Monthly Archives: April 2009

People don’t resist change, they resist being changed

Peter Bregman has a great post on How to Counter Resistance to Change.

He makes several great points, and I recommend you read the full article.

Here are two gems:

1. “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.” That means they can often go along with change if they have some level of control and decision making in the process.

2. “Don’t sell it or try to get “buy-in.” Instead of seeking agreement, try to surface disagreement.” This is both how you allow for that control mentioned above and how you improve your proposal by incorporating feedback.

The importance of a plan

Okay, you’ve researched and you’ve picked a strategy.

Now it’s time to plan what you’ll actually do.

Again to Tools for Radical Democracy by Minieri and Getsos, “Without a campaign plan, you are more likely to engage in unfocused activities that do not contribute to getting targets to meet your demands.”

There are many formats for campaign plans out there. I’m very impressed with the The Just Enough Planning Guide. Which planning format you use matters less than that you create a plan. It should include:

  • Your goals;
  • A roadmap for how you will get those goals met;
  • A timeline with objectives that you can measure your progress against;
  • Your message;
  • What resources you have;
  • What allies you want to bring on board and what adversaries you will have to deal with.

The important this is that after you create this plan, you keep looking back at it.

Yes, it will probably change as you move forward, but looking back at it will make sure you don’t spend three weeks trying to get a visit with a newspaper’s editorial board if your plan tells you that getting the support of union reps is more important.

Research. Choose a strategy. Plan your actions.

Then do!

Choose a strategy based on what outcome you want, not what actions you want to do

Tools for Radical Democracy by Minieri and Getsos has a great chapter on strategy. To define strategy, they explain:

Campaign strategy is the way or ways that a  community power-building organization uses its power to win a demand. . . . If the organization just plunges into action with no clear strategy, it goes from event to event with no deep payoff.

This is key. Choose a strategy based on your best analysis of if it will give you what you want.

Don’t choose it based on what you want to do. Or what another group is doing. Or what you’ve done before.

Of course, this takes research into your issue, your target, and how you can actually have the impact you want.

Rallies and sit-ins can be fun. Media activism can feel empowering. Legal strategies have generated great wins. But this doesn’t mean that any of these are right for your specific issue.

Minieri and Getsos list seven different strategies:

  1. direct action
  2. disruption
  3. legislative
  4. advocacy
  5. alliance-building
  6. media
  7. public education

Each of these  have their own benefits and drawbacks. And no, you can’t do them all at once.

If you’re building a house, you have to know when to use a hammer and when to use a saw. Likewise, when fighting for social justice, you have to know when to sue and when to sit-in.

Don’t just act, research and plan

It may not always be fun, but to succeed in your campaign you have to do your homework

It may not always be fun, but to succeed in your campaign you have to do your homework

One of the things I really appreciate about Tools for Radical Democracy is that it puts a lot of emphasis on researching and planning campaigns and actions.

Take for example the chapter “Researching the Politics of an Issue.” Minierni and Getsos talk about the need for thorough campaign reaserach: going to the library, talking politics with people, going to political meetings, etc.

All this needs to hapen early, before you start putting pressure on a target.

You know what? This kind of planning and preparation is hard work. It’s takes time. It slows you down. Many people find it boring.

And this kind of planning and preparation is absolutely essential if you want to be successful. You need to know your issues, the people and the communities involved,  and the poltical landscape.

Your mother was right, y0u need to do your homework if you want to pass the test.

Know when to let go of something

Sometimes events, issues, or groups loose their support. Sometimes they die. Its not always a bad thing.

Sometimes events, issues, or groups loose their support. Sometimes they die. It's not always a bad thing.

Today I met with Laura Russello of Michigan Peaceworks, and she told me about how they are discontinuing one of their regular fundraisers.

The fundraiser has been a lot of fun, but they’ve seen that it’s been lagging a bit in the last few years. So their shutting it down to try something new.

This happesn. People change. The public mood changes. And sometimes events, projects, or issues that were very relevant before no longer seem relevant.

What should you do when this happens:

  1. Admit the truth. I’ve seen groups go into denial when their beloved event or cause stops resonating with the public. You can’t change reality unless you face reality.
  2. Identify your options: Honestly look at your alternatives. You could keep working on a particular issue. For example, even if nuclear weapons aren’t in the news, that you could choose to keep working for their abolition. You could also choose a new topic or event. Or, maybe it’s time for your group to close. What are the different ways you could deal with the new reality.
  3. Evaluate tradeoffs: Remember, everything you do means that you’re spending time and money doing that rather than doing something else, so think carefully about the impacts of your choices. Yes, maybe your current fundraiser turns a profit, what other fundraising opportunities are you missing to pull that event off? Economists call these “opportunity costs,” and you have to evaluate these costs against the benefits of other choices or the status quo.
  4. Make a decision and act: After you’ve thought about it, do something. We’ve all been in those settings where people keep talking about an issue and never acting on it. Don’t let that happen to you. Make a decision and follow through with it.

Laura showed courage in stopping a popular event before it completely whithered into something downright embarrassing. And I’m sure she’ll replace it with something fresh, fun, and that will raise lots of money.

Will you show that kind of courage?

Social Media for Nonprofits

In my job with the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, I’ve had the chance to work with Peter Dietz as part of our Social Citizens Makeover award from the Case Foundation.

Peter’s main recommendation was to create a cycle where we post videos of our events online and use a Facebook Page and email to create a feedback loop to announce the video and promote our next event.

