Organizations that depend on recruiting and retaining members, volunteers, donors, or just fans of their cause often struggle to find a consistent system for doing so. Leaders of cause-based groups (non-profits, associations, businesses, social entrepreneurs, religious groups, etc.) are often so focused on the organization’s purpose that they falter when trying to fulfill the other primary ingredient for their organization’s success – people.
After all, People + Purpose = Organization – and when those two ingredients are combined, the world can be changed forever. Margaret Mead reminds us of the power of organizations, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Organizations change the world. It is groups that are made up of People + Purpose that have shaped society, sparked rebellions, led revolutions, and made the world better for all of us. Many organizations, however, are well-intentioned (their leaders are passionate about their cause) but they lack the PEOPLE necessary to deeply impact their purpose. They're a tiny group of people whose potential is limited by their inability to attract more help. This article provides a glance at 8 steps organizations can follow to ensure long-term success at attracting a high quantity of high quality people to support their purpose.
Step 1: Focus On the Basics – Policies, procedures, politics, drama, details, more politics, personality management, paperwork, email, planning... Do these things make up the bulk of your to-do list? How many of them have to do with the two core ingredients of world-changing organizations (People + Purpose)? As a leader, focus at least 80% of your time on people and purpose. Every day evaluate your to-do list and ask, “Will this work help me get more people to work for our cause?” and “Will this work help my people more effectively achieve our purpose?”
Step 2: A.C.E. Your Values – The guiding values of an organization are its heart and soul. High quality people are attracted to high quality things. If your organization’s values bleed through to the surface of everything you do – the organization’s actions, words, and results deeply represent those core values – people will join up and stay involved with the group. To consistently attract and retain a high quantity of high quality people in your organization, it is important to Achieve, Communicate, and Expect your organization’s values at all times. Achieve them not only through the actions you take to impact your cause, but also through the actions you take to recruit people to your group. Communicate them clearly and at every chance with current and potential members, volunteers, donors, or fans. Expect everyone involved with your cause to exemplify those values in their work at all times – make no exceptions. The values of your group are its heart and soul.
Step 3: Gather Your Workhorses – Fact: Eighty percent of the work in your group is done by twenty percent of its people – especially when it comes to recruiting more members, volunteers, donors, or fans. It is probably no surprise to read this, and of course, you’re in that 20% of “workhorses,” right? Many organizational leaders spend a lot of time and energy trying to get the 80% to “step up” and do what the 20% does. Carrot and sticking the stubborn or unmotivated mules in the organizations will not turn them into workhorses. Instead, we recommend that you gather your “workhorses” and get to work. Humans are hardwired to desire the company of people who are like us. Motivated people with strong values tend to seek and enjoy the company of other motivated people of similar values. In other words, like recruits like. So, do you want your 80% on the front lines of recruitment, or do you want your “workhorses” out attracting more people like them. Stop wasting your time with the unmotivated people in your group. Gather your workhorses and get to work.
Step 4: Know Your Audience – By “know your audience,” we really mean, “know that your audience is probably much bigger than you think it is.” More people want to be involved in your cause than you can even imagine. However, the secret to reaching your massive audience isn’t mass marketing, it’s personal relationships. If you can get your current people to meet more people (and share your group’s crazy dream with these new friends), your potential audience will grow dramatically.
Ask people why they join and/or stay in their organization. One reason will rise to the top as the most common theme: “the people.” Effective member/donor/volunteer recruitment is a relationship business. Work with your currently involved people to tap new and different channels for identifying new prospective participants. Utilize referrals from internal and external sources. Do “relationship drives” which give your current members opportunities to just shake hands with, get to know, and maybe share your group’s dream with new people. Commit to only using marketing efforts that directly result in attaining names and contact information of prospects. Use online social media outreach to proactively build relationships with new people. People don’t join groups that stand there shouting about how great their purpose is. People join (and stay in) groups that include other people that they have a relationship with, care about, and like to work with.
Step 5: Share Your Dream – An organization’s wild, bold, audacious dream is what you will really recruit people to join. People don’t join organizations; people join people. And people are
far more likely to join a group of people who are boldly heading in an exciting direction than a group of people who are stagnant. If your group doesn’t have a crazy dream, exciting vision, or daring goal to inspire others with, it is unlikely people will want to join your little tribe. The best people don’t want to just be a part of a group – they want to be a part of a movement, an experience, an exciting achievement that they can help to make a reality. Worried that you don’t have a bold, audacious dream? That’s okay. Stop asking people if they want to “join” your group and start asking people what you and your organization can help THEM “create.”
Step 6: Be Socially Excellent – Social Excellence is a philosophy we teach that includes becoming a master at communication, relationship, and networking skills. But Social Excellence is about more than that – it is also about building connections with others because those connections can lead to rich relationships, innovative collaborations, and organized groups of committed citizens that can change the world. Being Socially Excellent means committing to approaching every day, every person, ever interaction with curiosity, generosity, authenticity and vulnerability. It is about seeking deep meaningful connection with others, not for personal gain (or to recruit them to your group), but because it is these deep meaningful connections that have the potential to lead to changing the world. Preparing the people involved in your organization with Social Excellence gives them clarity about the best ways to interact with others so that your cause might be most fully realized. Here’s our official definition of Social Excellence.
Social Excellence [n]: A state of perpetual generosity, curiosity, positivity, and openness to limitless possibility. A desire to intentionally connect with others. The ability to engage in deep, meaningful conversation. Acting in a responsible and respectable manner, with high expectations of others. Being authentic and living everyday with integrity as the best version of yourself. Being confident and vulnerable. Being fun and compassionate. Being open, kind and bold. The deepest level of societal participation and contribution.
Step 7: Grow Wiser – An absolutely vital component to building a culture of long-term, limitless organizational growth is to commit to a constant pursuit of wisdom. Learning from experts outside your current sphere is where many groups find innovation. Are you a non-profit leader in the health sector? Intentionally seek out sales people in the retail world for advice. Are you an association leader in the political sphere? Read books for college student organizations. You get the idea. In fact, all organizational leaders should be reading books and blogs, watching videos, and following tweets by the best thought leaders out there. Seth Godin, Keith Ferrazzi, Zig Ziglar, Yvon Chouinard, Dale Carnegie, Peter Guber, Dan Buettner, Ori and Rom Brafman, Guy Kawasaki, and Simon Sinek have written some of the best books that have inspired us.
Step 8: Repeat – Do those first seven steps. Teach all the new people you’ve engaged in your cause those seven steps. Then do it again. Repeat. Over and over. Limitless.
People + Purpose = Organization. Organizations change the world. But a brilliant cause or purpose without people to support it is just another idea floating around in space. Consistently attracting a high quantity of high quality people to your purpose requires focus, work, relationships, and strategy. But it is the only thing that ever has changed the world.