Whether you’re a JRLC District Leader, a Key Advocate with iCAN, or simply a concerned and engaged person trying to make a difference in your community, we hope that you’re always seeking to sharpen your organizing skills. Much of our work depends on maintaining a network of faithful citizens across Minnesota who will come together to advocate for social justice, and the existence of that network depends on you!
So, over the coming weeks we’re putting together a series of blog posts on the basics of organizing, from how to get people committed to a cause to how to create real change around issues you care about. Whether these ideas are new to you or you’re ready for a refresher course, we hope these posts will be a good resource for you in the lead-up to our Day on the Hill, February 21, and beyond!
The topic of the first post in the organizing series is One-to-Ones. These individual meetings are a crucial part of any organizer’s toolkit, so building solid One-to-One skills is a great place to start. Plus, they’re a perfect tool for recruiting people to come to Day on the Hill, so this is a timely post; read on, then go put your new skills into action!
One-to-Ones are important because they help create relationships, and good organizing is built on good relationships. As the Midwest Academy puts it, “the relationships organizers develop are their most important resource and most important talent.” Honing the talent of relationship-building is essential for any aspiring organizer, and practicing One-to-Ones is a great way to do it.
The Americorps VISTA program defines a One-to-One as “a purposeful conversation with an individual to learn about their concerns, interest level, and resources. Focus on getting commitments to specific actions.” Basically, One-to-Ones are pretty similar to any one-on-one conversations we have with acquaintances or strangers in our daily lives: you’re meeting someone for coffee, or lunch, or in some other setting, and you’re getting to know a little bit about them. The difference is in the “getting commitments to specific actions” part, which lends the conversation more of a specific focus than other getting-to-know-you conversations might have. You, as the organizer of the One-to-One, are responsible for creating this focus by setting a prearranged meeting time, having a clear goal and specific questions in mind, and keeping a professional, goal-oriented tone throughout the meeting.
The Midwest Academy’s six-step model for successful recruiting provides a good framework to follow in a One-to-One meeting; there is a balance of mutual exchange of information and purposeful steps to get the other person to commit to an action.
- Be Prepared. Be ready to explain who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. Refresh your memory on what you already know about the person’s interests, experience, activities, family, etc., or have questions in mind to spark conversation on those topics if this is a new acquaintance.
- Legitimize Yourself. Share a little bit about yourself, particularly points of connection you have with the other person. If you have places, people, experiences, or interests in common, share those. Mention other people they know, or organizations they are a part of, that have already joined your cause. Tell them about your organization’s accomplishments.
- Listen. This is key! You want to get to know the other person to set the foundation for a longer-term relationship, and to begin to imagine how their unique interests and talents might add to your effort. Listen to understand what issues and topics are important to this person, and also listen for any special skills, useful contacts, and organizational networks they may mention.
- Agitate. Share striking truths about why you think your issue or effort is important. “You are not trying to offend or be obnoxious, but neither will you passively accept excuses for people not getting involved.” Push people to make a commitment by showing why this issue is important to you, and tying it to the interests and passions they have expressed.
- Get a Commitment. Before ending the conversation, ask the person to commit to a specific action - like, for example, attending Day on the Hill. Try to match the organization’s needs to the person’s interests and talents.
- Follow up. Thank people for meeting with you and check in with them about the commitment they’ve made. When they come through on their promises, make it a point to recognize their efforts and contribution! Continue building up the foundation for a long-term relationship.
Holding conversations that aim both to build a personal relationship and to recruit someone to your cause may not feel completely natural at first. Luckily, practice makes perfect! So start thinking about people you’d like to get to know better who might be interested in your issue, or who might be able to connect you to others. And then get out there and start practicing your One-to-Ones!
JRLC Bonner Fellow