Posts Tagged ‘community’

The truth about printing flyers

Friday, April 22nd, 2016 | Thoughts


I sit on the leadership or organising teams for a lot of different community groups, and have done so for many different organisations over the years. Regularly, someone suggests that what we really need to do, is get some nice flyers printed. In fact, often this person is me. This is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ post.

The truth is, you will bin most of those flyers. Here is why:

Flyers are relatively easy to produce. You find someone who can use a graphic design tool, they knock together a flyer, and you send it off to a printer. Quite easily you get a really professional glossy flyer that you are sure will attract people to your group.

Then the delivery turns up. A massive A4 square size box containing thousands of flyers. These then sit in your house for years. If you are proactive, the box will be almost entirely undistributed. Otherwise, it will be entirely undisturbed.

The problem is that printing flyers is super easy. Distributing them however, is not. Sure, people say they will do it. At the meeting when someone suggested getting some flyers, everyone said they would give some out. But they won’t. First, you need to give them some. The box is really heavily, so you can only take a handful at a time. Ditto, they can only take a handful at a time. Second, they don’t know where to put them. If you live in a block of flats, you can probably put one through people’s mailbox. That is about it.

Unless you work as an events promoter, you probably don’t know where to take the flyers. You might see somewhere when you are at your local fish and chip shop, or community education centre. However, you can bet good money that you will have forgotten to bring flyers on that occasion. And by the time you remember the flyers, you will have forgotten where you were going to take them. It’s fine saying “we will just go round the blocks of flats and try and get buzzed in”, but nobody actually wants to do this in practice because it is awkward and embarrassing and you feel guilty for posting junk through innocent people’s mailboxes.

Third, people don’t want to commit the time, because it’s a waste of time. Purposely going somewhere to take some flyers might be a 30-minute round trip. That is big a chunk out of your day. For flyers that probably nobody will look at. The response rate might be one in a thousand. Is that a good use of your time? You might think so, but chances are that the other people volunteering at your group don’t feel the same way: especially when it comes to actually getting up and doing it.

So your lovely flyers just sit in the box until you feel its time for a clear-out and reluctantly bin them.

You will be binning a lot of them. Economies of scale are at fault here. Most of the cost is in the setup of the print job, not in the printing. This means that it basically costs the same to print 5,000 as it does to print 100. So you will get the 5,000 because it seems to make sense. Even though there is no hope of giving more than 100 out.

There are scenarios when flyers can work. The Anxiety Leeds flyers are actually one of the success stories of my flyering history. We posted piles of them to GPs surgeries, and this turned out to be a cost and time-effective way of distributing them. Even then though it has problems: finding volunteers to post them out (listing surgeries, envelope stuffing, writing the envelopes, taking them to the post office), securing grant money to pay for postage, still having too many flyers, flyers becoming out-of-date and needing re-printing.

In summary, think very carefully before you get any flyers printed. How many can you actually distribute? How are you going to distribute them? Will people follow through on their promises to distribute them? How long will they be relevant for? If you cannot answer these questions satisfactorily, printing flyers may be a waste of time and money.

Everyone Involved

Saturday, December 5th, 2015 | Thoughts


How do we get people more engaged with community groups?

It is something that I imagine most groups are concerned about. Most of the people on their mailing list probably never turn up to any of their events. Some attend every now and then, or come for a while then stop coming back. Few are as actively engaged as the group would like them to be. I might even suggest that is impossible, because more engagement is usually better.

Some may just want to sit on the mailing list and keep an eye on the activities of the group. I know there are people and groups like this on the West Yorkshire Humanists mailing list. Others probably do genuinely intend to go to events, but there is always something else on. I have sat on the Leeds Salon’s mailing list for years and maybe made it to two events.

This was brought into sharp focus for me recently when I was talking to one of the people who run the Finnish language school. It sounds very useful for me. However, it is on a Saturday morning. Saturday morning is when I do Parkrun. And when I have band practice. And when my advanced Toastmasters club meets. It’s not that Saturday is a bad day, I am just busy all the time. But it it got me thinking about getting members to buy in.

“I am busy” is really a meaningless phrase because everyone is busy these days. It is shorthand for “I have other priorities”. Thus it might not be reaching people and letting them know about events that is the difficulty groups encounter. It could be that they are doing all of that, but they are not pushing themselves high enough up a person’s priorities.

At the same time, I was thinking about my host’s address for Sunday Assembly Leeds. I needed to talk about how the group is run by volunteers, and how we need people’s support volunteering. It occurred to me that one of the selling points should be that that is what a community is. If you are not volunteering, you are not really part of the community in the same way that somebody who is volunteering is. This is a whole different circle to get people inside as Rick Warren would describe it, but there is actually where the good stuff is for them as well as you.

Anecdotally I would say that once someone is involved in the group they spend more time thinking about it and are more likely to turn up to events. They feel like they know what is going on. They are part of the community, it forms a cornerstone of their social life and engagement spirals upwards.

