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The One-on-One Visit

This method is for developing relationships and finding leaders. It involves a longer visit--30 or 40 minutes, sometimes more depending on your situation, your organization and the culture within which you work. The number of minutes are meant as a guideline. Don't lose your judgment or common sense. The 30-40 minute limit is indicated because your organization needs many people. One good way to find many good people is to visit many people. If you spend too long with one person, even if they seem to be good prospects, you may be missing out on someone else. You can always return to someone.

To show how to do this kind of recruiting. let me use a dialogue of what such a conversation might sound like.

In this model "one on one" visit I am trying to recruit someone with my organization, "Interfaith in Action,"--an organization of several congregations that work to improve the schools, build affordable housing, and improve other conditions in the city. Your organization may be very different. The issues may be different. You may meet in a kitchen, a pizza parlor, an office or workplace. However, the principles of listening not selling remain the same.

In this example, I am a member of a church, and I am recruiting someone I've often seen in church. During the after service coffee, I have invited her to meet me at the local diner for a "cup of coffee" after church next week. So I am there in the diner with my coffee.

Note: When I actually do this, I don't order too much food. I want to pay attention to the person not the food. And even if I am only talking 20% of the time, I don't want to talk with my mouth full of food. The dialogue would go something like this: The actual words spoken by me are in italics (me) and the words spoken by the other are in underline (her). Commentary on the dialogue is in standard text.

Hi, thanks for coming, I know I have seen you in church often, but I have never really gotten to know you. Could you tell me a little about yourself?

(You want to start off with a simple "open ended" question, to start her talking. An "open ended question" is one someone can not answer yes or no. You are looking for clues about what she says about herself. Your body language counts. Be relaxed, but attentive.)

Well, I moved here from Detroit in 1982, and have worked mostly for a public relations firms in advertising; I always liked to draw and put together ideas on paper. I have worked for Morris and Morris for about 8 years now, and I live with my husband and 2 sons, 6 and 10 in East Cloverdale, near the racetrack I have been coming to the church for about 4 years.

(She has stopped talking. You want to get her talking again. So you ask her about something you have in common. Again, ask an open ended question. You ask this because you want to find out something about her values. Did she join the church by default? Is it in her family? You are trying to find out more about her and what the church means to her.)

And what brought you to this church?

Well, I was looking for someplace that was spiritual and community oriented. Nothing too fancy, and I like this place.

(She made some crucial points: "spiritual and community oriented." This indicates that "spiritual" things and being "community oriented" are important to her. This is a good sign she might be interested in a community group. She might have said many other things. She might have said she joined for her husband or for her children. You need to listen between the lines. You are trying to understand what matters to her. She isn't talking much, so you will have to gently pry a little more. But go easy.)

What did you like about it?

Well, the people were friendly and I liked the fact that the minister and some of the members were interested in social action sorts of things.

(Here's a big clue. She said members were interested in "social action sorts of things." True, many people won't say this, but this gives you a good idea that she is interested in the community and possibly the political situation. She looks like someone who might be good for your organization. So you can follow up with a more specific question to clarify the social action business.)

Oh? Does that interest you?

Oh, yes, I have always tried to get involved in the community, although it's harder now that I'm working full-time and I have the two kids.

(Another big clue. She is interested, but her time is limited. She is giving you a clear indication that she will not like to have her family time heavily invaded. Go slow and show her that getting involved with your organization won't mean the loss of her relationship with her two children. This also indicates that her two children are important to her. She is very open about this.)

I can understand that. I have a child myself, although she is older now, but I know how much time it takes and how important it is. But tell me, where did you get your interest in social action?

(It's generally a good idea to disclose information about yourself. Don't remain an aloof stranger. On the other hand, don't draw the conversation back to yourself.)

Well, actually it comes from meditation I do and some reading, as well as from my parents, who always were involved in the community. My father was a banker, but the old fashioned kind, the kind who loaned money to people because he knew them and knew they would pay it back.

(Another clue. You are interested in her values. Your organization is based on values and sustained by the values of its members. You are looking for people who have values that you share: concern for the community welfare as well as one's own welfare.

