Member Recruitment in Southern Ontario: My Experience As An Outreach Coordinator

Sep 14, 2015

I joined SolarShare’s team this spring as an Outreach Coordinator; one of my duties being to assist in member acquisition. This summer, we had a goal to recruit 50 land owning members in Lambton County by September 30th in order to build 2 projects in Sarnia under the 4th instalment of the Feed-In-Tariff program in Ontario.

In order to raise the profile of our campaign in Lambton County, I completed a local news media scan and identified Paul Morden from The Sarnia Observer as a writer that I thought might be interested in writing a story on SolarShare. Luckily, when I got in touch, he was happy to write a story and interviewed Matt Zipchen, SolarShare’s General Manager. We released a press release as well, which was picked up by Blackburn News, and they interviewed Matt on their radio station.

Starting with zero members in Lambton County, I figured it was going to be difficult to introduce ourselves to the community and have them respond to our membership drive. I followed the advice of one of our Board Members and got in touch with the Mayor of Sarnia, Mike Bradley. This was my first time reaching out to a political figure and I was so thrilled by Mayor Bradley’s warm and helpful response.

Since I am from BC I did not know much about Sarnia. The only things that I was aware of was that Sarnia is referred to as  “Chemical Valley,” which I learned in my Environmental Studies courses, and that “approximately 800 residents of Aamjiwnaag [First Nation] live next to industrial facilities that account for approximately 40 per cent of Canada’s petrochemical industry” causing a pollution burden on the community which subsequently raises both health and human rights issues, which I discovered through Ecojustice.

With this background, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sarnia is a beautiful city with a breathtaking waterfront. You can see me gazing out into the sparkling turquoise water below.

Fortunately, the city and its residents have a history of supporting solar energy projects in the area. I’m pleased that I was able to secure media pick-up of our cause as well as get our message on the radar of Sarnia’s Mayor, City Council, and Bluewater Power. But, the major obstacle was getting community members to understand why we need their support in order to build solar energy projects in their community, and how doing so through the co-op model provides individuals with a stake in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

As of now, we still have yet to meet our 50-person target, but we’re working hard to get there. So if you know of anyone in Lambton County that would like to become a member of our renewable energy co-operative (it’s only $10!), please send them my way!

Kathryn MacDonald, SolarShare Outreach Coordinator
kathryn @ l 416-977-7363 l