That means that these two issues have a common solution. If you can get people to help run the organisation it not only helps the group run smoothly but is also beneficial for them because they fill including and their engagement levels go up in a positive feedback cycle.

Therefore I am putting forward the idea of Everyone Involved. What if you asked every member of your group to be involved in some way? It does not have to be a big way. They could help run things at events. Maybe put the welcome packs out or be a greeter. They could do something from home – write articles, update the website, even just re-tweet the group’s messages. But the idea is that everyone – every single member – would be asked to do a job, no matter how small or trivial.

I am still fleshing out the idea. It in itself is incredibly simple of course, but whether it is a good idea or not, and how it could be practically implemented remain to be discussed.

Lessons from the Purpose Driven Church

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 | Thoughts

I recently wrote about Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church. Today, I wanted to share some of the ideas that I really identified with in the book, especially with those I can provide examples of here in Leeds. I imagine these ideas are mostly for faith & belief groups such as Humanism and Sunday Assembly, but can also have wider applications to all community groups.

Of course, the central tenant of the book is that a group should do things with purpose. This can be seen to varying degrees in such groups. Leeds Atheist Society always had a clear threefold purpose – to provide education on, fellowship for and open debate about the non-religious. It’s the first thing on our about page.

West Yorkshire Humanists is perhaps less clear, and probably in need of a mission statement. Sunday Assembly is a bit of mixed bag. We have a great slogan: “Live better. Help Often. Wonder more.” However, because we’re not allowed to use the term Humanism, it does not really connect to anything. This has lead to some of our attends describing it as “like playing church without for no reason”, and others as a cult of Sanderson Jones.

Toastmasters is the organisation with the clearest mission of any organisation I am involved in.

We empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.

With a quarter of a million members in 122 countries, I think it is fair to say we are doing pretty well.

Having a clear purpose is critical because then you can then measure everything you do based on that. Everything else is derived from your purpose. That is true of any organisation you will ever be involved in and is probably the most important thing you can learn when it comes to running organisations effectively.

However, I think these points are also interesting…

Do away with committees

Committees decide things, doers do things. Which does your group need? Doers! Sunday Assembly Leeds does not really have a formal committee. We have monthly organisers meetings that are open to all members. There is no election process, you can just turn up and start helping.

Give the power to people implementing the plan. Rather than having committee approval for something, empower people by giving them to decision for the area they are working on. That way you will get much more engaged volunteers.

Provide stability

Warren talks about having a pastor for decades. The best churches are the ones that have the same pastor for a long time.

I am not advocating having the same person lead the group permanently. As secular groups we like to bring in new ideas, new people, have an open democracy. Having a leader-for-life is incompatible with these views. However, we do need to build trust that the organisation people invest their time into, and the friendships that they make, are not suddenly going to disappear.

In my personal life, I often feel more included to people who are more likely to stick around. I would suggest that a community is the same. If you are trying to decide whether to invest a significant amount of time and money into a community, you do so because you think you will get a return out of it over the long term. Therefore are you going to be more predisposed to give to a stable community that looks like it has solid leadership and a strong future, or a community that is constantly scrambling to find new find new leadership?

Write to people

Warren wrote and hand-addressed 15,000 letters to people in the local area. Today, targeted mailings will only get you a response rate of around 1%, untargeted even less. But even if you only get a quarter of one percent, that is still 38 people turning up. Of course, the stamps would now cost you nearly £8,000. This could be a good strategy if you happen to have a postman (we need a British-sounding gender-neutral term for this) in your group.

When I was at GRAM a few years ago, a member of a local Humanist group spoke about how they gathered a group of volunteers and went around posting leaflets through peoples doors. They did thousands of them, and in the end got two members. That does not sound like a lot, but actually for a relatively low-cost exercise, in a group of 20 people, is a 10% growth.

Ask people for a commitment

Saddleback allow people to attend their church every week. But they do not become a member of the church until they make a commitment. This involves taking a membership course, an initiation ceremony, and agreeing the support the church with your time and money. The more he asks them to commit, the more they are willing to do it.

Probably because it offers people real buy in. At Toastmasters, we charge £180 for the first year. There is a £30 sign-up fee and £12.50 per month dues, which by the end of the year adds up. I tend not to mention it when responding to emails about people coming for the first time. I am scared it will put them off. But once they see Toastmasters in action, most of them join. It doesn’t put them off. If anything, it inspires them to turn up to meetings and process through the educational programme.

Research your demographics

Who lives in your local area? Are you in a student town or a retirement community? Young and old, single and married, rich and poor, each of these groups will have different wants and needs and if you want to target your marketing and the content of your group effectively, you need to know who you are targeting.

These days such information is easier than ever before to get hold of. The Census data seems a good start but many local and national authorities, as well as NGOs publish information as well.

Play music as people enter

Warren noticed that the louder he played music when people entered, the more animated people were when talking to each other. People like to be anonymous, especially if they are a guest. Having music on allows them to talk without it being noticed.

