Getting People to Help

  1. How do I get people to do a job?

    Ask them. Few people will volunteer their services. This does not mean that they don't want to be active, however. People wait to be asked. Asking builds activity.

  2. Who should ask them?

    If possible, someone they know and trust; someone whose influence they respond to; a friend, a neighbor, a worker in the same department, a person with prestige in the union. But if you cannot arrange for someone else, do it yourself. Remember that the act of asking is itself important.

    After this has been done, be sure that the new recruit is welcomed by the leader of the group she will work with. The most effective combination is therefore being asked by someone she already knows and being welcomed by whomever is heading up the activity.

  3. What do I tell them?

    • Make clear what job you are asking them to do, and be sure it has a definite beginning and end. People do not want to sign up for life, so do not get them to over-commit themselves.

    • Ask people to do things they can do well, especially in the beginning. People are more willing to begin things they know they can do. Later, when they are really a part of your group, they will be more willing to try new things.

    • Tell each person how her job fits in with the rest. People want to understand things that they are part of, and they work best when they know that others are depending on them.

    • Let each person know that her help is needed. If she feels that you are just "looking for people" she will also feel easily replacable and less responsible for doing a job.

    • Discuss their own goals and how they fit into those of the union. People have their own reason for volunteering, and you need to know then in order to lead effectively. Also, you must help people keep their expectations realistic; otherwise you will not be able to meet them.

    • Ask what they would like to know, and give them plenty of time and help in raising questions. Many people are reluctant to ask questions, but they will work better after they have done so.

    • Do these things in person; do not rely only on printed circulars, letters and phone calls. There is no substitute for talking face-to-face. It lets the person know that you consider the discussion important, and it gives you a chance to get acquainted with her.

    • You have a right to be enthusiastic about the importance of your work. Do not apologize or belittle it. Your mood will get across to the people you talk to, and they will respond to it.

  4. How do I build an active committee?

    • Keep Records: you cannot keep it all in your head. Have a list of members, with names and up-to-date addresses and phone numbers. Keep minutes or notes on jobs to do and decisions made. Keep a list of each person's skills and "strong suits."

    • Keep your committee together. Call meetings regularly; do not just keep in touch with each person separately. People need to see and feel that they are part of something big. Not just hear about it from you. Call each person before a meeeting to make sure she will be there, and knows you care that she comes. Let members share in deciding what jobs to do, how they can best be done, and who can do them best. They know some things that you do not, and they will work harder for things they decide on themselves.

  5. How can I keep people motivated?

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    Last modified: 12 April 1996