Building a better member
The November/December 2009 issue of Miller-McCune magazine features a great article titled "Building a Better Citizen," which cites a slew of research showing that local governments that actively seek citizen involvement in the democratic process create healthier, happier communities. Essentially, the key to building a better citizen is get the citizen more involved in his or her local community and government.
This really isn't earth shattering, but I see a lot of parallels in this idea to volunteerism and member engagement at associations. The article (which
isn't available online, sadly was posted online Nov. 2) highlights Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam's idea of "social capital":
Putnam coined the term "social capital," to describe the intangible, value-laden benefits of a strong network of community relationships. In short, he argued, things like trust and cooperationâ€”the building blocks of democratic governanceâ€”are products of positive, sustained social interaction. [...]
Putnam's research revealed that communities where social capital is high are more likely to experience lower school dropout rates, less crime, fewer hospitalizations, and higher rates of economic growth ... .
- The most common ways an association volunteer first learns of a volunteer opportunity:
- Through a local chapter or section;
- At a meeting, conference, or other event;
- By being asked by another volunteer. (DTV)
- The primary indicator of future attendance at a meeting or event is past attendance. (Econ.)
So, to recap: direct opportunities for involvement → initial involvement → social interaction → continued engagement → high "social capital," → a healthy, happy community (or association).
The most important message from the article, however, is that the onus is on governments to drive involvement. "... Americans seem ready to re-engage, but they also, somewhat paradoxically, expect government to pave the way. [...] In other words, Americans need cajoling."
Same goes for associations. It's your job to get the ball rolling. That first item in the arrow trail above is all on you as an association leader. Fall short, and none of the rest happens, but once members do get involved, they're significantly more likely to continue engaging. That's how you build a better member.
Again, this isn't a new idea, nor is it rocket science, but it's interesting to see the parallels between community/government involvement and association volunteerism and engagement. If you can get your hands on the print edition of Miller-McCune, that article is worth a read.
I have a big idea rolling around in my mind about the best catalyst for member involvement, but I'll save that for another post next week. (You're welcome to share your ideas, though, of course.)
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