The Magic of Altruism: Step 3

You might’ve heard business people talk about ROI: Return on Investment. Another word for it is the Cost/Benefit Ratio. In volunteer-speak this means: what’s in it for me.
That may sound brash or rude but when you think back to the definition of altruism it makes sense. If this is a selfless act there has to be a motivating factor behind why a volunteer does what a volunteer does. What is the inspiration behind this selfless act.
The motivation or “what’s in it for me” is the most important aspect you will bump up against. This Cost/Benefit ratio is what is going to attract people to your cause and to keep them there when the times get rough.

What moves people to action may not always seem so selfless.  When all else fails, things like money, power and values are what cause people to act and move forward. Since we are talking about selfless acts maybe money, from a personal point of view may not be the driving force. But when you look at charitable organizations what is one of the things they all have in common. The need for money. Although there might not be a personal net gain many volunteers are very motivated at drawing money into their organization.

Another reason a person will act against the odds, is if they are attracted to a sense of power. Again this may not be a selfless motivator but if you have a leader who is drawn to a place of power and wants to run your organization it may not be a bad thing.
Both power and money can be looked at from another angle. These two benefits are extrinsic motivators. That means they are things “outside” of the person that causes them to act.

People, in the absence of things like outright money and power, are inexorably drawn to “stand up” for a cause and are most definitely driven by their values or more likely their archetypes. These two things are intrinsic.  While power and money can be extremely useful motivators they are at the mercy of the outside environment and therefore not to reliable.

But intrinsic motivators can be downright magical. No matter what happens on the outside of a person you can always count on values and archetypes to be a constant push. People will go to great lengths to get their values met and to be able to tell their archetypical story.
How can you get this to work for you? It can be explained in one word: listen.

Spend the time to listen to the people you want to draw into your organization. Find out what it is that they value, what is their story and show them how working as a volunteer for you can fit right into this intrinsic motivation. If someone values making an impact, show them how the role they play for your organization will have an impact on individuals, groups, your organization and the world. Listen to what they find important and fit that into what you need. Sometimes people just need to be shown what these drivers are.  I a few magic tricks I can do with groups to find that in themselves and to see it in others. You will find there are ways both power and money can indicate a value. In other words, they are just vehicles to get people what they really want .

What causes people to pull back and choose inaction? Guilt, shame and blame are all things that motivate people but strangely enough they can motivate people in the other direction. Like power and money they work for a little while but using these three things is like hood-winking people into helping out. They will back fire even if they do temporarily work because you risk damaging the trust of your organization.

These three things can work in the opposite direction. You might get some people to sign up and help at first but some people are actually repelled by using these techniques. They will hear what you are saying, pull back and you will never see them again.

What is the bottom line for this step? In Step 1 we indicated that people need to be informed so they can SEE the need for intervention. In Step 2 be clear about what “situations” attract people to see the need to intervene or volunteer. This final step is all about first listening to what your prospective volunteers value, what is their archetype. Show them how these intrinsic motivators can be found and met within your own organization.

When faced with the membership of my own club I asked them what they valued. I gave examples how certain values could be met when taking on a leadership role within our organization. It didn’t hurt that I had spent time listening to what they all valued as individuals. I was able to give examples that fit with what I knew about them and I was able to deliver it anonymously so people did not feel trapped. Did they know I was doing this? Yes, I told them because I didn’t want to lose their trust.

Probably giving this kind of appeal works best in a “forum” situation. But be careful. Don’t forget that the more the people in the crowd the less likely they will step up to stand out. After speaking to the group take the time to approach each person individually and see what they thought.

What are some values you are aware of and how would they fit into a particular organization?

How would you find out how to recognize the values and archetypes of the people you are approaching?

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