“How can I get more people involved in our vital work?” This was the question a colleague asked me. “Our work around the world is so important and there are so few that are even aware of the issues, let alone involved. What are some creative ways beyond newsletters and blog posts (ugh) to educate potential volunteers, donors and advocates?”
I worked up an answer and I thought I’d share it with you. We all have causes for which we care and would like to see more people involved. If you don’t have time to work on a causes, these ideas would work to educate possible customers, employees or even investors.
Great question, Julie. Here are a few thoughts collected from years of failed experiences and training notes taken on hotel napkins. None of these events are fundraisers. These are all “friend-raisers.”
I’ve done umpteen events. My favorite event is the house party. This is where a key volunteer or Board member invites friends, neighbors and/or ncolleagues to their house for an evening. They provide food and drink (although I always offer to pay). I bring in a mission expert who speaks briefly about the work. There is a time of questions and answers. It’s a wonderful little night.
Spitball. Give a sharp crowd information about an issue you are dealing with in your field work. Outline your current solutions, aka programs. Ask them to brainstorm ideas for how it could be improved. Ask them to critique. What would they do? What would they like to see us do?
Disappearing Task Force. Rally a group of potential donors to meet together four times to answer a specific question. You can start by doing it on the question you are asking me, “What can we do to educate possible volunteers, donors and advocates about our work? Help me think about how to best do that work.” Maybe it’s even a long working lunch but if you can get them over three or four sessions they are in. Ask for their advice. People love to give it.
Salon Event. Variation of a house party. Invite people over to a hosted event at a home or a luncheon. Give them a provocative question to discuss. “How does the Gospel invite our participation in the lives of the poor and oppressed of the world?” You may even give them the question in advance. Then let people talk. This is not moderated. There is no correct answer. This is just pure joy.
Jeffersonian Dinner. If the Salon Event is a variation of the House Party, the Jeffersonian Dinner is a variation of the Salon Event. Again, invite people to a home or meal. The people do not need to know each other. Bring in an expert (could even be yourself) to moderate a discussion around a topic. You can look these up Jeffersonian Dinners on the internet.
Book Group. Read a book with a small group of donors like “How Helping Hurts” “Whole in our Gospel” or even “Memorize This” (that’s mine). It’s a short-term commitment. Just the book during weekly meetings for two months. Simple.
Conference call with Leadership. Put together and have the President, Vice President of Programs or even a Country Director share about their work. Allow people to ask questions. Make sure that the leader offers some juicy insider knowledge. People love that almost as much as giving their opinion.
Authentic Experiences of Mission. One Saturday morning do a simple walk where people carry water the average distance a momma in Kenya walks with water. Do it as a group. End at some hipster coffee shop where you can discuss…and drink some water. ‘nother idea…have someone build a shelter to the size and specifications of an average shelter in South Sudan. Do a dinner party in it. Struggle. Be uncomfortable, people.
Thank You Note Work Party. Gather people at another hipster coffee shop, share some stories and have them write Thank You notes to your donors…or mine. Have the hipster coffee shop provide the coffee.
Have peopole proof red your news letter or blog posts. It’s not only work that needs to be done, but it informs them too. It’s “workucation” – proven to get the job done and expand peoples’ hearts.
That was my email. Hopefully it gives you some good ideas. What are some things you have tried? You can share below.