Getting People to Help II

words of wisdom by Miguel McCormick (
of the Student Environmental Action Coalition

For purposes of making plans and working out details, 5 people is a good number. More than 7 becomes counter-productive. (Clearly, many more are needed when it comes to implementation.)

You will find that others are willing to help in one-shot tasks clearly recognizable as such, and in special events.

You will find that people (those who have shown to have the interest) often will respond if approached individually, and not otherwise. You must match the activity and the person, otherwise you probably will receive an excuse rather than an acceptance. Identify individuals who like to be in charge of an activity, those who like to "pitch in" without having responsibility, those who prefer an on-going solo task that is theirs to accomplish alone. Often the individuals are not conscious of having clear-cut predilections of these kinds; nevertheless, when given cause to think about themselves in those terms, usually they can self-identify accurately.

When someone is known to have responsibility for something, but performance is lacking, it is impossible to get a replacement because the role is not open. That type of situation can persist until the position is clearly vacated. Therefore it can be better to let something fail for lack of a volunteer in the short term than it is to have an ineffectual person continue to occupy the slot.

Return to Activist Training Materials

Last modified: 12 April 1996