If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say, “if we have food, they’ll come,” I could, well, hire an organizer to help them understand what really motivates turnout.
Because the reality is, as I’ve reflected on here before, it’s really our relationship with people that move us to do the vast majority of things for which we’re not being paid (and even some of those for which we are). We know this is true for our own lives–what’s more likely to get us to attend a meeting, for example–the knowledge that there will be some snacks there, or the fact that a friend is waiting for us, expecting us to arrive? And, of course, our clients and advocates are no different, in terms of what motivates them.
This essential truth about organizing and, really, about human nature, was driven home for me at 4:30AM the other morning (as are so many essential truths). My oldest son woke up crying and I ran upstairs to see what was the matter. He was sitting up in his bed and said, “Mommy, I really want a cupcake.” I told him of course that he couldn’t have a cupcake then, but that we could probably have one the next day. We had a brief discussion about why we don’t have dessert with breakfast, and then he went back to sleep.
I laughed to myself on the way back downstairs. Because, I mean, can you imagine if a representative of some organization woke me up at 4:30 in the morning about anything, let alone an unreasonable demand for a cupcake? Or even a good friend of mine? But when it’s someone I love so much, even ridiculous requests serve to strengthen our bond, as reminders of how linked we are.
I’m certainly not recommending that you test the depth of your connection to your constituents with 4:30AM calls about cupcakes, nor am I suggesting that your relationships with them will mirror mine with my kids.
But I think that the reflection on the nature of relationship to change EVERYTHING is still a vital one. A “wake up call”, so to speak, that the people we’re trying to engage in our movements aren’t (we sincerely hope) so desperate for some Costco cream puffs that they’ll let the promise of them drive their decisions about how they use their time, and also that, with investment in the ties that hold us together, we can achieve the kind of connection that has the power to move people in surprising, joy-filled, even amazing, ways.