If we are truly grassroots professionals, we should embrace “bottom up” communications. Many times our messages only asking them to do something for us, or tell them what they should not be doing, saying, thinking, etc. It is important to be a carrier of good news. It affects how we are seen in the organization and how much time our advocates will give us in the future.
People attribute negative personal characteristics to those who bring us bad news, regardless of whether they were involved in creating that bad news (Manis, Cornell and Moore, 1974). We generally don’t trust those we don’t like.
What is your positive to negative communications ratio? Ask your advocates what you can do to help them become more active. Ask for their opinions on your program and recruitment strategies. Ask them if your communications are persuasive. This practice is a habit of the groups who most recently appeared on Fortune magazine’s “Power 25” list (Showalter, 2002). They routinely and assiduously seek volunteer feedback.
Lack of Expressed Gratitude
We must never, ever forget that our advocates and PAC members volunteer for duty. Leading a grassroots or PAC program is not a traditional employee-supervisor relationship. Therefore, we must take time to thank them for their efforts, time, accomplishments and progress.
Inappropriate Reward Systems
I do not believe that rewards motivate behavior; they do, however, set the standard for stellar grassroots and PAC involvement, and help ingrain PAC and grassroots into the organizational culture. There is a plethora of research to support this assertion.
I have seen reward programs that are little more than rewards for “the nicest, most reliable, polite person of the year,” rather than rewards that recognize true grassroots and PAC avatar behavior.
How can this happen? Because incredibly, organizations supplant another organization’s reward system into their own program. It is important to determine what your desired grassroots outcomes are, and then work backward to reward the behaviors associated with those goals. When we reward those who are less than deserving because of misplaced organizational guilt, volunteer tenure, etc., we cheapen the efforts of those who persevere toward our goals. Remember that you can establish unique awards for a variety of achievements.
Ask Yourself . . .
• Are your messages about the value of grassroots and PAC involvement consistent with your behavior?
• Do you say you value your volunteers, yet “use them” to achieve goals?
• What is your positive to negative communication ratio with your volunteers?
• Do you express gratitude freely and frequently?
• Do you have a reward system in place that truly recognizes your avatars?