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Record Keeping and Other Tips

After a conversation like the one discussed in the previous page (not during it--remember you are not taking a survey!) make some notes to remind yourself of the important things you heard about this person. Do this right away. Your memory of the person will begin fading immediately after the meeting. When I was doing a lot of these and I was driving to the visits, I would immediately go to my car, turn on the light, and write down the important things I remembered.

A three by five card works well. Not high tech, but reliable and the cards fit nicely in small file boxes. Keep them in alphabetical order.

When You are in Someone's Home

If you are in someone's home, the kitchen table is often the best place to have a conversation. (Life insurance sales people say this, too.) In most cultures, this is often where important conversations take place If you are at a table, if possible, don't sit across the table. Sit at a 90 degree angle to the person. (Sitting "across a table" is what negotiators do in confrontive style negotiation.)

Notice the "little things" of their lives. Many people have pictures of themselves or their families on the walls. Some have trophies. Home decorations will sometimes tell you much about who they are. Some people surround themselves with objects that have great meaning in their lives. They can provide good "openers" to start a conversation related to their values. If something is in open view (a trophy, a family photo), ask about that.

Food and Drink

Accept offers of food or drink, unless it is against your religious or other personal beliefs. Food or drink, even a glass of water, whatever is offered, is "breaking bread." This is an age old bonding tradition. But beware: recruiting can be fattening. And remember not to talk with a mouth full of food. If they offer you something that you really don't want just ask for a glass of water. Even if you are stuffed from your last visit, you can always ask for and accept a glass of water. Alcohol is not advisable. Remember, you are working. You need to keep alert.

Recruiting for a Task

One of the best ways to recruit people is to recruit people to an activity. Many people want to DO something useful, not just go to another boring meeting.

A Community Development Loan Fund-raising committee brings people each year to an annual fund-raising mailing party. There is food on the table, as well as a list of hundreds of potential contributors. Volunteers sit around the table and write personal notes on the letters they fold, stuff and mail to hundreds of people. They know they are being useful. The mailing brings in money. The personal touch is better than a form letter. People write to people they are acquainted with. This increases the likelihood of the contribution. They like writing to people they know but don't see often. It makes them feel good to know that the people they write to know they are volunteers for a valued community organization.

When you have people who are already interested members of your group, you want to get them more involved and motivated. You want them to take responsibility. You want it to not be "always the same few of us doing everything around here." mere Is likely too much work for those doing it. You need the help!

But there might not seem to be something for them to do. Or you don't think they could do what YOU can do.

Your job is to find something for them to do. "Idle hands are the devil's playground." In this case, the "devil" might be some other group that will find out what they like to do and allow them to be useful.

Since you're working with volunteers, you can't tell them to do it "or else." You have no formal "authority" over them. You are not their "boss"--as in a paid work setting. They are not working for money. They are working for meaning. You need to find out what has meaning for them.

How do you find this out? How do you recruit people to a task? These are guidelines I have found helpful.

  • Ask them to help. The first and most important guideline. Just as in getting someone to join, you need to ask someone to help. People are unlikely to help without being asked. If you don't ask they are not likely to know you need help.

  • Ask them what they like to do. It doesn't help to ask someone who hates to make phone calls to make phone calls. Maybe they will hold a house party, or hand out flyers at the church, or bake cookies. Find out what they like to do.

  • Come with a menu. A menu--not of food, although food is helpful at most events--but a "menu" of things they can do. This menu should be in your head. Don't refer to a paper when you are recruiting people. You want them to look at you and see you looking at them. If you give them a piece of paper, they are more likely to look at the paper than at you. You recruit people with people, not paper. When you ask them what they like to do, you should be ready with a list of needed projects. For instance, "We need someone to weed the hedges around the building, bake lasagna for the supper, sell tickets, collect tickets, sign in guests at the dinner, put up signs on the telephone poles along the road to direct people to the dinner, make phone calls, etc." Tell them when they ask what they can do: "It depends on what you like to do. You can choose." (This is probably an opportunity they won't have in a paying job!)

