There are a number of community organisations around the world that have come together as groups, in many cases shown leadership but for many, fall down as to creating that strong tribe to create positive change in their community.
Groups like Rotary, Lions, JCI (Jaycees) APEX, Kiwanis and others were created mainly to make positive change in their communities. Most of these organisations are over 100 years, many formed from the Midwest of the USA and they have all changed our communities for the better at a World, National and Local level. Be it specific projects to reduce polio, raising funds for individual nets to reduce malaria deaths or developing leadership in members and youth in their communities.
The positive feeling across members as they grow as individuals, as they complete projects that raise awareness or repair fences for farmers after a devastating bush fire, create those bonds that describe a Tribe. All are working together, as the community as part of that Tribe to make a better world. They do it in many cases at great cost to themselves, cost in time and financially for some at a detriment to their families.
They are looking to create a better world for themselves, their communities and longer term for their extended families and they have found that working together as a Tribe, so all members can feel they have contributed and all gain those positive feelings of change agents, creates a better organisation.
What do I mean by Tribes. In my co-authored best selling book with business guru Brain Tracy – Ignite You Life and further expanded in my book – Business Tribes. Turbocharge Your Circle of Influence, for profit. these concepts are expanded. In my first blog What is a Business Tribe? they are outlined a little.They are groups that have progressed beyond the formation of teams, held together by stronger bonds that are created when ALL the members gain from that interaction. Individual members/actors /nodes may be people or things, and they in turn will be in different Tribes that are all interlinked together. By having these strong bonds, the subsequent Tribes of members will also be influenced or influence the initial Tribe, if those bonds are strong and based on respect and benefits of all tribal members. Sorry long winded but when understood is a powerful tool for any organisation or business.
Download free book at – Ignite Your Life with Business Tribes.
However there are dark clouds on the horizon for all of these organisations and most are running around trying to find solutions for decreased membership, for lack of direction and reduced relevancy to the community that they are trying to work with to make positive change.
Observation at a local level, from push at Regional, National and International levels, is that BIG is good. The focus has seen to shift from what assistance as part of the community – or as the community as part of their Tribe, to Membership is great or we always need more members. These groups in many areas of the world have be come membership creation organisations, rather than World Change Agents. True they still have being change Agents as part of their mantra and many individuals want to and work towards making change, but the focus of these groups at all levels seems to have shifted their priority to membership.
Membership numbers are critical and are needed to make the changes and activity to work with the community to assist that global change, however membership for membership growth is not a long term solution. To change the focus from having the community as part of the Tribe of the organisations, to understand the members of that community on why and how they need assistance to change – to being separate and fun and friendship as reason for joining the organisation, changes these organisations backward to teams and groups.
As Teams they are being challenged as the leaders who take it in turns to be the official leaders every year have less and less individuals to step up to be leaders to help them or to be future leaders. So older leaders are relied on to lead these followers to the ideals of the organisations – but they are getting older. The followers are either happy just to be a follower, not think too much and want to be part of the group or team, but they are retired and happy just to enjoy the companionship of the group. They feel positive when the group achieves things and will even help to achieve it, but feel its not their place to lead. Others are just happy to be part of the fellowship, to gain some friends, to have somewhere to go outside their home and feel part of a bigger picture.
Organisations then change the rules that created the strong tribal bonds in the initial development of these groups, so they can increase membership – not necessarily as strong or committed members and in some cases diluted those bonds that are critical to develop Community Tribes. Some organisational change was to suit the times and were forced on those organisations. Many organisations like Rotary, Lions and JCI were started just with males and later were forced or decided to admit ladies as full members. While being positive for many ladies, the organisations changed from the original concepts and different bonds had to be created. Some of those bonds were how outside Tribes, particularly family tribes and friend tribes then viewed this changed organisation.
