Attracting New Members and Volunteers

I recently had a wonderful experience when I had the opportunity to speak to a dedicated group of young adults participating in a group associated with the local chapter of a national non-profit organization. It was heartwarming to see that this worthwhile organization was achieving success with one of the serious issues facing the non-profit world.

So many organizations that I work with have the common problem of  attrition of the older, established members/volunteers/donors but not attracting younger participants in sufficient numbers. My anecdotal observations show that it is getting harder and harder to get young people involved.

The reasons are many, but the key is in understanding what attracts people, young or old, to get involved.  It’s a process.   A critical mistake that seems to drive outreach efforts is the idea that organizations must go out and bring people in. The much more effective approach is to attract potential volunteers and donors. This may seem to be just a matter of semantics, but it isn’t.   There’s a difference and a distinction between the two.

One is convincing people—selling them, if you will—to get involved; the other is establishing an environment through programming that will make them seek you out. The key is to create a desire for them to want to be a part of things and to make them take the initiative to join.

I have seen this approach be successful many times, it can work for you as well.  It’s a great way to build your pool of volunteers, members, and donors.

Don’t Skip the Business Plan

I had a conversation with a friend the other day. This person has been contemplating self-employment for a few years and has recently become more serious about it. I’ve been counseling him informally trying to help free him from the job he has held for over twenty years and help him in his transition.

Due to many circumstances, I believe he is still very far from taking the leap. A key reason for this is that he is floating. What I mean is that he is unable to decide on a clear career path and how to achieve it. He is waffling between two or three possible avenues but can’t determine the best path for him.

Each time he appears to be making a decision I have provided the same advice: create a business plan. That’s sort of my mantra. For my friend, it is also one of the reasons he has failed to act, he just doesn’t want to “jump through that hoop.” On many occasions he has said words to the effect of, “Do I really have to? I mean is it really necessary?”

Need I state my reply?

During my latest conversation, once again the business plan advice came up and he said that a few people have said that he doesn’t need to do a business plan, just go ahead and open up shop.

I told him that the people that told him that are just flat-out wrong! If they are business consultants or claim to be business experts, they should find other work. The plan is what tells you if what you want to do is feasible, it will guide you to your goal, it will tell you if you are on track as you execute the plan. IT IS A MUST!

Unfortunately, the plan is not a crystal ball. It doesn’t have the inherent ability to transcend the dimensional boundaries of time and space and affect the future. While it forces you as the author to estimate what will happen based upon certain assumptions, it doesn’t mean that what you predict will actually happen. That’s why it is a living document that you’ll have to revisit and revise on a continual basis.

It’s important that you maintain your plan for two reasons. The first is to adjust your course properly when reality doesn’t line up with the plan. But perhaps an even more critical purpose is that when you make these adjustments, you’ll need to see if reality will ever allow you to meet your objectives. Unfortunately, sometimes things veer away from the plan to the extent that it shows that your vision may never come to fruition and the time may come to terminate the business. It’s a difficult decision, but the sooner you realize this, the better off you are.

For the good or the sad, the business plan is the fundamental tool you need before you start, and to map your progress. Don’t skip this crucial step—it’s your best chance for success.