Relational organizing — there’s a reason it’s a favorite for organizers. Think of relational organizing as a way for someone to pass on a word-of-mouth recommendation for a cause they’re volunteering for; it produces an organic connection between an organization and their personal network. But sometimes, it can be tricky to engage friends and family and convince them to start mobilizing for a cause. How does one start that conversation?
What matters most in relational organizing is creating a connection based on authenticity. Volunteers and organizers should take note of these questions to learn how to do relational organizing authentically:
In many cases, volunteers will already know the issues that interest their friends or family members. But with individuals like neighbors and other friends in peripheral networks, sometimes a little nudge can help them get started talking about the issues they care about. Why is this important? Well, a simple conversation may reveal that a friend or family member already supports an issue or organization, but aren't sure how to get started on taking action.
In other cases, a friend or family member may be focused on an issue that’s actually related to the volunteer’s mission. For instance, if a friend is concerned about climate change, there’s a strong possibility that they could also be concerned about carbon taxes. Or, if they’re keeping a tab on workers’ rights, they can be more likely to elect a progressive candidate.
Sharing an authentic conversation with friends and family members gives volunteers a chance to learn more about those in their personal networks and introduces people in their network to another issue they find interest in. It’s a win-win!
Volunteers who are thinking about how to do relational organizing should always consider that storytelling is one of the most important elements of effective communication. Sometimes, volunteers may come across friends or family who acknowledge that a cause or issue is important but haven’t started to take further action. In these situations, it can be helpful for volunteers to share their stories of how they began their volunteer journey.
Each personal detail of a volunteer’s narrative allows friends and family to better visualize how to get started taking action. For instance, a volunteer may share that they were concerned about how volunteering would fit into their schedule, but found ways to balance their activism alongside other time commitments. Friends and family who have the same uncertainty are likely to relate to the volunteer’s story and become encouraged by the proven solution that worked for the volunteer.
Sometimes, supporters can have questions or concerns about beginning their volunteer journey — after all, it’s human nature to feel insecure about what we don’t know. When volunteers or organizers are considering how to do relational organizing authentically, it’s also important to acknowledge that friends and family may need a space to bring up any questions or concerns they have.
For example, they may have concerns about the time commitment, the types of actions they feel comfortable taking, or the technology that's involved; these are all valid concerns. Most organizations and campaigns will address concerns like these during volunteer training, but it can be more comforting for friends and family to share questions with someone they know personally.
By answering questions and addressing concerns, volunteers and organizers are clearing as many obstacles as they can for friends and family to start taking action.
We all need a buddy sometimes. A volunteer's direct invitation to join the next volunteer event gives friends and family a concrete way to get started. And even better, they’ll have a familiar face to attend the event with. After all, many people attend events mainly to connect with others, and the option for friends and family to join the event with someone they know can make their decision to attend even more meaningful.
Plus, prompting friends and family directly prompts them to actively decide whether to attend or not. If they can’t make it or aren’t quite ready yet, no problem — volunteers can follow up with them for the next event.
In the end, relational organizing means volunteers are empowering those in their personal networks to mobilize for the causes that matter most to their community. For individuals focused on learning how to do relational organizing effectively and authentically: try the questions above, and enjoy the great conversations that follow!