Organisations like Rotary and Lions reduced the process of membership. These organisations brought together leaders in the community, people who had achieved, with experience and contacts so they could create activity and solutions for the community. They were leaders and were members of these organisations to change the community in a positive way. However in the focus just to get members, they reduced the age and invited young people with little knowledge, little experience and little networking to boost the numbers. This process was not only bad for these organisations as it diluted the leadership it was poor for the young member as they could not learn and create networks with people in their own age life development.
Other organisations have been formed (Green Movements etc…) , while others have waned (Chambers of Commerce and some Industry groups). True many community Tribes have had to change to meet the changing needs of potential members, but also the community needs as a whole. Scouts also changed to allow girls to be members at all levels and changed dynamics for families, the boys and particularly the leaders. APEX increased membership age to 45, giving a spurt for a period
For organisations that have a time period to cease membership – Scouts, Rural Youth, APEX and JCI to name a few, there is little recognition of Alumni Tribes. This is a part of another blog and book, but this powerful resources for Community Tribes in many cases are ignored or the Alumni Tribe is negative influence on the Community Tribe, as they look to achievements in the past.
I am not making any judgement on these changes, just an observation that there are changes and the original bonds between nodes/actors or members have changed, creating a vacuum to create new relevant bonds and the resultant focus has been on these, rather than the ideals that formed these groups in the first place. Further, members think that the ceremonies and process are the things that created these bonds and these have become more important than the results at a macro level of the organisation. However these ceremonies and processes that were fine for the potential members in the past, may be a barrier for potential members in 2016.
In my new book, Business Tribes. Turbocharge Your Circle of Influence, for profit, I outline the concepts of Business Tribes and how you can use these solutions to gain members with Community Tribes. I will have a follow up book specifically for Organisations published on Amazon by September that has these steps in much more detail.
Step (1) Understand what Tribes these organisations are dealing with.
There are many Tribes that influence organisations, some directly and oters indirectly by influencing the members of those organisations. All of these tribes need to be understood if the Organisation is to become relevant to the lives of these particular members. One of the challenges of larger organisations is that they are trying to be a homogeneous entity that will satisfy the best fit for as many members it can and end up not satisfy many. A better solution may be to have many parts that better satisfy individual members and potential members.
- Current membership. These are the main Tribes that are seen by strategists within organisations. What can we do to make our organisation better for our members? In many ways a short sighted strategy as they fall into the trap that it is about people – but the people are the result of the relevancy of the product to meet the perceived problems of individuals who are or then want to become members. One member in that equaton is the community or the oveall reason for being of that organisaion. In a Tribe ALL members benefit, so there needs to be programs and activities so this occurs. Just partying or having good times may be fun, however not everyone has the same idea of fun or they can party with other friends elsewhere – and the community or other non member nodes in the tribe do not gain the benefits.
This Tribe needs to look at the 7 P’s of marketing as a guide to programs and processes.
Product – Are the programs and activities right for the members and potential members. What are the problems that this organisation has solutions too. If the organisation is primarily concerned for training individuals for leadership in the community for the future i.e. Rover Scouts, Rural Youth, JCI, Leo’s, Rotaract etc… are they offering training or trying to “fit” them into mainstream organisations like Rotary or Lions just to bolster numbers or because the current members are older and not so active.
Price – Is the price to be a member too high. Not just in the form of money, but also in time and focus. The world is a different place than 30 years ago and potential members may be time poor and cannot afford the time or money to be members. Weekly meetings, plus activities on weekends may be difficult, especially for younger potential members concentrating on education, work and family development.
Place – Is the location of these activities easy for tribal members to interact and develop strong bonds together. Is face to face meetings the only solution, can things be done online, across locations, even countries to bring people together. Are the face to face meetings in a location that enhances those bonds and brand values of the individuals or organisations – or is it a quick drink in a pub.
Promotion – Is the organisation telling the world that they have solutions to the problems of potential members. Are they using the most efficient media including online media to engage with potential members, are they romancing them, giving solutions before they “sign up”. In many cases organisations have a focus on short term signing a new member, rather than creating an atmosphere of showing and giving benefits. Have blogs and training online for everyone. Have activities for the community (they are a tribal members don’t forget) Show your solutions an din time they will sign up.
