This past Saturday I spent the day volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. It’s one of my favorite ways to get outside, do some service work, and feel a sense of accomplishment by getting my hands dirty. My love of Habitat started way back in middle or early high school when I first volunteered through my church with my parents. We had a great time and it’s been engrained in me ever since.
Then, last week two things happened. First, I read this post from Jeff Hilimire (CEO of Dragon Army, former President at Engauge, and fellow Villager at Atlanta Tech Village). Second, I got an email from Atlanta Habitat later in the day Monday or Tuesday saying they needed individual volunteers to help out with building on Clark Howard Way this past weekend.
My immediate response to the Habitat email was to jump on it. Add in the fact that one of my KPIs for the year is to go on a hike, adventure, or service day once a month, and it was a perfect opportunity. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Jeff’s iteration of paying it forward, but the reminder about service work clearly stuck in my subconscious mind on some level because I also invited about eight friends to join me on the build day (Habitat needed 17 individual volunteers).
It wasn’t a grand gesture, just a simple text message to friends I love spending time with. To my surprise, half said they would love to, but they already had plans for Saturday. Four others ended up saying yes, and three ended up attending the build day on Saturday.
It gave me great pleasure to do something meaningful with people I care about. I thought about how awesome it was that we were spending time outside on an beautiful day and doing some good in the community at the same time. Which got me thinking about what it means to organize people.
Sometimes I have a tendency to place such gravity on every little event I put together, and I know others experience the same thing. We put together itineraries, Facebook events, and Eventbrite registrations. We invite 100 of our friends in an impersonal way by clicking a button or two on Facebook and publishing a post on our blog. We think we’re being efficient and using technology to our advantage.
The thing is, sometimes the simplest way to rally people to a cause or instigate a great experience is simply to send a text message to a couple people you’re close to. That starts by making a decision: “I am going to do this, whether anyone comes or not.” Making a decision makes it a simple decision for others. They can think: “Barrett’s going, which means I won’t have to go by myself. Do I want to go with him?” It removes the ambiguity and allows them to simply say “Yes” or “No.”
Further, two of my three friends had never been to a Habitat build before, even though I know they’re the kind of people that would love that kind of thing. Indeed, they ended up having a great time, which made me incredibly happy. I’m 99% sure they wouldn’t have gone to a Habitat build on Saturday if I hadn’t sent them a quick message — which is not a knock on them, it’s just a fact. They weren’t on Habitat’s email list, so they couldn’t know about the build day.
I’ve rambled a bit, so I’ll wrap this up. Sometimes the easiest way to organize people is to make a decision about what you’re going to do and then send personal, simple invites to a small group of people you care about. Not everything needs an Eventbrite page, a Facebook event, and a compelling/obligatory pitch. That’s a lesson I’ll carry with me going forward.