Okay, here's the theory: if you want somebody to volunteer to help out with something, you increase the likelihood of cooperation by doing five things:
- Ask the right people
- Ask them personally if possible
- Ask them at the right time
- Make the request specific, and
- Make it as convenient as possible to do the good deed.
Tactical error #1: I didn't speak up much to ask for contributions or suggestions. I just wrote a little blurb in a couple of places and waited for a response that never came.
Tactical error #2: I didn't target the right people. Addressing the parish as a whole, which I finally did at the church's recent annual meeting, may raise awareness slightly, but many of the older people in our aging parish probably aren't online, or stick mostly to email. People who don;t frequent blogs and websites, who don't know what Twitter is and couldn't care less about Facebook, just aren't going to jump in on these activities on my say so. Also, the parishioners I normally see are the ones who attend the 10:15 AM mass. This means I miss all the people at the other three masses, some of whom may well be the more internet-savvy folks of the parish.
Tactical error #3: I didn't get the timing right. If I ask someone at coffee hour after church to write something for me or email me pictures, what happens? Nothing, most likely. They aren't at a computer, and my email address, if they get it at all, will be scribbled on the back of a church bulletin or other scrap paper. People are busy socializing, and when they're done with that they'll go home and get on with their day. The email address and request for contributions will probably be forgotten, or shunted into a mental "To Do Sometime" pile. Heck, I've done the exact same thing with other people's email addresses and requests.
But in the last couple of weeks, I finally did something right. I updated the website and promoted that fact, both online and off; but that by itself wouldn't do much. What finally made the difference was sending a one-time email to a mailing list of active parishioners. The fact that they're on email at all, getting notices about meetings and causes and news, immediately qualifies them as being more likely to help with the church's online presence. Furthermore, the plea made several specific requests, which people received at the time and place most conducive to complying: when they're at their computers, and have the email and web addresses right in front of them. And you know what? It worked!
As a result of that and the Facebook group I set up, three people besides me have joined the Facebook group, a fourth person found and informed me of an outdated link that needed to be fixed in three places, a fifth person emailed and spoke with me about helping out with the church history pages, and a sixth person emailed me photos of events and activities that I didn't attend myself. You can see one of those photos above, from the sandwich-making session for the homeless that volunteers do at St. Michael's on every fifth Friday. For years I've needed photos for the page that talks about Casa Maria night, but never made it down to take the photos (or make egg salad, for that matter. Why not? Same reason: it's not convenient for me, I'm not a likely participant, and I'm never asked at the right time. And yes, I know that's a lame excuse.
Let that be a lesson to me.