These are the major P’s and often referred to the 4 P’s of marketing, however there are 3 more that also need to be understood to create a strong organisational environment.
People – Often referred to the employment of employees working within your business, however in a membership organisation it is refers to the leadership of the group and the type of member that you are inviting to join your organisation. Many organisations have a One Year To Lead – leaders are around in positions for 1 year, however if managed correctly they are in leadership groups (or Tribes) for more than that, learning, leading and influencing the outcomes fo rthe Tribe. Understanding whom you wish to invite into the Tribe can influence the long term outcomes fo rthe Tribe. Do you invite anyone just to get numbers up this year to win an award, do you invite people you like because partying is really important or do you look to target individuals who will work and act to assist others and create new bonds between members – to develop the Tribe.
Physical Environment – In a business sense its the location, the dress smart, the web presences, those things that portray your brand values to the world. Is it professional, does it show your brand as a solution to their problems, is it a group that they wish to stand their personal brand with – or is it a party group that just meets and looks to have a good time. Is the group filled with individuals who are just trying to sell things or find a partner, is the web presence professional and offering those things that potential members feel special about or a continual sell to become a member.
Process – In many organisations this is an area that is not understood as a barrier to membership as to current members, it is the organisation. The ritual that we did 300 years ago is what we are about (Masons), its tradition and potential members have to accept it. The Creed is the central core of our existence and must be recited at every meeting (JCI), developed only 40 odd yeas ago it could be said this organisation was about process rather than learning outcomes for future leaders. Drinking is part of our culture (Rural Youth) fun and friendship should be part of the formation of bonds – but having drinking as a central part of the culture reduces the opportunity of good members. Raising money by having a fine session (Skal, Lions and Rotary) may be a bit of fun, but can reduce those bonds as people are humiliated for a laugh and fund raising – not very professional. Just because a process has become part of the culture, does not mean its right for the times now.
Other Tribes that are needed to be understood of current and potential members include ; Family Tribes, Friends Tribes, Alumni Tribes, Work Tribes, and Community Group Tribes – all individual papers in future blogs. Alumni Tribes especially can be a positive resource for an organisation, or a barrier to new members and change and renewal of the same organisation.
Step (2) ENGAGE with these Tribes.
With an understanding of what Tribes are and the individual Tribes an Organisation and members are dealing with, there can be a plan to engage with those Tribes. It should be long term, as if you are romancing them – not a quick one night stand, not just to get hem to sign on the dotted line for 1 year membership. Its about long term engagement and solutions for all the challenges of all the Tribal members, especially those of community or other organisations. It should be in a form of excitement and in a manner that they are not being stalked or just a number. You need to GIVE more than you ask for – could be free training, free activities, look at personal development of individuals BEFORE you ask them to join. Should be in a manner that is convenient for the potential new person – not the editor. Blogs, online forums, newsletters, ebooks are all easy to manage programs that give to make the potential members feel important. 2 way communication is critical, have a process so they can communicate back, ask questions have input in a safe way. From that strong bond will come a new member, a long term member.
Step (3) Maintain these Tribes.
Once you have your member the process does not stop there. You need to continue programs and processes that enhance their membership, that continually engages and have a 2 way communication. Like any marriage you don’t stop the romancing once you are married – continually make them feel special and they will reciprocate. That’s the development of tribal bonds, then the focus will become on those members like the community who will gain the benefit of the Tribe. Don’t become a “Lets get membership” organisation. Membership is an outcome of good organisations and relevant programs – not continuing to ask new people to join.
Step (4) Profit from the tribal process or how to gain members.
From the creating of Tribal bonds and being relevant in a way that develops long term relationships between members, people will join. When organisations can show that they appreciate members, that the outcome of the organisation is the solutions to members and potential members problems, they will join. When barriers to membership are appreciated from membership of other Tribes, i.e. Family, Work and friend Tribes and solutions to membership that take these other bonds into account, they will join. When you are seen as a dynamic organisation that understands WHY you are here and not just a try hard to get membership organisation, they will join.
