By Jeremy Christian Nagel
By the time it launches in February, it will have taken me most of a year to design and implement MFB’s new member communication system. I’m excited to finally see it become a living, breathing, working thing instead of just a concept and a topic of [countless] conversations.
One reason it’s taken so long is because it was vital to gather feedback and ideas from the members it aims to serve. I was tasked with improving member communications, and doing that right meant conferring with members (lots of them) and earning their support.
That’s how our grass-roots system works: MFB staff works for you, the members. You are in the driver’s seat. You provide the direction and we do our best to execute it to your liking. That’s how “grass roots” works.
Reversing that flow—operating in a more top-down direction—is sternly frowned upon and likely to result in stubborn resistance from fiercely independent members who do not take kindly to “top-downing” from home office!
But the inner gears of how Farm Bureau works—and how it doesn’t work—are more complicated than who issues the marching orders.
If “grass roots” is among the most frequently uttered phrases in the Farm Bureau language, another top contender is “member involvement.”
We are always—constantly, continually—striving to get more and more and more and more and more and more and more members involved in the wide variety of programs and activities Farm Bureau offers. Depending on the specific opportunity on offer, member participation can fall anywhere from ‘yeah sure’ to ‘yeah right sorry I’ve got this other thing...’
We research how other groups do it. We try to track it in our member database. We encourage and strive to inspire members to join in—always trying to appeal to what research shows are the three keys to volunteer involvement:
Given that we sometimes struggle to get our grass-roots members involved—even in programs they’ve designed—it’s occasionally heard that the overall grass-roots, bottom-up direction of things should be reconsidered. Some folks have dared to wonder out loud if it makes more sense for Farm Bureau to sometimes take a more top-down or middle-down approach, with the state organization “governing” counties in a more assertive fashion.
Thoughts? (Asking for a friend.)
your responses here!