"Incentivizing engagement" discussions are always spirited. Some folks say that engagement incentives are a form of coercion and shouldn't be used. Others say it is the only way to get people's attention when they are focused on survival, or their attention is already over occupied. I have done this work for 25 years I have concluded that there is no "one way" to approach this. I have learned a few things that generally hold true in most contexts.
1. All engagement is based on incentives; the incentives just vary from material to social to spiritual. I engage in something because I see a possible reward: my community will improve, I will see friends and neighbors, I will enjoy the activity, I will get paid so I can support my family, etc.
2. The strongest and most sustainable incentives are based on peoples deepest self-interest: that place where our dreams and fears combine with opportunities to contribute our gifts and/or learn and grow.
3. We can only learn about peoples deepest self-interests in conversation listening, while building a relationship.
4. People stay engaged if they are reaping rewards doing something meaningful, spending time with enjoyable people, sensing accomplishment, learning a new skill, recognition, etc.
So I think some incentives to let people know you value their time and that the activity of the group has value is a fine way to get folks to break from their routine and check out what you are doing. Try one of these:
- Bring a friend. When a current member brings a new person both people are entered into a raffle or prize drawing.
- Community currency. Participants earn currency from involvement (by activity or hour) and then can use it to buy donated prizes from local merchants or entries in a drawing.
- Standard raffle everyone at an event gets an entry and there is a prize each event.
- Proxy prizes donations made to your block, group, church, etc. based on engagement.
Let us know what you try and how it works!