Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ask for too much and you get ... Nothing

An association blogger recently announced that he could no longer keep up with the 129 blogs he subscribed to, so he dumped them all. That's a great example of how people turn themselves off, and also how associations turn volunteers off.

For example, I love magazines and newspapers. But would never subscribe to 129 of them (especially daily). If I had a huge stack of newspapers, I'd likely not read any of them. With 3 or 4 (my real number), I'd always read them. Same with magazines. The trick is to know how to pace ourselves, so we don't completely give up in frustration, "lack of time", or "hey, I have a real life." And frankly, there's no way in the world I'd ever think to subscribe to more than 10 blogs. Ever. If I subscribed to 129 blogs, then I'd read none too. Pick your favorites. There's also a great nonprofit site on Alltop and Blogoclump to scan blog headlines to see what might want to read without subscribing.

Sometimes associations give members too much to do or too much to read. So what happens? The job is too big and none of it gets done, or that one to three inch notebook of material never gets read. The alternative is something manageable:

1. If fundraising, ask them to contact 3-5 people, not 50 and not 100. They might just do it.
2. If you have a lengthy report, always provide an executive summary. They might read it.
3. If you have a Directors meeting, give a one-page summary of key actions. They'll know what to prepare for, even if they don't read voluminous back-up. Same with financial reports. Always have a summary of key details and key variances.
4. Consider having an e-newsletter that gives 2-4 sentences on each topic, with links to more extensive info. And then start the newsletter with 4 words about each item. Let the members easily scan the topics and info. They might just read it.

Don't let yourself get into the "129 is too many" rut. You won't read at all. You'll stop participating. And rather than doing some, you'll do none. Just like some of your volunteers.

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