In comparison, several times in Skeptics and Toastmasters I will stand at the front a little before we are scheduled to start and everything will go quiet. Getting the conversation restarted for the final two minutes is almost impossible after this. You just end up with two minutes of awkward silence.

Imagine through the eyes of a guest

In software development, you should have a developer and a tester. The developer should test their own code, but it is critical to have another eyes look at the software they have written. Why? Because the developer always uses it from a developer’s perspective! The tester looks at it from a user’s perspective. “It broke when I pushed this button?” “You’re not supposed to push that button.” But somebody might!

When doing anything with your group, you should always keep in mind that as an organiser you are probably a long-established member who knows what is going on. Always take the time to try and imagine how things might also look to a first-time guest who has come to the group to see what it is like. It is clear what is going on? Is it engaging? It is welcoming?

Always use plenty of lighting

Often I will go to a talk, and they will turn the lights off so that you can see the slides. This is the last thing you should be doing! Turn the lights on to as bright as they can be.

Firstly, a bright environment is more friendly and welcoming and keeps people awake. A dimly lit room is intimidating to guests and encourages existing members to take a nap. Keep a buzz in the atmosphere by keeping it bright and upbeat.

Secondly, who cares if people can see the slides? It is not important! People who rely on slides are bad public speakers. I can see slides on the internet. I want to see the speaker actually speak! I want to see their face. Lowering the lights encourages me to look at the slides rather than at the speaker, which is the opposite of what you want to do if you want people to find the talk engaging.

People come for the events, but stay for the friends

Atheist Society runs all year round, including now in summer when the students have gone home and the talks have finished. Why? Because people want to see their friends every week. People come to the group, and stay with the group for different reasons. Or sometimes they come because they have a lack of friends. Either way, social connections are the true glue of a group.


Humanist Community November meeting

Monday, November 12th, 2012 | Foundation, Humanism

For this month’s Humanist Community meeting, we met at The Reliance, for dinner.

Meeting Matt

Friday, July 1st, 2011 | Foundation, Humanism

Often, volunteering with the Humanist Action Group is a very rewarding experience. We always receive positive feedback on the homeless outreach work we do. However, sometimes, it’s heartbreaking.

Last week, myself and Katie were out out on the usual run, when we encountered a man sat at the bottom of Briggate. He was very memorable because of the amount of blood covering his eye and nose.

Having sat down to talk to him, we soon discovered that only about fifteen minutes before we arrived, he had been badly assaulted by a group of young men.

After finding an eye witness and taking his details should the police be able to do anything, we walked Matt up to Leeds General Infirmary to get him checked out. Despite having a headache he thankfully seemed still coherent, but you can’t be too careful with blows to the head.

My point is though, who does that?

Who just goes up to someone and starts kicking them in the head? Or tramp whacking was Matt described it.

I’ll be honest, normally I would be a little dubious of such a story, but having had it entirely collaborated by an eye witness you have to wonder to yourself what kind of sick bastard would do such a thing. It degrades your faith in humanity.

Matt was clearly an intelligent guy who had been down on his luck; on the way to the hospital he discussed various programming languages with me, and the various flavours of physics with Katie. If it can happen to Matt, it can happen to anyone.

Yet somehow, some individuals, luckily a very, very small minority of our society, think it is OK to abuse people like Matt.

Luckily, there is something we can do. Getting out there and making a difference not only provides a valuable service but also has an incredibly powerful psychological impact, showing that people do care.

As such, I would like to take this opportunity to says thank you to everyone who has been involved with HAG work over the years. It is times like this that really remind you why it is important.

Leeds Transhumanists

Sunday, June 26th, 2011 | Foundation

At Chris Worfolk Foundation, we support and manage a number of local community groups, allowing us to leverage our resources to provide a better experience for members of the local community who attend them.

We’re also passionate about Transhumanism and the benefits that GNR can bring to society.

As a result, we’re now supporting the Leeds Transhumanists group, a group for anyone interested in discussing and furthering Transhumanism and related topics, such as the technological singularity.

So, if you’re around the Leeds area and have an interest in the future of humanity, why not join us?

Trying new things at HCoL

Sunday, January 16th, 2011 | Events, Humanism

HCoL was always designed to be a pilot project that we could use to gauge the success of such ventures and as such we were keen to play around with the format and see what worked and what didn’t. As such, last month we moved the meetings to the evening and this month we played around with the format.

Instead of having the traditional group, but never the less front led, discussions, we arranged the room into a boardroom style arrangement and skipped the news, taking us straight into a discussion looking back on 2010 and forward to 2011. This gave everyone a chance to talk a bit about their previous year, as well as going over the major events and news from the Humanist perspective.

Feedback was on the whole positive though whether we will pursue this as a regular format we’ve not yet decided. Interesting to see it in action though.

Society & Community

Sunday, November 1st, 2009 | Events, Humanism

Rich led this Friday’s session of One Life which was one Society & Community. The discussions got rather heated at some points but as ever it was a good evening of discussion and reasonably well attended too.

One Life Society and community Leeds Atheist Society