If Your Organization Doesn’t Increase Membership After Reading This Article, You Have My Permission to Beat Me With a Ball Peen Hammer

You can’t force people to join your organization.

Not legally, that is.

Don’t get any ideas.

What you can do is increase the probability that people will join – simply by making yourself, your people and your organization more joinable.

That means new approaches are required. And if you want to reach the people who matter, consider this counterintuitive suggestion:

Instead of getting people to join you – try joining them first.

Earlier this year I wrote about How to Make Your Organization More Joinable than a Megan Fox Fan Club. Today we’re going to explore six ways to join people first:1. Figure out why people are. It doesn’t matter what people do for a living – it only matters why they do it. That’s what defines people. That’s what drives them to contribute.

And if you want to join people first, I suggest you touch the center of their why. Even if it’s as simple as asking them, “Why do you do what you do?”

You’d be amazed how telling this question is. And the cool part is, once you have their answer, you can connect their why to the organization you represent.

For example, my friend Doug lives and breathes technology. In fact, few people I know are more resourceful when it comes to leveraging technology to make group communication clearer, faster and more relaxing.

But, I only know this because I inquired about Doug’s why. Because I actively petitioned to get know him at his core. And as a result, I was able to find the perfect spot for him on our board of directors. Our organization would never be the same without him. Are you getting in people’s heads or trying on people’s hearts?

2. Involvement isn’t something you can force upon people. People always make time for what’s important to them. Which means, if they aren’t joining your organization, it might not be your fault. It might have nothing to do with you.

Maybe Saturday morning is a terrible time for them to attend chapter functions because their kids have soccer practice.

Or, maybe they’re just out of college and can’t commit to weekly board meetings because they’d rather go to happy hour with their friends.

It doesn’t mean they don’t like you – it just means they have different priorities. In the book Brains on Fire, my friend Robbin Phillips writes about this very idea, “It’s not about how customers fit into your marketing plan – but rather about how you fit into their lives.”

Try this: Instead of assuming people are apathetic, uncommitted heathens, ask them how your organization might become a part of their schedule.

Then, once you’ve gathered consensus, consider alternating your organization’s activity schedule to accommodate a diverse group of member priorities. Are you starting with the customer in mind or just starting with the customer?

3. Hang on their home turf. As the president of my professional association, my recruiting efforts usually include breaking bread with potential members. I’d take that over a phone call any day. I guess I’m just not a hard sell kind of guy.

I’d rather meet people for lunch at their office or in their neighborhood. In my experience, that’s a better window into their world. That’s a smoother transition from “How are you?” to “Who are you?”

Occasionally, I might even have dinner at a prospective joiner’s home. That’s the big win: When I meet their families. Eat their food. Hang on their turf. And we might talk about joining – we might not.

The point is to meet people where they are. Literally. Sure beats sitting on your ass with crossed fingers and high hopes. Whose home turf could you visit this week?

4. Learn people’s learning styles. Not everyone needs to come to the Sunday service. Maybe they’re Wednesday night small group discussion people. Maybe they’re homebodies who’d rather listen to the audio recording of the sermon online while drinking coffee in their bed with their dogs.

Doesn’t make them any less of a member. It just means they process information differently. And only when you understand these preferences can you tailor your messages (and the media through which they’re delivered) accordingly.

Naturally, I’m not just talking about congregations. These principles apply to all member-based organizations. Take my professional association. Last year they started publishing their monthly audio newsletter as a podcast on iTunes.

Finally. Good lord. If I had to open another stupid compact disc shrink wrapped to my magazine, I was going to kill somebody.

The cool part is, because of the increasing population of members under forty, my organization significantly increased their listenership. How many potential members are you alienating because your message isn’t tuned into their frequency?

5. Less outreach, more inbreak. In the pivotal book Jim and Casper Go to Church, I learned the difference between “outreaching,” which is inviting people to join your group, and “inbreaking,” which is joining an existing community action.

According to my friend and occasional mentor Jim Henderson:

“We can find out what groups in our community are already doing to make life better for people and join them. Rather than start groups, we could join their groups. Rather than join groups to convert people, we could join them to connect with and serve people.”

Try this: Consider the types of members you hope to attract. What groups are they already a part of? What role in the community do they currently occupy? Create a gameplan to take a more active role in those spaces. People will notice.

