Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Community Connections

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.”  Khalil Gibran

It is the eternal struggle:  Low neighborhood participation in committees or social events. This can be made even more frustrating when you consider the great backgrounds of potential volunteers.  Knowing someone’s aspirations is difficult, while finding a way to match these aspirations to community needs is the real challenge.

Tapping in to Aspirations

Most individuals have a subconscious social modeling system. Simply put, we have a tendency to repeat what we see others say or do. Everyone can probably recall something that they have been told in the last week that they have then passed along to someone else.  We actually repeat everything we hear, at an uncontrolled sub vocal level. And like anything else, repetition of a message heard over and over will “stick” – this is why the same radio and TV ads are played so frequently (you are probably all too aware of this if you have ever watched daytime TV…the workers compensation attorney ads seem to appear every 5 seconds!)
However, the same message will only match aspirations in a few people.  The key is to provide various messages for the same volunteer need, to resonant with a larger number of neighbors:  People are only motivated if the community’s need matches something they have already internalized.

Implementation Example
The typical perception is that a pet committee is a venue for pet owners and pet complaints.   This combination is enough to even drive away even the most pet friendly community residents! 

To push past this preconception and involve even those without pets, messaging could emphasize the following:
·         The need to socialize pets

·         Recognizing that for some, a pet is as important as a child, and providing resources with this in mind

·         It’s a great opportunity for prospective pet owners to discover preferred breeds

·         Annual pet carnival (pet costumes!) with food / music
·         Employment networking opportunity

·         A session of free obedience training/counseling

·         Environmental impact of pets and owner habits

·         Health benefits

·         Pet-tolerant landscaping

·         Neighborhood Watch / group walks
We are touching on items normally associated with other potential committees - which might form later if enough interest grows.  For now, stick with developing one healthy committee. 
Don’t be discouraged if individuals you’ve approached don’t respond – an invitation, perhaps from a different person, may reach your neighbor as goals and aspirations develop over the following year.  The key is to keep up consistent and varying messages, so that when change does come, your prospective volunteer will have confidence in the durability and potential of your committee.

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