Make decision-makers aware of your program’s value
Decision-makers in your organization may need some initial education about the value of your program and the effectiveness of physical activity and healthy eating in preventing chronic disease and promoting recovery from mental illness. Consider ways to keep your board members and management staff up-to-date on program successes and lessons learned as you improve. Put the spotlight on individual client success stories to illustrate how your organization’s support is making a difference.
Celebrating group achievements in a public forum can help motivate participants and encourage them to be proud of their success.
“They keep a nice big bulletin board downstairs... They have pictures of the whole team there; they have a calendar of activities and different themes, so it’s a visual. I’m thinking that, as things progress, they might come out and try something. It’s all about opportunities and the right time and right place.” (Participant, Thunder Bay)
Connect with other programs
Don’t overlook the other programs within your own organization — they may be your closest partners. Let everyone else know what you have to offer. There may be an opportunity to introduce some physical activity into another program or into your co-workers’ routines with their clients. Or invite your co-workers to attend one of your events and bring along a client who may be interested in joining your group; being accompanied by someone familiar may raise the client’s comfort level in a new situation. Those same clients may tell their peers about their experience and help generate excitement. Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to promote your program. Connecting with others in your organization is also a good way to extend your reach — your co-workers can help spread the word through their own network of partners and help you make new connections in the community.
Shift your organizational culture
Launching a physical activity program for your clients presents an additional opportunity to promote workplace mental health. Look for opinion leaders in your organization who can serve as champions for your program. Ask them to lead by example and demonstrate a commitment to physical activity at the office. You can make the case for improved productivity and a happier, healthier workforce. For more information, see “Workplace Mental Health Promotion: A How-To Guide” at wmhp.cmhaontario.ca.
Are there ways to have staff involved in programming? In one of the Minding Our Bodies pilot programs, a staff member with bowling skills brought his expertise on an outing to show clients the proper technique and etiquette. Are there ways to encourage the whole staff team to also become physically active? Consider holding an organization-wide challenge. If you and your co-workers walk the talk, it only strengthens your ability to motivate and inspire the participants in your physical activity program.
Consider taking a team approach. Canadian Mental Health Association, Thunder Bay Branch developed a leadership team for their physical activity program. The Minding Our Bodies Action Team (known as the MOBATs) involved consumer leaders, volunteers, staff and support from senior staff. This team helped shape the culture of the organization:
It’s now become part of our culture of the service delivery under skills development. That’s what that’s done — it’s shifted the whole culture. We used to always have the work order day and now we’re talking about meaningful activities and what could they be. It’s actually led us [to] exploring other possibilities which we’re doing right now where we slip it into an Ontario Arts Council proposal to incorporate arts into our meaningful day activities, so it’s opened up our mind to other possibilities.… Part of our decision-making is to shift our resources and our priorities to accommodate what people really want as part of the meaningful day. I think that’s a really big shift that I’ve seen.” (Staff)
Regular planning meetings were held with staff, leaders and participants throughout the program period. One of the most significant results for CMHA Thunder Bay, as identified in a focus group during the evaluation site visit, was the opportunity afforded by the Minding Our Bodies program to bring two programs together (New Foundations Clubhouse and Rehabilitation Action Program). According to a manager, “This is probably the biggest endeavour that we’ve had — joining two programs — so it’s been exciting.”
Promotion / Advertising
Word of mouth may be one of the most effective ways to get people to join in. People like to hear it from other people.
“I had my friend [one of the Peer Specialists] talk me into the gym and [another Peer Specialist] talked me into going to the gym. Since they both talked me into going to the gym, I enjoy it, but I’m going to keep on going to the gym so I can change some things about myself.” (Participant)
Ensure that the program is promoted and that reminders include essential elements such as proper attire for outdoor activities and adequate water. Phone calls the day before a program can be useful, if the client has a phone. Visual prompts at the organization and at home can be a reminder to those without a phone that they are invited to continue to participate.
Send an e-card (see our motivational tools in the resource directory) or send one by snail mail or hand one out at the end of a class. An e-card can be a reminder to stay active, a "miss you" message when attendance is poor, or a congratulations message when goals have been achieved.
Think like a marketer. How can you encourage people to join in on a regular basis? Consider handing out “frequent flyer” cards to participants, which can be used to collect points for each visit and then be redeemed for prizes (for example, their 10th visit might earn them a T-shirt).