Wednesday, January 27, 2010

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?

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

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

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