Nothing feels worse than standing in a room filled with party balloons but you are all alone because no one showed up.
In college, I was elected student leader for the honors club. I was a club member the prior year and thought that I could offer a lot of value if I stepped into a leadership position.
My main task was to plan all the club activities for the year. It sounded like a simple task because I was intelligent and creative, and I thought I knew what type of events our members wanted to experience. But my ignorance taught me a precious lesson about engagement.
The process that led to me standing alone in a room filled with party balloons started with a whiteboard, marker, and 20 possible event ideas. I picked one related to music as my first event of the year. There is no need to go into details; it failed. The members didn’t care nor want a music event.
In disappointment, I spoke to the club advisor, who suggested that I talk to the members and see what they wanted instead of coming up with ideas myself. Duh!
I talked to several members the following week and learned about their interests. While some people had wild ideas like goat yoga and an oxygen bar, one topic piqued my curiosity because it came up several times. It turns out there was a strong correlation between honors students and Role-playing board games. In fact, a group of our members were already meeting every week to play board games together.
That’s when it hit me. Instead of trying to start a new activity, I should use my resources as a leader to help them make what they are already doing more successful.
I provided them with a room and money for food and promoted their event to a larger club to gain more participants. Their next event was a huge success; they couldn’t stop thanking me. I smiled at myself, knowing I’d made the right choice while also successfully hosting an event for the honors club.
As a community leader, I learned to utilize resources rather than waste them and encouraged others to try and start their own parades. If you look for parades already in motion within your membership, you’ll be able to support them in a much more valuable way.
The 3 Advantages of Supporting Existing Parades Instead Of Starting New Ones:
A guaranteed way to know your event will be successful is to find ones already working. If your members are already doing something together, then it’s a success, and all you have to do is support it. Trying to launch a new idea from scratch can be exhausting, so don’t waste your time. Instead, focus on what your members are already doing, and you’ll have a guaranteed engaging program, and you’ll look like a superstar leader as well.
A fun byproduct of talking to our members about activities was learning a lot about them. I gained some new friends and discovered that one member grew up in the same town as me. The more time you spend with members of your community, the better you will know them, and they will know you. As we say in Dance Floor Theory, the more social connections there are on a dance floor, the more fun that dance will be and the longer it will last.
Less Time & Stress
It takes an exhausting amount of fuel to get a plane off the ground. Exponentially way more fuel per second is needed to take off than required to keep an aircraft in flight. The same is true with trying to start a new idea for your organization instead of finding ideas already in motion. Don’t waste your time, energy, and resources on coming up with and launching new ideas that you aren’t even sure will work. Instead, do as I did and talk to your members and see if there are already activities you can support.
As a community leader, you don’t always need to spend time brainstorming, executing, and launching ideas to engage and connect members. The smarter option is to talk to your members, get to know them, and learn about their interests by finding out what they are already doing and how you can help them. This is a more efficient method of developing programming. Look for the parades already in motion instead of trying to start a new one.