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Drive Commitment and Change With 'Moments'

July 18, 2019

Ripple-effectOrganizations are always on the lookout for strategies that can help them engage supporters or build their movements. When I interact with an organization or cause that is seeking to build a constituency, I like to ask two questions:

  1. What’s the next milestone you are working toward?
  2. What are you doing right now to increase your supporter base in advance of that milestone? 

A few definitions here will be helpful:

  • A milestone is an incremental achievement that leads to a "moment" within a movement. The milestone Is achieved by the community working together.
  • A moment is a one-time (or short-term) convergence of actions, informal or organized, that is fueled by cultural, political, and/or social events leading to a surge of individual participation and self-organizing by supporters.
  • An issue or cause is an existing state of affairs (societal, environmental, political) recognized by society as contrary to its values but that can be improved by people working together and taking advantage of community resources.

As a leader of a mission-driven organization, your work is to break new ground for your issue or cause. You’re the visionary always on the lookout for that movement-altering moment when public awareness, supporter engagement, and a broader narrative of progress come together to create progress.

Moments are incredibly powerful in the life of an issue or cause -- and for the supporters and people you serve. They’re the catalysts that drive your colleagues and supporters to commit themselves to the work every day, and they represent an enormous opportunity to strengthen your issue’s relevance to and resonance with both loyal and as-yet-unidentified supporters.

After I've gotten answers to my first two questions above, I usually move on to another set of questions. To design an effective moment, leaders of mission-driven organizations and movements need to get clarity on the following:

  1. Is your current supporter base loyal enough (and have you prepared them well enough) to help your issue by spreading a new narrative that brings others to the cause/movement?Who are the people who will be energized by your next moment, and how can you inspire them to be a voice and recruiter for your issue or cause?
  2. Typically, the only thing loyal and potential supporters have in common is an interest in your issue. And their awareness of what to do and how to do it, as well as their willingness to take action, almost always Is a function of their prior involvement with the issue or cause. This means you need to create different approaches for different audiences.

With that in mind, here are a couple of suggestions:

Maximize affinity and loyalty of current supporters

The goal here is to deepen the connection of your current supporters to your issue or cause by inspiring them to act. The idea, always, is action fuels commitment.

Step 1. Announce the upcoming milestone.

Step 2. Ask your current supporters for their help in reaching the milestone and share with them educational resources, actions they can take, and opportunities to develop DIY events and programs that will inspire and encourage others to support your issue/cause.

Step 3. Be sure to build in reporting and recognition mechanisms.

Here’s an example of an education-and-action pathway for your current supporters:

Table 1.1: Education-and-Action Pathway

Audience Goals Sample Actions Rationale
Current supporters Create a sense of belonging Supporter shares own "Why I believe" narrative about the issue Taking an action, especially if it involves sharing a personal story, makes a person feel more connected to an issue or cause

 

Increase understanding Supporter performs 3-4 CTAs that enhance his/her belief narrative (e.g., post on social media, attend event) The more actions a supporter takes, the deeper his/her understanding of the issue/cause

 

Inspire further action Supporter recruits peer/friend to issue/ cause and initiates conversation about it

 

Creates excitement and reinforces engagement when others respond positively to the same belief narrative

 

Table 1.2: Key Elements of Pathway

Action → Response → Action → Response →
Initiates pathway (e.g., sign a pledge or petition) Individual receives 3-5 automated emails with links to organized content (e.g., video, quiz, link to individualized achievement tracking) Individual completes call-to-action (e.g., “Bring one new person into the movement”) Those who complete CTA are publicly recognized and become part of the movement (e.g., showcase their picture/story)

 

Focus on new audiences already aligned with milestone

Recruiting new supporters to an issue/cause requires a different approach.

Step 1. Use targeted outreach to identify individuals who are already aligned with the upcoming milestone.

Step 2. Design an engagement program that inspires these micro-influencers to recruit their peers to the issue/cause. The program should incorporate a variety of tactics, from online display ads to face-to-face recruitment at programs and events that members of the targeted audience are likely to attend.

Step 3. Provide your micro-influencers with a digital environment (e.g., password-protected collection of online resources) specifically designed to engage them. Include an opt-in mechanism for those who want to pursue more intensive engagement.

Moments reinforce belief and drive active commitment

I’ve said this before: reinforcement of belief is a powerful factor in deepening an individual's involvement in an issue or cause and in creating a powerful sense of identity among like-minded people. Moments serve these purposes by demonstrably raising awareness of an issue among the public and inspiring some of them to act. By encouraging your supporters to achieve well-defined milestones, your organization will be advancing its issue or cause and helping to shape public discourse around the issue or cause.

But, remember: engaging supporters in your issue or cause should be your primary objective, while Increasing support for your organization should be a secondary goal. If supporters are passionate about an issue or cause, they will find -- and support -- the organizations that are most effective at advancing that issue or cause.

When organizations keep their issue or cause front and center and focus on moving it forward, moment by moment, good things inevitably follow.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

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