As we’ve worked to implement this strategy, we’ve hit a few snags. Here are Peter’s recommendations to work them out.

PROBLEM 1. is not working well for us due to problems converting longer videos to flash format.

RECOMMENDATION 1: Look into Vimeo (and also maybe DoGooder)

PROBLEM 2: quantity vs quality of videos, we will have a hard time getting videos up fast AND having high quality videos.

RECOMMENDATION 2: Also, after each event ask panelists or speakers for short clips, get those up fast as a teaser for the full video

PROBLEM 3: migrating our current Facebook group members over to our page.

RECOMMENDATION 3: Recruit a few leaders to the Facebook page, then message all Facebook group members. Message Facebook Group members every now and then to try to get them to move over.

: How to include branding and call to action overlays on online videos.

RECOMMENDATION 4: Use online video hosting tools (such as YouTubes) rather than desktop software.

PROBLEM 5: How to manage email segmentation/integration/double opt-ins.

RECOMMENDATION 5: This is a tough one. Check Salesforce and Vertical Response boards for conversations about this, as well as groups like Perhaps look into products such as Convio’s Common Ground. Perhaps try to get a volunteer to code this.

Peter recommended to put a lot of website space into promoting Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube feeds. and the Case Foundation websites are good examples.

He also mentioned Facebook Page applications to integrate our YouTube and Flickr postings into our Facebook Page.

He also recommended that I blog about this process to add to the converstion and get additional feedback (and that’s just what I’m doing!)

Want leaders? You need a strong pipeline

Recruiting leaders is like a funnel. You need a lot of contacts to go in the top to get a few leaders to come out the bottom.

Recruiting leaders is like a funnel. You need a lot of contacts to go in the top to get a few leaders to come out the bottom.

The grassroots organizing model is about raising up community leaders to take action for the cause.

How do you get those leaders?

It takes both recruiting them and then building them through training, support and experience.

And you have to recruit a lot of supporters to get a few leaders.

Tools for Radical Democracy has a sobering analysis. They say you need:

  • “Four Hundred contacts for whom you have a name, address, and phone number
  • One hundred who express an interest
  • Thirty who attend a meeting or an action
  • Ten who come back again and continue in some form with the organization
  • Between one and five who engage in a leadership-development activity…
  • One or two who continue to develop as leaders.

I don’t know about you, but this tells me I need to get out their there recruiting, following up, and training!

What does Genesis teach us making room for new things?

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.  God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day. (Genesis 1:9-13)

Notice how God had to move the water out of the way to make room for land?

Sometimes to create new things the existing ones need to move out of the way.

I’ve seen this in committees. Sometimes a group gets so established in its ideas, its activities, and its ideas that there is no room for new people, new thoughts, or new ways of doing things.

And sometimes then the only way to allow the new ideas is to flourish is apart from the established structures, and that means that the existing structures need to get out of the way.

This can sound harsh, but note that the Genesis story doesn’t say that the new land was good and the old sea was bad. God calls both good. So to say an established thing needs to make room for something new is not to judge one or the other.

For me, this is freeing. It means I can stop trying to plant a new tree on top of the sea. Instead, I can recognize the need for new land and to start making room for a new start.

Ranking prospects to choose who to follow up with

I picked up another great tip from Tools for Radical Democracy by Minieri and Getsos.

In their amazing chapeter on recruitment, they recommend recruiting new activists with one-on-one conversations. That’s nothing new, but what I hadn’t thought of systematizing was doing a quick rank of prospects so you know who you most want to follow up with.

Minieri and Getsos recommend a 3-point ranking.

Does someone really get it? Do they seem like they really want to get involved? That’s the person you most want to follow up with. He’s a 1. You want to make sure you get back to him and soon.

That person who is interested in the issue but doesn’t necessarily seem keen on getting involved? You still want to follow up with her, but she’s not as high of a priority. She’s a 2.

And that guy who signs your petition to get you out of his way? He’s not worth a lot of time. He gets a 3. Keep him on your list for suveys and such, but you don’t want to put a lot of time into him.

Now, this is something most of us get intuitively. It’s not rocket science to follow up with the people who are the best prospects for getting involved.

What I like about this is the idea of creating a system for identifying who those best prospects are and recording it right then and there so you don’t forget.

Why meetings are like waiting for the train

Being in a meeting is a lot like waiting for the train.

No, I don’t mean that they both seems to take forever.

I mean they are both easier to deal with when you know what’s coming next and when.

Consider this. I used to live in Washington, DC, and when you had to wait for the train there, you never knew when it would come. So, you would sort of switch from foot to foot, look down the tracks for the train lights, and then go back to fidgeting.

It’s not like that anymore. A few years ago they installed displays that tell you how long until the next train comes and where it’s heading to. Now waiting is much easier to bear. There’s something reassuring to know that the Grovesnor train will come in 2 minutes, but that you’ll have to wait 5 for the train to Shady Grove.

The time displays don’t make the train come any quicker (but then neither did looking down to see the train lights), but somehow knowing when the train is coming and where it is going makes the waiting easier.

The same is true for a meeting, and that’s why an agenda is so important. If people know what to expect, it makes it easier for them to be present.

That’s why plays print programs.

That’s why churches print orders of service.

That’s why when I run a movie showing, I tell people, “We’ll show the movie, then take 20 minutes for small group discussion, then we’ll check in with the small groups.”

People feel more comfortable when they know what is coming and when. Make them comfortable. Have a plan for your meeting or event and share it with them.