The way we organize

I’m currently reading Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, and it’s very interesting. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but it makes me realize that we’ve hardly scratched the surface of what is possible when new technology intersects with our passions.

It also makes me wonder about how we do our organizing in the church. What we seem to do best is mailings and conferences. Our efforts tend to be woefully inadequate in a new generation.

Personally, I get two or three letters every week from some sort of group that’s working on behalf of an issue. I’m telling you, I am an easy target. I’m a bleeding heart, who could quickly get swept away in a cause. I don’t have much time, but I am happy to preach about, write about, volunteer for, and contribute to a wide array of things. And yet, I rarely get past the first line.

It’s usually a grey envelope, and on a rare occasion, they get my name correct. Often it’s addressed to “Pastor” or to the pastor who was at the church five years ago. (Interestingly, The Layman ALWAYS gets it right.)

The letter typically say “Dear Generic Person,” and I have to roll my eyes, because that mail merge button has been in action for about 20, 30 years now. And why have we not learned to use it? There is an envelope, they’re asking for my cash-ola, but they haven’t even taken the time to get my name. 

If I open the letter (and there’s only about a ten percent chance that I will at that point), there’s a single-spaced tome that goes on for pages and pages. I’m sure it’s cram-packed with useful information, but I don’t ever make it that far. I put the correspondence in the recycling bin. And I rarely make it to any conferences. 

I know that keeping up with a mailing list takes human resources that an organization is not likely to have. But what if they began to re-evaluate how they spend their money and time? How about this plan?

Put someone under the age of forty with a strong social network, or someone who is part of the Internet culture on the board or staff. I hope that I’m wrong… but… some of our social justice organizations seem to be run by one particular generation. It’s hard to find younger people involved. 

And yet, organizations will be able to keep up with the technological shifts that are happening, and their active presence should go beyond pushing a cause or product. We can think of movement-building as relationship building, which means your ears should be as big as your mouth is loud.

Stop the mailings. They’re bad for the environment and no one’s reading them. You can have one mailing per year, a well-produced annual report that details what you’re up to.

If you can’t get the name correct, avoid using an address (Dear…) in your correspondence. And really, do those envelopes ever work when you can’t get the name correct? And who uses envelopes? I pay all my bills on-line. You might be better off with paypal.

If you’re doing things over the ‘net, then you can easily add pictures and make the information attractive. When designing the site, you might want to try to resist the temptation to let the type go across the page. Use lots of paragraphs. People who read computer screens will scroll down, but it’s hard for them to read across.

If you do have a lot of information to get across, then you can open up a blog. Post well-written information a couple times a week, at least. This also allows for conversation rather than one-way information.

Of course, I’m not an expert on this. I’m a pastor, I don’t run a non-profit. And I’m just writing this rant as a person from a particular generation who receives these letters. But I know what annoys me… so I thought I’d share.

So, what about you? Want to share any constructive annoyances? What should organizers know about organizing? 

Photo’s by noregt


2 thoughts on “The way we organize

  1. all i know is that it is hard, hard work…it takes extreme dedication and unending patience to live through the heartbreaks of failure – because there will be tons of failure with people groups…much more failure than success…this is not a failure society…people usually move on quickly to something else…whether that be a good or bad thing…

    it doesn’t surprise me AT ALL the layman knows your name…and gets it right…

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