Friday, November 30, 2018

Rekindle

“I'm breathing . . . are you breathing too? It's nice, isn't it? It isn't difficult to keep alive, friends just don't -make trouble-or if you must make trouble, make the sort of trouble that's expected. Well, I don't need to tell you that. Good night. If we should bump into one another, recognize me”

― Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

Well, here we are. Hullabaloo seems to be over. The riot gone quiet (Yes, that is a hair band joke) and just the streets left to sweep up, the chairs to stand straight and with a little paint this will all be perfect again, no?

No. It is damned hard at the end of time of drama and controversy to look around at the mess of it all and find within yourself the will to start repairing the damage. You are just so very tired and just want to not be responsible for a little while. Shouldering the burden of public disputes, remaining civil and then trying to also man the brooms in the cleanup is a lot. We all have real lives and real problems and work and family and pets and whatnot- and then we have our weekend clubs. This is not the most important part of our lives, but it does take up a very important part of our lives: our free time.

The SCA (or insert any club, gaming group, sport, hobby, association, church) is where we devote our down time. Sandwiched between work and life, our time for play is supposed to refresh us. But what do we do when emotional fatigue and stress has made our fun hobby into that which we start to dread. Skipping that meeting sounds good. Staying home from the event because you don't feel 100%, brilliant! We can find our excuses anywhere.
Collar of estate and coronet of Master Taliesynne,
a 40 year SCA member. Photo taken at his memorial. 
 
The time after commotion is where clubs can experience their biggest attrition as the officers and those who fought through the controversy question the use of their free time. Those folks are also generally your influencers, prominent members who are connected with large subsets of your group. When we lose these influencers, we also tend to lose their friends. In the SCA that can be whole households, mundane family, associates, local groups, guilds and more. It turns out there is a big wide world of extra-curricular hobbies where people can spend their weekends.

It truly is not the intent of these noted and respected people to lessen the group by the lack of their presence. Indeed, they are likely trying not to bring the club down with their poor mood and lack of motivation. Yet, it does shake the group terribly. The retention of leaders and repositories of club memory is just as important as the retention of new people who keep the club fresh. We need both continuity and wonder to make The Dream come alive. We need the old stories told around the fire and the spark that lights within someone who finds their place and chosen family. We must kindle, but we must also re-kindle.

So, I went out looking for what recommendations are made for long term membership retention. I learned some things. Let me lay some new knowledge on you and as you read these: consider how they could connect to the SCA or your group- not just how they seem meant to be for business. First- most articles and resources believe that long term retention starts at the point of new membership.

Original helm of Master Taliesynne
from his memorial
When Does Retention Start?

Membership Services Inc offers an article titled: The Secret to Long-term Member Retention is in the Welcome
  • Resell them on the dream that encouraged them to buy. Repeat the transformations you promised within your sales letter and never take their excitement and motivation for granted.
  • Communicate the lingo and language they must have to become insiders. Your welcome kit’s written materials and audio should include backstories and an explanation of vocabulary your new members will need to know to feel part of the club.
  • Inspire your members to believe in your program and in their own abilities. Tell success stories of your past clients who have succeeded in your program so your new members knows it can also happen for them.
  • Establish community values. What do you stand for beyond just taking your members’ money and in exchange, giving them your stuff? Include your values to establish an emotional connection with your new members beyond the return on investment they receive from your membership.
  • Motivate to action with your biggest breakthrough. Save your advanced concepts and planning for later in your program. Start your members with what will give them the fastest-possible return on investment to inspire belief, engagement, and excitement.
ClubRunner suggests the following steps