This clue tells you that she learned something from her father. Many of us learn our values from our families. Not good lessons all the time, but the values that we learned from our family are often deeply held. You need to understand where people learned their values, as well as what they are. People who acquired their values in childhood from their family often have values that last. This also helps you to know how to motivate her. If she received values from a teacher of literature, then literature may be a way to her heart.

A comment like the one above tells you much. It would do well to follow up. Again, she is not talking very long.)

Really? What kind of messages did your parents give you?

(Again, another open ended question to find out more about her family values. A closed question would be: "Did your parents teach you about whom you should lend money to?"

You want to find out if she is out only for herself or for others as well as herself. People who will generally do well in organizations care about their own welfare. They are not "selfless do gooders" who only think they are doing good for others. Selfless do gooders, or people who see themselves that way, are not likely to last long. But if they are in it for themselves, for their own welfare and the welfare of their own family, they are likely to last and stick it out. On the other hand, if they are only in the group for the most immediate selfish gain, then they are not likely to be the kind of person you want in your organization. For example, if they only want to save a few dollars on their own property taxes and they really don't seem to care about anyone else, they may not be the best people to involve.)

Well, they always told me that we should try to give back something to the community, whatever we had, we shouldn't just hold onto it for ourselves.

So have you done things like that in the past?

(Here you are trying to find out what has she actually done in the past. Does she only talk a good game, or has she actually done anything? One of the best indicators that someone will contribute to your organization is whether they have done something similar in the past. You want to know whether they have put their values into action.)

Yeah, with the church in the last place I lived, before my husband got laid off and we had to move back here. But lately, no, not so much. I've really been too busy, with the kids and work, my husband, the family, and my mother hasn't been too well lately. After my dad passed away, I've been trying to spend more time with her.

(Again, here are more important clues about her availability. Part of your job in building a "community organization," is to also build the "community" part. This includes caring about what goes on in peoples' lives beyond the "issues" of the organization. This information about her family is valuable. Part of your Job as a member and leader of the organization is to check in with people, not only about the issues but about their lives. You will want to remember that her mother is sick and she Is wanting to spend more time with her. You may want to find some things for her to do within the organization that do not involve her leaving home. Maybe she can stuff envelopes or make phone calls from home. All this information about her is useful. You are thinking about her and her needs and also about the organization's needs. How can they both be met?)

Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.

Oh, it was a couple years ago, and he was very sick for a long time.

(You want to draw her back to the present and her concerns and opinions. Another open ended question can do this. It helps to show that you have been listening.)

Well what do you think of the city here? You said you haven't been here that long.

Well, when I was little, I actually moved here. My grandparents were from here, used to be farmers. We moved away when I was little--about 10. I still have some cousins nearby, but I don't see them much.

(More good information about her roots in the community. These roots give her credibility in a community that values personal history. You move on to another area that your organization has been involved with.)

What do you think of the schools here--you said you have two children?

Oh, they are OK. although my oldest, I think has too many children in his class, 5th grade, and there are about 35. I think that's too many. I like the teacher, but I don't see how she can pay attention to all those kids.

Have you been invoked in the PTA or anything?

I actually looked for one, but I don't think there is one in the school.

Sounds like you might like to make things a little better there, if there was some way to do It.

(This is a "leading question." You are stretching here, trying to see how much she might be willing to do.)

Well, maybe, but I'm not much for that, I might help out, but I'm not really going to do much, especially now with my mother sick I really still need to pay attention to her. She is really pretty sick.

(Time to back off, although she said she might "help out." You should be thinking how she could do this and still not draw too much attention away from her mother.)

I am sorry to hear that, I know what that can be like. You said, you went looking for the PTA Which school was that?

The Garfield.

Oh, yeah. What do you think of that school in general?

Oh, I like the principal and most of the teachers I've met. I think they try hard, but with so many kids I am not sure there is that much they can do to make things very much better.