  • Know your overall project. Know its parts. Divide the whole into as many parts as is reasonable--things people can do without bumping into one another. Make many small tasks rather than a few big tasks. You need as many people as possible in your organization, and each of them needs to feel needed. And they are needed! Before you start recruiting for tasks, take some time to divide up the jobs. (see exercise on page 31)

  • There is something for everyone to do. Participation breeds involvement. Let everyone help as much as they wish, even if it is only a very small lob. If they don't want to bring cookies to the meeting, ask them to come early to set up the chairs. Try to find something for everyone. If they don't want to do something on their own, it is often easy to ask them to help someone else with a task.

  • One person is in charge (For now, it's You). The buck stops with you. You need to know all the pieces and how they fit together.

  • Don't guess or think you already know what people like to do. Even if you think you know, ask. People like to be asked to get their first choice.

  • Provide a context for their job. Explain the importance and how their job fits in the overall campaign or project. People want to know how important their job is, and where it fits with the whole. Every link of the chain is necessary.

  • When someone has taken on a task, see how they are doing. Don't assume everything is going fine. Often people won't ask if they don't know how to do something. Check in. You want to let them know you care ("How is it going? Do you need any help?") But allow volunteers their "space" too. You don't want to be a pest or seem like you don't trust them to do their job. When in doubt about the right distance to keep, you can ask them: "Is it O.K. if I check in on how it's going every week? Is that too often?"

  • Appreciate people for the work they do. Thank them. If they are doing a good job, let them know you know. This takes very little time, costs little, but is worth a lot. Written thanks lasts. I learned this lesson from a man whose mother complained that he never wrote. "But, Mom," he replied, "I call you every week." "But a letter, Alan, that I can read over and over again." I keep my thank you letters for years. When I am feeling low, I can pull one out and feel a little better.

  • If someone is doing a good job, think how they might take more responsibility. Ask them if they want to take on mote responsibility. Encourage them to do this. ("You are doing a good job making phone calls. Would you like to take five more, or ace how Marie is doing with her calls?") Think about what might be a good "next step" for them--something that is right for them and helpful to the group.

  • Hand off as much responsibility as possible as quickly as possible into responsible hands. You want to build the leadership of many people. Leadership means taking responsibility. The group will function better when more people take responsibility.

  • Be friendly but direct. Ask specifically for what you want. (DO NOT ASK: "Can you help us out tonight at the club?" DO ASK: "Can you help us tonight with the club membership by calling 25 people tonight between 7 and 8 PM ?")

  • Be clear about what you are asking someone to do. Especially about time limits. If you say work will be completed by 9, atop by 9, not 9:05 or 9:10 or 9:15 or later. You want your volunteer to return.

  • Avoid doing it all yourself. You are terribly competent. You know the Job will be get done if you do it--even if it takes you until 4 a.m. This is often the path of "least resistance" for many hard workers, but also the path to other think: like burn-out, no family life, no organization, and no members.

  • Ask for a specific number. If you are asking someone to make phone calls or recruit new members, be specific. If you ask for too many, you can generally go lower. NOT "Can you make SOME phone calls?" SAY: "Can you make 20 phone calls?- Or 10 phone calls, If 20 is too many. Or 5 phone calls, If 10 is too many.

  • Get a clear commitment about what they say they will do. Write it down If necessary so YOU remember what they said.

  • Be truthful about the limits you set. If you say you are only going to ask them to do so much and no more, stick with it. Remember you are building a relationship (and an organization based on relationships), not just getting a job done. Completing the task is not the goal. Building the organization is the goal.

  • Emphasize the need for help. This is real. 'We can't do it without you" is a positive and true statement.

  • Rule number one again. Don't forget to ash for help.t they say they will do? If you do, you will distinguish yourself greatly!