  • Respond and receive promptly. New members need to feel included and welcomed as soon as they join the club. There’s no such thing as too much communication! New members want to know what the club is all about and quickly learn about its culture and practices before spreading the word. Make this a club effort by ensuring each member is involved with the new member's induction. 
  • Demonstrate personal interest. If club executives don't show that they care about each member and the value he/she brings, it will cause the member re-evaluate the reason for joining and second guess participation. Pay attention to member attendance records and follow up with new members with a personal phone call when they miss a meeting. Use ClubRunner's Customized Attendance report to generate a view of meeting attendance to immediately see trends and act upon them.
  • Deliver uninterrupted service. Constant and consistent meetings, communication and activities validate the club's purpose and goals. Make sure that new members are added to your ClubRunner member list to begin receiving the club eBulletin and other messages, and follow up with them to ensure that they are receiving these emails.
  • Provide up-to-date resources. If there's supplementary information that will help to educate members and assist them to be an evangelist for your club, which will ultimately increase your membership roster. Maintain a members section on your website where they can find documents like bylaws, past events, and other useful info to gain a better picture of your club. 
  • Members' needs change, so does the need for ongoing research to evaluate their response. With non-traditional communication and marketing methods on the rise, don’t be afraid to step out of the familiar routine. Try different ways to create awareness about your club and activities so members will know that the club is informed about and taking advantage of current trends.
  • Illuminated manuscript at the Cloisters. This is the stuff that
    hooked me on the SCA before I found it.
  • Membership Audit. Provide avenues where you can receive feedback about your club (i.e. Conduct surveys, firesides, and assemblies) to determine success. You should audit members (new and long term), officers and the membership committee to get a well rounded response of your club success.
Do these totally answer the question of how to deal with emotional fatigue or leadership fatigue? No. But it gives some places for us to start trying. 

Biz Locker Room says the following about leader fatigue: 
  • "Leadership is draining under the best of circumstances, but long-term tenure at any organization coupled with mounting adversity can lead directly to leadership fatigue. Quite often, the overwhelming stress created by setbacks leads rapidly to a further decline in performance."
Where to Start?

So where do we start when our officers and long term influencers are the ones who have grown tired and disillusioned? Here are my personal thoughts formed from over two decades working and volunteering with not-for-profits:
Medieval carving of St Fiacre
from The Cloisters
  • We need to treat them kindly. We need to offer them the same care, attention, compassion, kindness and welcome that we offer to our newest members. We need to put on the kid gloves for a while when we have exhausted long term members and officers. They are people too.
  • We need to assume positive intent.  After a period of turmoil, it is too easy to keep looking for more worms in the apple. Instead, we need to look at the rest of the tree. These are the same people who have dedicated years and even decades to the club. That deserves some respect and also means they should be considered the same wonderful leaders they have always been- but they might need a Snickers or someone who remembers that they are a good person who has worked hard for a long time and that means something. They are tired, grumpy, likely need a hug and probably would appreciate some coffee.
  • We need to celebrate the little wins. This is so important. It costs nothing. Telling someone that they look nice today, that their new dress is lovely, that you appreciate something they did or just appreciate them being around. 
  • Your words and deeds are important. It does not matter if you are the Crown or at your second event- your honest words are important and can make the difference to someone. This can be everything to someone who has had a crap day and is considering just staying home for the next event.
  • We need to apologize and admit we need space. Sometimes our exhausted long term members and leadership get grumpy. The say something that hurts someone else because they are in a crappy mood. It happens. We're all just people. When that happens and you realize you are upset, explain that you have had a rough day and ask for space. Apologize for your comment and admit that it was unkind and unfair. Checking yourself goes a long way toward avoiding later guilt.
  • We need to do what we love and kick it old school. What did you do before you were this
    tired? What did you plan to do before you even arrived at an event? What excited you? Go do it.Take an event and go to the kitchen as a prep cook. Just sit and sew. Cook over an open fire. Throw knives. This is ::your:: weekend or vacation time. You should get to enjoy it. 
  • Meet someone new. Seeing the wonder of the SCA through the eyes of a newcomer is a special kind of magic. Go introduce yourself to a new person. Don't use titles, just your name. Hi, I haven't seen you before. What's your name? Are you having a good time? Anything you want to try? Here, meet my friend so-and-so- they like to (insert activity here).
  • Just be kind. Take a moment before you speak or write and ask- is this kind? When you give this thought and treat people with kindness, they will often return the favor. Even if they don't- you weren't part of the problem. 
  • Share a meal. There's nothing quite like a potluck picnic or feast with friends to help us catch our breath.
  • Why so serious? Don't be afraid to be silly sometimes. Be a human. Crack a joke. Laugh. Have fun. Let yourself unwind. No matter how important you are in the SCA, it's still a Saturday and we are hanging out in the woods in funny clothes. Maintain perspective and a sense of humor.

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