How to promote participation among diverse groups

Groucho Marx once said, “I’d never join any organization that would invite me to be a member.” Well, we’d want Groucho in our organization, and (if he were alive) we think we might get him to join. That’s because we want members from all sectors of the community. And that’s what this section is about.

successful multiethnic business colleagues in modern office
Photo by Alexander Suhorucov on Pexels.com

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO IDENTIFY POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS AMONG DIVERSE GROUPS?

Who are the potential members of your group or organization? The answer is, “just about everyone.” There are very few people in your community who could never be members, which is a helpful and eye-opening point to keep in mind. More than that: just about everyone actually could become a member, if you really wanted them, and if you worked hard enough to get them to join.

Of course, you (probably) don’t want everyone in the community to join, for even ambitious people like you have their limits. You probably want to keep your group to a manageable size. At the same time, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open to all parts of the community for potential members.

This section will help explain why. Next, it will show you how to identify the different sectors of a community, and then to begin preparing a wide and diverse list of potential members — real people who could support you and who could work for your cause.

WHY IDENTIFY POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS AMONG DIVERSE GROUPS?

  • Because if you can bring those different types of members into your group, it will be more representative of the full community; your group will stand to gain broader community support
  • Because with a multi-sector membership, more different opinions will probably be expressed and discussed; that means better decisions may get made
  • Because a diverse, multi-sector membership is usually also a larger membership — you will then have more talent, and also more varied kinds of talent, at your disposal
  • Because the contacts and connections made in a diverse, multi-sector group lead to new community relationships. And these relationships can spark new community initiatives that might never have otherwise existed.

WHEN DO YOU IDENTIFY POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS?

Anytime. But it’s an especially good time when you are:

  • Starting a membership drive
  • Running a campaign
  • Wanting to broaden your membership base

Membership has no seasons; you can think about membership 365 days a year. The best time to do it might be now.

HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS?

It’s is a very simple process. It has just two steps:

  • Know the different sectors of the community
  • Identify and list key potential members within each sector

There is an assumption here, though — namely, that after you have located your potential members, you will go after them, and work to recruit them to your cause. To identify such members, and then stop there, is of little value; you need to bring them on board. Identifying your members is just part of the process. The strategies and techniques of reaching out to potential members, once you have found them, are covered in the next sections of this chapter, Writing Letters to Potential Members and Making Personal Contact with Potential Members.