Remember: Your members shouldn’t have to adjust to you. You need to adapt for them. Whose life are you willing to become a part of?

6. Discover their desired way to contribute. Instead of laying a guilt trip on potential members for not devoting every waking moment of their life to your organization, try asking them how they’d like to contribute.

After all, that’s why people join: To give back. To add value to others, to the organization and to the world.

The trick is, not everyone contributes the same way. Personally, I despise meetings. They are the bane of my existence. And I refuse to waste my valuable (and billable) time sitting around a table with seven people trying to figure out whose house the Christmas party is going to be held at this year.

Fortunately, the groups I’m a board member of are smart enough not to ask me to attend meetings.

On the other, I love to write. Actually, that’s an understatement: Writing isn’t just my occupation – it’s my religion. And any time I’ve taken a volunteer position, I’ve always offering my pen as the principle instrument of my contribution.

Need a newsletter article? Need a blog post? Need a welcome letter to new members? No problem. I’m your man.

Your challenge is to dive into the lives of the people around. To join them by discovering and honoring their desired way to contribute. Do so, and you’ll be surprised what they’re willing to give to your organization. How are you helping people help you?

7. Find out what joining looks like to them. Everybody joins differently. A single guy in his thirties approaches joining a group differently than retired widower in her sixties. And if you’ve read Bowling Alone, you know that some people aren’t even joiners at all.

Therefore: If your organization seeks to reach a diverse group of new members, you have to go out of your way to find out how people prefer to join. Without this information, your outreach efforts fall on deaf ears.

I don’t care if have the greatest organization in the world. If you’re leaving voicemail messages on a college student’s land line, odds are she will never, ever call you back. You may as well be winking in the dark.

The reality is, some people just want to pay their dues, show up to five meetings a year and get on with their lives.

They’re never going to volunteer.
They’re never going win member of the year.
They’re never going to spearhead the party planning committee.

No matter how many board members nominate them.

As a leader, you need to be okay with this reality. Stop compartmentalizing people into convenient little personality boxes and just let them join as they see fit. Are you preaching to the atheists?

REMEMBER: There are people out there just dying to join you.

And they will.

As long as you’re willing to join them first.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Whom did you join last week?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “62 Types of Questions and Why They Work,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

10 Ways to Make Your Organization More Joinable than a Megan Fox Fan Club

“Why isn’t anybody joining our organization?!”

That’s a frustrating question for any leader to ask.

Especially when meeting attendance is down, new membership is non-existent and the attitude of the board is bordering on apathetic.

Yikes.

Fortunately, there’s a solution. And to the dismay of your diabetic members, it doesn’t involve a bake sale.

HERE’S THE REALITY: Whether you’re an association, non-profit, church, club – or even a company – you can’t make anybody join you.

All you can do is increase the probability of new people joining your organization by making yourself, your members and your group more JOINABLE.

Let find out how:

1. Start with yourself. Think of the last three organizations, clubs or groups you joined. How easy were they to join? What was the deciding factor? What reservations did you have about joining? Sit down with your board.

Make a chart. Write the answers out. Look for commonalities. Then brainstorm three action items for each attribute of joinable organizations. Begin executing them today. Why do YOU join?

2. Take the first step. My friend Jim Henderson, author of Jim And Casper Go to Church, takes a counterintuitive stance on joining. “Are you getting people to join you, or are you trying to join them first?” In this instance, proactivity is the secret. Sticking yourself out there is the way.

After all, approachability is a two-way street. Your mission is to give people permission. I wonder if Megan Fox ever does that for her fan club. Who is just waiting to be asked to join what you’re doing?

3. Establish a bullshit-free atmosphere. Of course, you can’t completely accomplish this. A little bullshit always seeps through. The first secret is expectational clarity. Alerting prospective members upfront that honesty isn’t a value thrown around like a Nerf ball.

It’s a way of life. A practice. Honoring the truth, YOUR truth, and other people’s truths. The second secret is the willingness to call each other on – and open yourself to being called on – bullshit. It’s painful but profitable. Is the prerequisite for attending your organization’s meetings “roll your pant legs up”?

