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You are Building Relationships

Why do you want to find out this stuff? You are building a relationship--not a following. You are looking for leaders, people who will take responsibility, people who will, eventually, take on work on their own initiative.

Not everyone will do this. Many people will not take initiative without encouragement. Many people have had their initiative and natural intelligence beaten down or humiliated out of them by the time they are still very young. But you are looking for openings. You are not looking for full blown leaders who are eager to take responsibility. You are not likely to find them. And if you do, such leaders are more likely to be out looking to recruit you--or someone else.

You are looking for people who have some good values, who want to do something, who probably have some time in their busy lives, and who will do something that advances their own personal interests. But you need to develop a beginning relationship. You need to find out in what they are interested and get a sense of who they are.

Strong Relationships Build Strong Organizations

You are building relationships for many reasons. Strong relationships build effective organizations. An organizer from the Harvard Union of Technical and Clerical Workers says she was able to convince workers at Harvard University to loin union, not so much because the University was the enemy, but because of the strong personal relationships organizers and union supporters built with other employees. Organizations will withstand stress if the personal relationships among its members are strong. The Harvard union organizers talked to employees about all kinds of subjects--not only about the union. They talked about their personal lives, their families, the weather, etc. They instituted a Friday afternoon "chat" session for people just to come together to talk It lowered stress and built strong relationships. Rumors are harder to start or spread where relationships are strong.

The tasks the organization undertake will also be done more efficiently and effectively when relationships are strong. When morale and communication is strong, tasks are completed more productively. Strong relationships are the foundation of team-work. It is not enough to have a common goal for an organization to be productive. It takes coordination and communication. Good relationships are the foundation of these.

Strong relationships are also a reward in themselves. Look at the reasons you joined a group in the first place. Look at what has kept you in that group. For many it is the quality of the relationships they find in the group that keep them involved.

Another union organizer tells of her success in recruiting people to union meetings. After having little luck with sending out flyers, mailing and newsletters, she called people up, told them about the meeting and said, "I haven't met you yet, but I'd like to meet you." 14 people who never came before showed up. 'people want to be part of a welcoming community," she said. "They came because they knew someone would want to meet them."

How to Recruit: LISTEN

How do you do recruit? You listen. Asking people to join or come to your meeting is only a start. This might get them to come one time, if they like you well enough. But then they will be doing it for you. You will be developing a follower. If you are trying to build a long lasting organization where people Invest their time, energy and ideas (and those are the organizations that will be effective and last), then you need to build an organization of many leaders. You need people who will participate voluntarily at many levels of responsibility. You need people who will work without your nagging them constantly. You need people who will work for themselves, not only because you asked them.

You find out who they are and what might be a real, long lasting reason for them to join and stay in the organization by listening to them. By listening you can discover what they organization might mean for them. You can discover how they can best participate in the group, what role or task they can best manage.

So, how do you listen? That depends on how much time you have, where you are, and how much time you want to spend right now with each person. There are a great many situations where you will be recruiting. I will cover two basic situations. Your own situation will likely be a little different or perhaps a mix of these two. This is meant as a general guide. Feel free to do it your way. as long as you follow the general outline: Listen. don't sell.

Short Visits

You may decide that a short visit is what you need now, or all you have time for. Some call this "door knocking," since it is often done standing in doorways, door to door in neighborhoods, hallways, etc. It allows you a short (5 minutes or so) conversation with someone you don't know. You can talk with a large number of people this way. This lets you see whom you may want to go back to see for a longer period of time.

For door knocking, use these steps:

  • Smile, look them in the eye and say your name and the name of your group.


  • Authorize or legitimate yourself. This can take many different forms. If you are a neighbor and you are trying to get a neighborhood organization going, just being their neighbor may be "legitimacy" enough. If you are part of a group, say what the group has already done. ('We are the group that got the City to clean up the lot across Broadway last month.") You may have been referred by a local leader. This also gives you some legitimacy. (For example, "I work with Father Mahoney" or "Rabbi Salzman suggested I stop by.")


  • Say what you are there for--to find out what she or he is concerned about ("We are here to &d out about what you are concerned about...") Use the word "you" rather than "people in the neighborhood." You are not conducting a survey. You are building relationships. Words count. You want them to know you care what they think, not what everyone thinks. You recruit people one at a time. Remember, this is what works. So you care about what she or he thinks, not people in general. NOTE You will have about 30-40 seconds for steps 1-3. So practice before you go out, exactly what you are going to say. It will get easier as you do it a number of times. The exact words matter. Have someone you trust listen to you. Or tape record yourself. Get the exact words right. If you don't get it right the first few times, don't worry. No one learned how to recruit at birth. Keep trying until you feel that you can say your opening lines easily. The person at the door will "size you up" in the first few seconds. So dress appropriately. Don't let your clothes or appearance create a barrier between you and the person you are trying to recruit.


  • Then listen! Your job in the quick visit is to find out a little about who they are. Don't talk a lot. Remember you are not the Fuller Brush salesman. They may think so. They will likely be bewildered that someone who is not a salesperson or census taker is at their door and is asking them what they think about something! This does not happen often in America. So be aware that they are used to a different approach and quickly legitimize yourself to help them feel comfortable and safe talking with you.


  • Try following up with "open ended" questions. If they say "I don't really know..." when you ask what they are concerned about, mention some of the things that you have heard from others. ("Some other people have been concerned about the traffic on Broadway, how hard it is for the kids and elderly to cross in the cross walk near Everett Street. Other people have been concerned about the garbage pick up. They say it's really a mess after garbage day. Others have been concerned about all the smoke that the tire factory is putting out every night.. Are there things like that you are concerned about, or other things?")


  • Mention money or ask for membership dues (assuming your group has dues and will if it is a real group). Also ask for their name and phone number--if they don't mind. If they decline to give out their name and phone number tell them you understand. Not everyone will want to do this. especially in urban areas. You might want to print up membership cards. Then carry some with you. So if they loin, you can give one to them right then and there.


  • Record their name, phone number and address.


  • If no one is home, leave a one page simple flyer with your phone number and address on it, so they can call you back. Make the flyer real simple.


  • If you are out on the street or meeting many people, keep a record of where you have been, who you saw, if someone was home, and whether you left a flyer. It's amazing how quickly you can forget where you have been when you are seeing a lot of people in a short time. I have made this mistake--resuming to the same person at the same house asking the same question. It's very embarrassing. Not to mention a waste of little--for both of you!


  • Go in male and female pairs if possible. This makes it easier to get people to talk to you. In many places, where safety is a concern, this also makes it safer.