When I was “interviewed” by the admissions director of the high school I would eventually attend, he made it a point to ask me what I enjoyed. What are your hobbies? What sports do you like? How do you spend your downtime? I had to reach beyond the pat thirteen-year old answers of hanging out at the mall and talking on my phone. As I stumbled over a litany of what I thought were respectable, yet believable hobbies, he was furiously scribbling on his notepad. After I was done, he told me he asked because he wanted every student to be a part of the community. He didn’t want people to just enter the school, take classes and leave. He wanted the school to be better for having admitted each student. He understood the value behind individual contributions to community long before “building community” became the push it is today.
He impressed upon me the value of community for two reasons. He believed we were stronger and much more interesting when everyone was giving of their talents and energies and he understood that people who invested their time, feel vested in the organization and much less likely to leave. He asked for a commitment of each prospective student to give their talents and skills to the community. And he required them to think of these skills and name them publicly, which made it more real and made students more likely to participate knowing that they had already professed to each. He told me he didn’t want anyone “skating through.” He wanted them invested and contributing and by asking them during the interview he set and communicated those expectations.
Is your membership person doing this? Is he/she asking each new member how they can support the community? Framing that question around their interests and talents is a great way to get them involved when they are already excited to be a part of the community. “Skating through” was not an option in my high school and it shouldn’t be in your member-based organization either.