4. Help people feel a sense of self-achievement. In the book Leadership & Nursing Management, author Diane Huber explains, “Remember people’s psychological drive and primary need to accomplish things.” Next, make a list called, “Top Ten Things My Members Want to Accomplish.”

Then, match group behaviors to desires. Think about what, specifically, your group is providing to help your people accomplish those things. How are you helping your members put checkmarks next to their goals?

5. Sit people down. Shockingly enough, the best way to find out what people want is to ASK THEM. As the president of my local chapter of National Speakers Association, I’ve spent the last year doing just that: Collecting data. Asking questions. Having lunches. Kissing babies. Whatever it takes.

Then, during one-on-one meeting with members, past members or potential members, I’ve been asking the following questions: “What would bring you back?” and “When you used to come to meetings, what, specifically, were we providing you?”

You might also ask people to complete the following sentence three times: “As a member, I would come if (x).” Whichever approach you choose, here’s the reality: Regardless of current attendance or membership, there WAS a moment when people DID care, and DID come. As their leader, you have the power to create that again.

It’s simple: Pick up the phone, set up a lunch, sit down with someone, honestly ask for their help, staple your tongue to the roof of your mouth and take copious notes. Remember: People want to be in the mix with something meaningful. That’s how you drive faces back. How many lunches have you had this month with current, past or prospective members?

6. The speed of the response IS the response. Be actively responsive to inquiries about membership. Respond to member impatience with Phrases That Payses like “Right away,” “The best way to help you right now” and “How can I help you the most?”

This demonstrates urgency through your language and reinforces emotional reliability. Especially when people want answers NOW, or, in many cases, last Tuesday. Remember: When your words to promote insistence – but aren’t hurried – people become relaxed and ready to join. How quickly do you return calls?

7. Nourish their interests. Gil Wagner, founder of Yellow Tie International, had this to say on joinability:

“Emotionally, the association’s philosophies must fit mine. I suggest an open-circle environment (both in welcoming new people and in welcoming their ideas), a giving spirit and a mission that feels right. Logically, the math must work out. The expected ROI must fit with my needs at the time.”

Remember: Belonging is a strong emotion – appeal to it. How are you speaking to the self-interest of future members?

8. Create opportunities to dive and dig deep. Superficiality works for about twenty minutes. After that, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter. The meat and potatoes. The tofu and veggies. Your mission is to make sure your meetings; websites and materials provide sustainable, practical and actionable value.

For example, as a board member of NSA/XY, I help facilitate discussions with challenging thought starters. At our recent meetup in Chicago, I took the lead on a conversation about content management/deployment by answering the question, “How do you direct your creative thinking to create value?”

That one question helped the group dive and dig deep into the heart of a key challenge. How does your group give its members conversational shovels?

9. Make it easy to contribute. People derive psychological satisfaction from doing so. Your goal is to (not only) make contribution easy – but to continually recognize people’s contributions as they come in. This cycle of affirmation encourages people to return with more keepers each time.

Be sure to create a question-friendly environment. Give new people space to share. Work on boosting your askability. And never forget to acknowledge the newbies. They might have a contribution the likes of which your organization has never seen. Whose voice are you unintentionally silencing?

10. Make it easy to withdraw. In my AIIM Leadership Council, one of the coolest benefits of joining is THV: Take Home Value. Here’s how it works: At the end of every meeting, each member fills out a one-page summary with her best “keepers” of the day. Then, our director emails a composite of ALL the keepers to us the following week. It’s invaluable for several reasons.

First, you get a chance to see how twelve people interpret the same ideas in different ways. Secondly, you don’t have to remember anything. Finally, when you see your own THV on the final composite, your sense of contribution is reaffirmed. I challenge you to incorporate this process of into your organization. Use a blog, ezine, Facebook group or Twitter account.

When you deliver take-home value, you win. Your members win. Your group wins. How are you making it easy for your members to make positive withdrawals from your organization?

REMEMBER: You can’t make anybody join you.

All you can do is increase the probability of new people joining your organization by making yourself, your members and your group more JOINABLE.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for my meeting at the Megan Fox Fan Club. Maybe tonight she’ll muster the courage to approach me and say hi.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How joinable are you?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “99 Questions Every Entrepreneur Needs to Ask,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here! >

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