:
“Having a peaceful spot on the porch to read and look at the harbor puts me at ease.”
“My children love the island itself, whether visiting the Marine Lab for hands-on learning or exploring tide pools around East Rock, they always look forward to returning.”
“The natural beauty of the island can be inspiring. Some of my best thoughts have come to me while paddling across the harbor using the sea kayaks.”
“Whether it’s joining in a musical jam session on the porch, seeing the children by candlelight attending an evening chapel, or learning a new hobby, there are so many opportunities to partake in meaningful moments at Star and share them.”
“It’s rare to come to a place like Star Island and be transported to a rustic and simple communal lifestyle. It helps me reconnect with a part of myself I thought was lost.”