I know you said you went looking for the PTA, so I thought you might like to know that I am involved with Interfaith in Action. We worked to get the city to keep the swimming pools open in summer for the kids and are trying to get the voters to pass a bond issue to fix up the high school and some of the elementary schools and hire some more teachers in the city. We're also trying to get the banks to build more affordable housing. You know they could do more to allow people to buy homes and make the neighborhood more stable. Are you interested in any of that?

(Here you are looking to match her interest with the work of the organization. This is a pretty direct question. You are testing what she might be willing to commit to.)

Well, I am interested in the schools of course, because of my kids, but I really hadn't heard much about it. I don't know much about housing, although my dad used to talk about loans and mortgages, but I never really listened much to the details.

Well, there is a short discussion group after church in two weeks, for about an hour, with some of the people from Interfaith in Action, including me. Would you like to come to that?

(Here you make an explicit pitch for her to take some action. It is not an outrageous request. She is already a member of the church. The "discussion group" is a low level of commitment. It is only an hour. You make that clear. You know she guards her family time closely.)

Well, when did you say it is?

In two weeks, that's Sunday, March 20 from 11-12, it's right after the service, in the basement. You can get to know a little more about these things then.

OK, that sounds OK, I'll see you then.

What did You Notice About this Dialogue?

You probably noticed that the "recruiter" did not do much talking. You are not "selling." You can not "sell" the organization. People have had many bad experiences with "people who want to talk to them." They may be suspicious, especially if they don't know you well. So you have to be different. You have to listen.

You are there to find out what the person herself is interested in. Who she is. What her values are. What her community connections are. What she cares about. How much time she has. What other organizations she has been or is involved tn. What her self interest is. What makes her tick. You probably can't find out everything in only one brief meeting, but you can find out a lot if you ask the right questions and listen very carefully.

Don't be Mechanical

You can't fake interest. You can't do this kind of listening mechanically. This is not a just a new clever "technique" to recruit more members. You have to be genuinely interested in who she is. If you are not--STOP. Don't have the meeting. You have to honestly believe that you are there to build community, to find out about them. If you are not, go home and ask yourself why YOU are doing this in the first place.

The 80/20 Rule

The rule of thumb in such meetings is to listen 80% of the time and talk no more than 20% of the time. If you are doing more than 20% of the talking you are probably "selling" rather than finding out about her. You recruit by finding out about her and her interests and seeing how they overlap with the interests of the organization.

What Else did the Recruiter Do?

The recruiter asked for a specific commitment: to come to the after church discussion group.

The recruiter spoke about what they had in common: their children. Although he did not focus the conversation on his interests and life.

The recruiter followed up on kits questions. He encouraged her to think about herself and talk about herself.

He did not force her to commit to anything. He suggested a follow up (the discussion group)./p>

Summary of How to do a One on One Visit

  • Talk no more than 20% of the time. Listen 80% of the time.
  • Mention clearly the name of your organization. Make sure he/she hears it.
  • Encourage him/her to talk about him/herself.
  • Be yourself. Be real. Don't fake interest.
  • Tell her enough about your organization so she gets the general picture, but not enough to bore her or appear to be "selling" her the organization.
  • Find out about her values and where they came from. (Some basic questions about society can help you find this out. 'Why do you think the situation is the way it is today?" "Do you think there is something basically wrong with society today--how people are living?"
  • Find out about her networks and connections.
  • Find out what other similar work she has done in the past.
  • Find out about other organizational affiliations she has. Find out how busy she is with these or other commitments. You don't want to overload her.
  • Accept offers of food or drink. Breaking bread with people is a bonding experience.
  • Ask for some specific commitment, no matter how small--a task they will do, paying their dues, coming to a meeting, giving you the name of someone else to visit, etc.
  • Suggest some follow up (unless the person is not at all right for your organization).
  • Ask him/her for money to Join. Always mention money up front. You want to give them the opportunity to pay dues or contribute money.
  • Let your recruit know right away the organization expects money from its members. The request for money should not come as a surprise later.
  • Follow up. If you say you will find out about something, or agree to do anything as follow up, DO IT! How many people really do what they say they will do? If you do, you will distinguish yourself greatly!