IN THIS ISSUE
Competitive Analysis for Associations
Budgeting for Membership Retention and Recruitment
Dealing With Apathy
Do Your Survey Questions Spoil Your Survey Results?
Change Management with Peter de Jaeger
Customer Relationships with Paul Ward
TOOLS, TIPS AND RESOURCES
“Members won’t participate. They sit there or they talk
among themselves. Meetings take forever because we can’t
make decisions. Some don’t even come anymore. They are
just apathetic and there’s nothing I can do about it!”
Are you dealing with bored members who don’t want to
participate? If this sounds familiar to you, don’t
panic. At one time or another it happens to the best of
organizations, so what can you do when it happens to
Apathy is a symptom – So what’s the problem?
group lack skills in solving problems or accomplishing
tasks? When members lack the skill to problem solve, we may
find behavior patterns as follows:
No one is able to suggest how to start
Members do not stay focused on the problems
Members seek ways to dodge problems rather than solve
There is continual sidetracking or joking to change
Members expect the leader to make decisions for the
There are decisions, but the members are indecisive
When decisions are made, members have not taken all
considerations into account first
Are your goals important and relevant to your group’s
Have you reviewed your organization’s constitution as
an entire group in the last year?
Have you assessed the needs of your members through
formal and informal surveys?
Have you taken the time as a group to set goals and
objectives for the entire year?
Has the group set expectations for its officers and
have the officers shared expectations of members?
Has the organization taken the time to plan and
participate in a retreat away from campus?
Are all of your members involved in a specific aspect
of your organization?
When members are given responsibility, they feel more responsible to the group.
Members become apathetic when they feel powerless in the
final decision. Committees soon become dormant when they
are set up to pacify or divert. Such committees see no
point in “knocking themselves out” merely to have their
work ignored. The quickest way to produce apathy is to
ask for a suggestion, then to ignore it. Members feel
frustrated when they behave as follows:
Members say their work will be pigeon-holed
- There is much talk about power, prestige, and
- Doubts are voiced about “wasting our time”
- There are complaints about the important people not
The group lacks responsibility; it wastes time and
makes no effort to decide
“When people become involved in the problem, they become
significantly and sincerely committed to coming up with
solutions to the problem.” (Covey, 1991)
We accomplish all that we do through delegation- either
to time or to other people. If we delegate to time, we
think efficiency. If we delegate to other people, we
think effectiveness. Transferring responsibility to
other skilled and trained people enables you to give
your energies to other high-leverage activities.
Delegation means growth, both for individuals and for
organizations (Covey, 1989)
There are certain skills involved in successful
delegation in order to allow your members to feel
responsible to the project, committee, or group as a
whole. By simply telling a person to “go for it”, and
get the job done, that person will not be committed to
achieving results. A more successful way of delegating
is referred to as “stewardship delegation” by Stephen
Covey. This style focuses on results instead of methods.
It gives people a choice of method and makes them
responsible for results. Stewardship delegation involves
clear, up-front mutual understanding and commitment
regarding expectation in five areas. It takes more time
in the beginning, but it’s time well invested.
Visualize the desired result clearly and concisely by
focusing on the what, not the how.
Establish guidelines by pointing out potential
failure path, and what not to do, but don’t tell them
what TO do. Allow people to learn from mistakes without
re-inventing the wheel.
Identify resources the person can draw on to
accomplish the desired goal.
Establish accountability standards of performance
that will be used in evaluating the results.
Specify consequences, both good and bad, tied to
evaluation of performance.
Inspiring a shared vision and Enabling others to act (Kouzes
and Posner, 1987)
Leaders inspire a shared vision, they don’t command
commitment. Through intimate knowledge of the dreams,
hopes, aspirations, visions, and values of the members
of their organization, leaders are able to enlist
support and drive from their members. Successful leaders
encourage collaboration by making it possible for others
to do good work.
Successful leaders are team players who consult with all
the members of the organization, inventory the strengths
of individuals and consider what is important to the
Before you can tackle a problem, such as apathy, that
may be affecting the success of your organization, ask
yourself; are struggles for power and prestige throwing
your group into conflict? Consider the following
Ideas are attacked before they are completely
There are arguments about inconsequential points.
There are arguments about rules and procedures.
There are no attempts made to set goals.
Random suggestions are offered, many of which are
beside the point.
Members form cliques, demand support for special
issues and refuse compromise.
The most talkative monopolize the time.
There are subtle attacks upon the messenger, rather
than the message.
There are frequent references to “I”, “me”, and “my
Quit crying apathy
“Let us quit crying apathy when our members don’t
participate, and instead let us begin to look for the
real reason behind the lack of support.” (Cufaude,
Consider what your members want, instead of what you
think your members want.
Plan activities with everyone in your organization,
not just within cliques.
Work together to set goals, don’t just set goals for
your group on your own.
Covey, Stephen. (1991). Principle-centered leadership.
New York: Fireside.
Covey, Stephen. (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly
Effective People. New York: Fireside.
Cufaude, Jeff. “Positive Peer Pressure: Motivating the
silent majority”. Campus Activities Programming.
December, 1985, pp. 28-30.
Kouzes, J.M. and Posner, B.Z. (1987). The Leadership
Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Source: S.O.A.R.; Center for
Student Involvement; Norris University Center;
Used with permission.
To build better
associations and non-profits by
and unparalleled expertise, programs
to their staff and