Step (5) How to Turbo Charge your organisation
This is the exciting bit. Once your members understand that the focus of the organisation is on them, the outcomes of solutions to their problems and they are respected, they will become advocates for your organisation. Not just to their family and friend tribes, but to other tribes of work tribes, could be School tribes, Parent and Friend Tribes and other community group Tribes. The last one could be critical as with an understanding that your organisation is a positive one that is their for the betterment of the tribal members – individuals and community, can lead to other organisations supporting their members to join yours – from theirs. Rover Scouts, Leo’s, Rotaract, Rural Youth (I was a member of most of these) all have an age out age. If they moved directly into say Rotary and Lions, not only does it change the dynamics of the original meaning of the organisation (Using leaders to make change in the community) but it is not fair on the young person looking to develop themselves, develop their networks and tribes who are going through the same challenges they are – work, family, relationships, education.
If there is a relationships between Community Tribes, these young people can be part of Tribes that offer relevant programs and Tribal Bonds that assist these members to develop themselves. Groups like JCI, APEX and others have programs for persons in these age groups, aging out at 40 and 45 respectively. This gives them a time to develop those persona, leadership and community skills to be greater effective members for those later groups – Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis etc… and not only become members in a natural flow of “groupies” but longer term and much more effective members. That in turn creates an better and more effective organisation, with long term benefits for the community.
“That’s the power of tribes – strong bonds in your tribe, create advocates into other tribes, that become customers/members of your tribe.”
What if organisations don’t change.
As been shown above these types of organisations are dying around the world. Those organisations that have not changed to suit the change in consumers and purchasers, that think that the organisation is about scrabbling around just to get members, that past processes and ceremonies are the core of the business and that new members have to conform to us, will continue to close.
Those that use these organisations to Party Party Party, that think that organisations main outcome to find friends and have fun (while important) and only want to engage people with their idea of organisation (they are joining us) will continue to close as people find other ways to engage each other.
As organisations are controlled and managed by the current members, they are not a business that have shareholders and Directors with a focus on the expected outcomes of the reason for the business, they will continue to die if outside forces are not listened to. These forces may be members of the community, may be some Alumni Tribe – however others in Alumni Tribe may be happy for it to die, or other organisations or ways to engage people are created.
People don’t care how much you know
until they know how much you care.
- Its having members that care about the future of our communities rather then the organisations themselves.
- Having Alumni that don’t dwell in the past or control the future – but use their current knowledge and influence within their tribes to assist the current members.
- Its having understanding of the power of tribes – all organisations working together to help each other, to help our communities long term and not just focusing in on themselves.
For the community as a whole, whether Rotary, Lions, JCI or others survive for another 50 or a 100 years is not critical for them, unless they are relevant for positive change for them. There needs to be leadership for long term strategies for organisations, how it operates and is linked to other tribes in the community and the most important thing is the development of strong bonds between members.
Objective discussion for solutions for these organisations is imperative, some of those discussions should be between them, with the understanding that they are tribes together, working for their communities. Some may be seen as natural progressions – Scouts/Rural Youth?Leos/Rotaract => APEX, JCI => Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce etc… Together creating knowledge, experiences and tribal creation for the time line of the members. This way the winners are the members, the winners are these organisations and the winners are the community.
I was a member of Scouts Australia for over 30 years as a Youth member and later as a leader and Branch Vice President. Also a member of Rural Youth and JCI (Jaycees) National President for Australia (1996) and World Vice President (1997) Awarded Most Outstanding National President of the World with a positive increase in numbers for JCI Australia in 1996, the first in over 20 years. Member of many other organisations, Chambers of Commerce at State, National and International level etc… and Senator of JCI #566666 – information at www.park.com.au and www.businessgardener.com.au
I have written a co-authored a best selling book with business guru Brian Tracy (Ignite Your Life) and will have a new book published in May 2016 (Business Tribes. Turbocharge your circle of influence, for profit) More information on business tribes can be found at www.businesstribes.com.au