An organization, almost by definition, has more than one person. A key goal for leaders in any organization is to keep people inspired. No matter what kind of organization, inspiration means retention. There are plenty of ways that we can inspire teams. And there are entire books on doing so. Accolades, training, great communications, doing what you say you’ll do, focusing on the purpose of the organization, and dozens (if not hundreds) of other motivators help keep people engaged, inspired, and active within your community. But there are also demotivates that we do all the time that can be off-putting to some (although not to all).
One of those is using the words “I” or “My” when referencing the organization, the activities of the organization, or the organization’s members. Think of this, when I’m at work, I actively try not to say “my staff” or “my team” but instead say “our team” because “our” is inclusive whereas “my” is possessive. You don’t possess volunteers or staff, they are there at their whim and will leave if offended. And not everyone will get offended by feeling they are with you nor take that connotation. But some will, and the larger the organization becomes, the more likely someone will be put off by calling them yours.
Also, unless you own a for-profit company, it’s not your organization. And even if you do own a for-profit, once there’s more people involved than just you, referring to the organization as “ours” instead of “mine” builds cohesiveness through inclusion. When people hear you speak in public and you say “I” it sparks a sense of hero worship in you. And that’s exhilarating. But when they hear you say “our” in public (especially in articles or interviews) they feel pride for the organization as a whole. And when people who aren’t part of the organization hear that, they are more likely to want to be a part of the organization.
I’ve had this discussion with business owners and entrepreneurs for decades. And occasionally I get a dissenting opinion, which is that “they need to believe in me.” My answer is usually “not like that.” People need to see that a leader brings action and takes on added burden while sharing the accolades with the teams around them.
Words matter. We’ve stopped using a lot of words and phrases over the years for a myriad of reasons. If you want to lead, and alienate as few as possible, then think about how you refer to the organization you’ve chosen to found/start/lead/join. It’s a small thing, but just another example of expanding our philosophy of the world around us and how we operate in it.
The world is a funny place. You might be spreading the word of peace, tolerance, and kindness, but there’s a chance that others might not be so welcoming of your message. You have a message you want to spread, but you need to be safe in order to keep fighting the good fight out there.
Safety can mean a lot of things, to a lot of different people. Each of us has a different tolerance to the challenges that surround us and seemingly varying degrees of threat levels to be concerned about. But no one thinks that there’s going to be an incident at a type of event until there is one. So here are some good things to keep in mind (not obsess about, mind you) while you’re out there trying to do good for the world.
Make sure people know where you are. If you’re going to a rally, make sure to email a friend or family member, etc. Also, get into a cadence of checking in with someone when you get home. Checking in on Facebook or another form of social media is debatable here. Yes, the police can easily navigate where you have been; however, so can others.
Find My Friends. Share your location with a friend. Not only does someone know that you went to an event using the above item, but now if something happens, you can hopefully easily be located. I know lots of people who just leave a feature like Find My Friends on all the time for general safety. But if you’re roaming around areas otherwise foreign to you,
Travel in groups. It’s much more difficult for something to happen to multiple people than if you are alone. Make some friends (they may just turn out to be life-long friendships). This is a great aspect of joining a group; there are always plenty of like-minded people to go to events with. Also, in areas that experience heavy traffic there’s another benefit: carpools!
Don’t wear headphones. Yes, you want your very own Bieber soundtrack! But being aware is one of the most important safety tips to consider. And it’s hard to be aware when you’re listening to music or books on your phone, catching up with others on Facebook, etc.
Walk with a sense of purpose. Don’t look scared; that makes you a target. When you are walking with a sense of purpose, others are less likely to engage with you, which reduces a number of threats, especially escalating attention from those you might not want that attention from.
Don’t be rude or ignore, but don’t stop if someone engages with you. When people do, keep in mind that you can control the escalation or de-escalation of an interaction. And if needed, simply duck into a corner store or a place with cameras to avoid further interaction. Crowds can be as anonymous as dark alleys.
Never take technology out of your pocket. Your phone or other devices can be a reason for someone to stop you. Having said that, using a tool like the SOS feature on an AppleWatch (or a similar tool) can be a great way to have access to technology without taking higher value assets out.
“Hey Siri, take me to the closest police station.” I know a number of people who have used a tool like Siri or Google Maps to stay safe in their car while using technology but still being able to avoid taking a phone out of their pocket and exposing their technology assets to people who might want.
Take an Uber or taxi rather than drive. There’s nothing like walking through dark areas to find your car. Uber also takes a lot of security precautions that help to speed up leaving a location and tracking your location as you leave. Finally, there’s safety in numbers, rather than driving alone, there’s now a second person in the Uber driver.
Avoid being impaired. This includes of course illicit drugs and alcohol, but also keep in mind that legitimately prescribed drugs or an illness can also impair you. In some cases, not only are you going to not be as cognizant as you normally would, you might also be able to get arrested more easily for the behavior.
