Non-Profits: It’s all about the people, part 2

In part one I discussed the Membership Marketing Funnel and the concept of, “Do The Do.”

In part 2 I’m going to talk about a mistake that many non-profits make once they get a member to the REGULAR state of the funnel.

If you recall, the Membership Marketing Funnel contained 9 phases. The goal section consisted of 3 phases, each of which can be considered a success with regard to recruitment. Those were REGULAR, ADVOCATE, and RESPONSIBILITY. We didn’t talk much about the 9th phase, because it has it’s own discussion.

And here, we’re going to discuss it.

Let me ask if this sounds familiar, whether having been guilty of doing it yourself as leadership in a non-profit, seen others do it, or had it done to you.

Jenny Public is interested in joining your organization. She has a husband and 2 kids and would like to participate in some kind of organization with her family as an extra-curricular activity. She’s checked a couple out on her own to basically vet them; see if they fit what she is looking for and would be enjoyable for her family.

You get a call from Jenny saying she came across your website when she was checking out local activities and would be interested in checking out a meeting (check out part 3, to be posted, for what you did wrong in your meeting the first time Jenny showed up) to see if fits what she’s looking for.

“YES!” you say. You give her all the details and are excited that she is excited to show up. A new member!! Woot!

Next meeting Jenny shows up by herself. And somehow, despite what she is probably seeing at your meeting, she enjoys what she sees and thinks, “This is what I’ve been looking for! My family will love this!” You have a good conversation with Jenny, get to know her a bit, her situation, what she is looking for. You are excited. She is excited.

The next meeting Jenny shows up with her family. They get involved a bit in figuring out where they fit. Things are going swimmingly. Let’s assume your organization is a humane society. The family helps maybe clean and take care of the animals.

All is well.

Third meeting, the excitement is bursting at the seems, and you make the fatal mistake of assuming Jenny’s excitement is symbolic of dedicating herself over to the organization. So you invite Jenny to take on a leadership role in the organization, with a great pitch! Jenny says, “Yes! Anything I can do to help.”

A year later, Jenny and family are no where to be seen.  What happened?

I’ll tell you. Jenny and her family wanted to “Do The Do”. They wanted to be a part of something, regardless of what it was, to have fun. Perhaps accomplish a need to serve, helpe, learn, grow, whatever. What they did not want to do, is after cleaning the dogs, to go home and have either a mound of paperwork, homework, tasks that increase their responsibilities in life, etc. They wanted to come in, help the dogs, and go home. These people want to do what the vast majority of people want to do. The want to participate.

Think of anything you have “participated” in. Were you wrong to want to participate? No, you weren’t.

Participation isn’t bad. It’s what we all want we participate in groups, organizations, video games, and a whole bunch of things.

When you go to the gym to work out, you are participating in what somebody has set up. When you go to college, you are participating in the education system.

Participation requires effort. You show up, you partake. Even if you’re playing video games you’re spending time and energy. That’s just part of what participation is. So I don’t want to make participation sound as though it were a bad thing. It’s not. It’s a great thing.

Without participation, what’s the purpose of doing any of this?

So what’s the problem then?

The problem is that, as leadership, we don’t separate Doing The Do with Doing The Work. I guarantee the vast majority of people that you see coming through your organization are not there to Do The Work. They’re there to Do The Do. They want to go enjoy the gym, but they don’t want to have to clean the bathroom, balance the books, make sure everybody has their membership card. They just want to enjoy what you’ve set up. When they go to a Humane Society to help out, they are there to clean cages, clean dogs, walk animals, and maybe clean other things, or whatever Humane Societies need to do. But they’re not there to be responsible for balancing books, making decisions of which dogs need to be put down, for dealing with human resource issues. They want to go there, help out, then be able to walk away; having received whatever reward they were seeking (participation, enjoyment, socialization, education, etc). Quite frequently on profits comma we take up person who is somebody who’s interested in doing the do and either beguile

Quite frequently as non-profits, we take up a person who’s interested in Doing The Do and either beguile them, convince them, or force them into a position that appears to be more like work than like enjoyment. Once we hit this part, people are no longer participants in a rewarding activity, they become responsible for the work. And organizational responsibility is not everyone’s cup of tea. People don’t want to have to give up a Friday night, because that’s the only time they have, to print reports, fill out tax forms, organize events, etc.

We make a massive error in pushing people to Do The Work when they really only wanted to Do The Do. And it’s simple to make them cross the line. They are enjoying themselves. They want to help. So they take on responsibility not understanding that they cross over into work. And then when their weekend play time starts looking more like 2 extra weekdays of work they have to do to help an organization run, they start rethinking their participation and eventually leave because they don’t want to work 7 days a week.

This happens far too frequently. And in almost every organization that I’ve been in.

What is the fix then?


The vast majority want to enjoy participating. The secret is to give them something to participate in. If you have an organization that cares for animals, have stuff they can participate in. Like walking, feeding, and cleaning. And when they are done participating, they can walk away without any further obligation.

If you build houses for vets, people want to come swing a hammer. Let them swing the hammer. Let them re-enact if you are a re-enactor. Let them learn if you are an educational group. And let them walk away at the end of the activity free of any obligation to do work.

But, John!  Someone has to do the work! We wouldn’t have activities for people to participate in if no one did the work.

Right you are, Reader!

That is where the separation comes in.

That is the 9th phase of the Membership Marketing Funnel. And also why the name isn’t included in the funnel itself, though there is room for it.

There are people called to do the work. These are the ones which can suffer doing the work and not burnout. Some of us, and I’m sure at times it can be compared to a psychological disorder, enjoy working to create the opportunity for others to participate.

While you can, from a marketing perspective, help people through the 8 phases, it is on them completely to move into stage 9: RESPONSIBILITY. They are the ones who ask if there is something else they can do to help. They are the ones that are contacting you between events with other suggestions or offers. They self-qualify and present themselves to be added to the 9th phase.

Now that you have people who want RESPONSIBILITY, you need to separate the two groups. The specific purpose is that those who are Doing The Work will have a much different get-together than those who want to Do The Do. Work people will discuss tasks, events, planning, logistics, etc (and oddly, find this fun). The Do people will discuss nothing of the sort. They will talk about what people talk about when they socialize.  When you run a meeting, it’s very hard to combine the two into one, because they are at odds with each other. If you do a strictly Work meeting, the Doers will get bored and not show up. If you do strictly Do meetings /get-togethers, the Workers will get anxious because nothing is getting done from a Work stand-point.

There are some organizations that have open and public invitation at all their meetings. That’s ok. You don’t have to prevent anyone from coming to any meeting.

What I’ve found is that communication on the intent of the meeting is important. So, for a business meeting, make it clear that it is a business meeting. Conversely, if you have too many business meetings and not enough “Do” get-togethers, events, or activities, then you’ll not present the opportunity for the participants to Do The Do.

It’s important to have both types of meetings and activities. It’s important to let people do what they want to do; whether simply participating, or to take responsibility for the work.  Nothing says that someone can’t do both!  But it’s up to them.

Give people what they want, and they will become members for a long time.