Promoting a free community class

If I teach the class for free, should I be responsible for promoting it ? Why?

I want to promote my class because the environment is so much nicer with a small or even large group than with one or two people. As a student, I feel very much under the spot light when I am the only one practicing! I want people to come to the classes. At the public library class I set up myself, I expected to promote it myself.

When volunteering for a non-profit, I feel that the non-profit should be invested in promoting the class as well. I recognize that many non-profit staff do the work of 2 or 3 people …  it’s unlikely that a non-profit that is unable or uninterested in promoting a free yoga class taught by a volunteer will ultimately be able to offer a sustainable class over time.

In either case, I like to be involved in promotion of the class so I can ensure the class is presented in a light that sets people’s expectations realistically.

How do I promote it? What has been effective?

At the library class, most people have heard about the class through a friend (or knowing me personally), or via a flyer at the library or on the library website. I spent a lot of time copying fliers and posting around the area, and so far no one has said this is what brought them in.  Occasionally someone saw me outside the library with yoga mats and asked about the class – I haven’t seen these people in class yet. On occasion I have circulated within the library and let people already there know there is a regular Saturday yoga class – again, no takers yet.

One avenue I have deliberately avoided is Facebook. Free yoga classes pop up all over the city but most of them are not targeted to underserved communities. My community classes have a slower pace and gentler dynamic than the public classes I teach at studios and gyms. While everyone is welcome, I avoid promoting the class to a more traditional yoga crowd – having a majority of students with an established yoga practice who can pay but prefer not to changes the dynamic in many ways, and makes it harder to teach the class at a gentler pace.

At the non-profit, a few of my students from a gym came with me and we did a gentle demo class during a time when clients were there for other purposes.  The non-profit has a sign up, and told me that social workers tell people about the class (I do not know if this actually happens or not). One person has brought others to practice. I have personally posted fliers at businesses and community locations in the area – so far this does not seem to have drawn anyone in.

One challenge with the non-profit is that I feel I need a staff contact to check in with about my efforts to promote the class (and theirs) and I no longer have one. Obviously I want to respect the organization’s wishes for who can attend the class and how it is promoted, but I also want to run a successful and sustainable class. With little to no staff involvement this is very challenging.

What is on the sign?

I studied communication, so there’s a good chance I think about this more than the average person (for better or for worse) … I chose a simple image (silhouette of a figure in warrior 2) and basic text (arrive on time to warm up, wear clothing that lets you move, practice in bare feet or socks, be prepared to sit on the ground and rise up to standing but know that chairs are also available).

I like that the sign is simple – there isn’t a budget for this class so if people come expecting frills, they will not find them. I pay for copies myself so would rather have a black and white flier than pay 5-10 times more for color.

I deliberately chose a standing posture because many people are physically not comfortable spending a long time seated on the ground. For people concerned that yoga is too spiritual for them, I wanted a picture of a posture more neutral than seated meditation or someone with hands in a mudra.

The figure is pretty generic, but it’s most likely a man. I realize my picture of a man in and of itself isn’t likely to convince men to come, but it’s more likely to do so than a picture of a woman. The stereotype that yoga is for women only already exists, so why reinforce it with my flyer?

The other nice thing about the generic figure is that the style and label of clothing isn’t visible. Yoga is a business in the US and I don’t have a problem with Lululemon selling expensive clothes for people to wear to expensive classes, but people already have an idea of what people wear in yoga. I don’t want the picture to emphasize fancy gear.

While my classes are trauma-informed, and I reach out to organizations likely to serve trauma survivors, I don’t call the classes that. I think it’s unlikely people will seek out such classes – if they are trauma survivors, they may not want to “out” themselves as such, and people who may not consider themselves trauma survivors (even if they are) may feel like they don’t meet the criteria.


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