Don’t bring weapons. Bringing a gun or another lethal weapon to an organized event that could feasibly inspire violence is always, always, always a terrible idea. If you suspect that there will be violence, you shouldn’t attend an event. No cause was ever made better by violence and brandishing a weapon only ever escalates violence.
When walking alone, keep your hands in your pockets with your keys. Keys are sharp. Yes, I know I said don’t take a weapon to an event. But this is a purely defensive thing, on the way back to your car or home. It’s a habit, and not a bad one even when just randomly walking around any city.
A few minor safety tips not only help to keep you personally safe, but also to keep any media coverage of your organization in alignment with your message. Not all of these tips impact just your personal safety. If you get arrested, or there is any kind of violence at an event, the entire mission of the organization is placed into jeopardy. Not only is there a higher chance of media coverage, but any kind of a scandal impacts the legitimacy of the entire organization.
Charles Edge donated 2016-12-01 19:29:34 -0800
NotOnMyWatch Solutions is not a 501.3(c).
Why? A 501.3(c) has to be impartial. We are not.
We realize this means that donations aren’t tax deductible; but if forums are overrun by arguments before we can get anything going, we’ll never get anywhere.
We do have expenses, office supplies, hosting, web developement, and look forward to hiring full time employees to support our nation wide movement. We really need your donations to do that so we can help the movement focus and ignite.Donate
You meet some people who share a common idea. You decide to band together to change the world. You take action. You get started. You meet. But people become disengaged. They loose interest. And before you know it, that inertia you grabbed in the beginning starts to fade until you’re alone, a mission unfulfilled.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s look at a few ways you can keep those flames burning:
- Be clear about your mission. You want your community involved for the right reasons. Otherwise they won’t stay interested. And equally as important, you want your mission clear so you can make sure it’s worth pursuing.
- Have a narrow focus. Let’s make the world a better place. That’s not a mission. At first, bite off as little as you can chew. Don’t do too much. Get some quick wins. Those quick, early wins will help invigorate your volunteers.
- Be ready and willing to pivot. Staying true to the mission doesn’t mean that you won’t ever refine your position. Instead, it means stay true to doing a great thing for the world. Pivoting helps you get closer to the truth of what you really want, or can, accomplish. Just make sure everyone involved agrees!
- Be clear about expectations and requirements. Are you asking volunteers for 2 hours per week? Or to make ten phone calls a month? Or to attend an event a month? Or to commit to fundraising a thousand dollars a year? In the beginning, just getting a verbal “yes I want to be involved is fine. But over time you will need more from volunteers. Codify what that commitment looks like; but be willing to make exceptions for special cases.
- Be generous and public with accolades. I practice this in business as well. But when people are helping out for free, they need to be thanked for the work they do, and it’s important to do so publicly (unless they opt out of that – which some will do).
- Admonish in private. There’s no quicker way to alienate not only a volunteer, but the others who see you get into a situation with a volunteer. Volunteers are hard to recruit; don’t mess it up by getting all hotheaded!
- Build a rewards system. It is amazing what people will do for a t-shirt, a badge on a website, a sticker, or button. Identify a currency that your group can use, and provide rewards based on that currency.
- Connect with, but don’t inundate your community. What’s the right cadence of messaging to your constituency? Monthly emails? Weekly text invitations to meet up at an event? Annual requests for donations? All legitimate communication mechanisms are opt-in. Find the right pace that allows you to get enough information to and from your members without having them opt right back out.
- Ask members to find new members. The first organization I was ever a part of had been around for over a hundred years. Their number one ask of me: replace yourself. And I did. As did the next person. And the next, with a clear lineage over the course of 20 years since. Priorities in life change and it can be hard to stay engaged. Only by empowering your members to find the next generation.
- Share the successes. Finally, it’s going to be impossible to keep your members engaged if they don’t see that you’re accomplishing anything. This is one reason not to bite off too much in the beginning. Biting off less and expanding the focus intentionally is a great way to not only have an impact, but also galvanize your cause into a movement!
There are tons of other ways to keep your members involved. What are some of the ways you’ve found success with?
Charles Edge published Volunteerism and Activism Are Not Like Running A Business in Blog 2016-11-30 19:52:26 -0800
Most companies have a mission: make money. I’ve started companies, worked at companies, and sold companies. And when working on a business, you need to make money, or the IRS calls it a hobby, and you need a day job. Companies have employees. Non-profits can have employees, but there are usually more volunteers than employees. Activist organizations also have volunteers, but often have way more people that just show up to events.
Volunteers and activists are not like employees. They don’t get paid, they don’t get insurance, and they don’t have to put up with a bunch of crap. But they might have many other attributes that an employee has, including responsibilities, expenses, and even leadership positions.
When working with activists and volunteers, keep a few basic rules in mind:
- Split responsibilities up as much as possible. Anyone that gets overburdened will burn out. You might delegate a number of tasks to an employee but spreading tasks out will keep volunteers engaged and not overwhelm them.
