Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras has traditionally been a huge celebration before getting down to the sacrificing and fasting season of Lent. But even if you don’t celebrate and/or observe either tradition, there is something to be said for getting the crazies out of your system right before rolling up your sleeves and getting to business. Mardi Gras isn’t just about debauchery. Member-based organizations can apply some of the same drivers that keep people coming back year after year.
1. Celebrate the difference. When it comes to your members, let them be who they are. Yes, for risk’s sake you probably can’t advocate paint-only clad revelers at your next conference taking to the streets in celebration in honor of your group but if that’s appealing to your members, you may want to consider the possibilities.
2. Party then work. If your member-base joins largely for the social aspect, allow them to have some fun before asking them to volunteer. People support what they are a part of but it is difficult to answer the call to volunteer when you’re still waiting to feel the connection. A party or social event brings people together and memories of a successful event frequently spawn the desire to continue having successful (and fun) events in the future.
3. Throw them some beads, mister! Not literally – unless they like that sort of thing. But part of what makes the Mardi Gras celebrations fun is the idea that everyone is a participant – whether you’re on a float, strolling in the parade or a spectator – everyone joins in. Best of all, those who join in get something they like. And another thing we can learn from the bead idea is that what we give our members does not have to be expensive. Sometimes it’s the idea of getting something that is better than the actual swag.
Mardi Gras focuses on revelry, community and involvement and although it may go to the extreme (I caution you if you’re considering making Hurricanes the drink of choice at your next function) the lessons on bringing a group together for creating a memorable event are still there.