- Don’t assume long-term involvement unless you get a commitment. Positions like board memberships come with a long-term commitment. If you have a large training program, you also want to secure a commitment from trainees before you engage in training. Just because you have a commitment doesn’t mean that you can count on it, but when you discuss a commitment, it’s good to get expectations set early.
- Expect turnover. There’s no golden handcuffs, like a paycheck or a 401k. This means people can come and go, and they will. Don’t admonish, as then they’ll just go. If you’re lucky and communicate with your group in a way that isn’t overkill, they may just keep coming, here and there. But ask people to spread the word. That way, when the most active volunteer who helps with everything stops showing up, you have willing and able people in line behind them! Most companies try to limit turnover; but assume it will happen, and assume turnover will be high.
- Incentivize. If you have funds, a t-shirt, sticker, hat, socks, and other giveaways are not going to be the only reason people show up, but a little token of thanks goes a long way. These conversation starters could also be a nice way to recruit more members as group members discuss items with friends. Also, here’s a little secret sauce – keep the designs or items changing. This way you’ll end up with people looking at items as status, like I heard recently “oh look, she’s wearing the 2010 shirt, nice!" A lot of companies have an online store you can buy swag at, as should most non-profits. But swag can be a strong motivator, especially when you aren't paying people!
- Keep politics out of it. Wait, maybe you’re a political group… What I mean is politics inside the group. Having cliques form within a group can work in your favor, but are usually just going to end up obfuscating the mission. This is the same at work, but impossible to control with people who show up and see each other every day for years on end.
- Call out exceptional help. If you have someone that goes above and beyond, find ways to recognize them. Be careful, if you recognize them for an event they helped with everyone else will need recognition to (or this could become a demotivator). So I like to stick with thanking people for all they do and calling out multiple reasons for doing so!
- Be appreciative. A gentle thank you goes a long way. If someone shows up to an event a year, they’re still engaged and as vital to the success of the organization as anyone else. Make sure to personally thank as many people as you can for even the smallest amounts of involvement. In companies we should do this more than we do, but with volunteers it's critical.
Finally, don’t forget the mission. You have a cause, you have action you want to take, and you have a mission. Keep that in mind and make sure to link every activity you ask for participation in back to the mission. While it seems obvious sometimes, it can never hurt to explain how your activities are contributing to a larger cause and greater good.
Have you tried to treat volunteers like employees or been treated that way? Share your stories with us!
Something happens that you just can’t stand for. Neither can others. You hear about people gathering to let their opinions known. You join them. You take to the streets. You protest. And you go back again and again. Maybe you accomplish something; maybe you don’t. Countless movements have succeeded; others have not. But throughout the course people come and go from the cause. Maybe they came once or maybe they came dozens of times. But eventually, physical, in person involvement in protests diminishes.
As a leader in your movement, you need to keep these people involved, in whatever way you can! So when people stop showing up for demonstrations, protests, or sit-ins, here are a few ideas of things you might be able to get them to do:
- Spreading the word about your events and outreach. You have like-minded people around you. Chances are that they agree with most of the things you post and need to communicate. It’s also likely that they are friends with other people who agree. They can spread the message to friends and family through regular conversations or by posting them to their social media accounts. All of these help the cause.
- Spreading the word about the movement. Remember, this isn’t a company, so if it helps your cause you can simply repost what other groups are doing. Don’t get competitive with other groups, instead foster a sense of community. Any movement will have a number of groups, and the combined power of the groups is greater than that of a single organization.
- Fundraising. Anyone who has attended an event or signed up on a web page is someone who can be contracted to either donate or assist in fundraising. When asking for donations, be clear about exactly what the funds will be used for. I also recommend posting the organization’s full financials on the web in order to be transparent about where funds are used.
- Contacting politicians. Even after people stop coming to events, you can often get them to fill out a simple form or make a call.
- Getting out there. Many issues may seem polarizing to someone that doesn’t understand what that issue is. By getting out and communicating with those that might not see eye to eye on those issues, activists can often offer a counterpoint to what people hear in the media. If we communicate more, we will often feel our voices are heard.
- Volunteering. There are few better ways to earn goodwill in a community than to help people. If people see you volunteering, they will consider your cause more legitimate. Volunteering also makes us feel better and... most importantly... you are helping people. Leave your bubble, though. Mix up volunteering with organizations you may have never heard of, and that have little to do with what your organization is about.
- Running for office. OK, so people got out there and made their voices heard. Maybe it’s time to up the game a little. Picking people who are charismatic but being involved less and less and grooming them to run for something might help keep them active and if they get elected, might just help the cause exponentially more than just attending a rally.
Whatever initiatives you decide make sense for the type of organization you run, keep in mind that the easier you make things for people when asking them to do things the more likely they will be to do them. And keep them informed; once we get involved with other aspects of an organization we often feel reinvigorated about the primary mission!
What have you done to help reinvigorate your fatigued members?