“Confronting Challenges” will be a recurring blog segment by Victoria Fann, who hosts Ben Franklin Circles in Weaverville and Asheville, NC and has several decades of facilitation experience.
If Woody Allen is right and “80 percent of success is just showing up” then it is clear the success of a Ben Franklin Circle depends on people showing up.
Attracting people and having regular attendance at meetings is one of the most fundamental challenges of running any group, especially in the beginning. Why? Because people are unpredictable, and we live in a culture of busy, over-committed lives. The good news is that people will make time for things that they feel are worthwhile.
How do you let people know the BF Circle is worthwhile?
The best place to begin is with your own passion.
What inspires you about these groups? What value do you think they can add to you and your community? Why do you want to host?
As you reflect on these questions and get in touch with your excitement, it will help you communicate more authentically with others about the group, whether verbally or in writing. This willingness on your part to commit to hosting a group demonstrates that you personally find value in gathering people together with the intention to help them improve themselves and improve the world.
Remember, these groups have the potential to reduce loneliness, spark friendships, connect neighbors, inspire partnerships and collaborations and more!
This is more than just a social group built around common interests. Instead, it is a group built around some of our most deeply-held values.
Once you’ve gotten yourself sufficiently inspired, here are some practical steps to help you maximize initial appeal and ongoing attendance:
- To attract members to your initial meeting, make sure to focus on the community-building aspects of the group, the opportunity to take a break from computer and phone screens, a new way of meeting your neighbors, the possibility of creating solutions to local problems, a fun way to socialize. Some people won’t really resonate with the idea of Ben Franklin, so don’t hesitate to pull out all the stops to make the group appear unique, fun and inspiring! Post flyers and make announcements in Facebook groups, on Nextdoor and Craigslist and send emails to local community organizations.
- Get some member input. After your initial meeting, poll your members about ideal days and times as well as locations to see where the strongest interest is.
- Set an ideal time. Research when groups in your community that have high attendance meet. Timing of meetings can make a big difference in how many people will attend.
- Find an ideal location. While public places such as cafes and breweries can be fun, they’re often noisy and people may be reluctant to enter into a deep and personal conversation in public. Libraries, churches, community rooms in apartment complexes might be better choices.
- Invite members to commit to attending regularly to deepen their experience.
- Brainstorm with other hosts via the Ben Franklin Circle Hosts Facebook Group to see what’s working for others.
Now that you’ve got some ideas, and hopefully a new perspective, remember that the majority of members of the group genuinely want the group, and you as a host, to succeed. When all else fails, you can also see your group as a microcosm of the world at large, and when problems arise, you can see them as an opportunity to learn, grow and work together cooperatively on solutions, which ultimately is what we all need to do to solve our global problems.
How wonderful that the Ben Franklin Circles provide us with a hands-on laboratory to become more connected, cooperative and conscious! Or in Franklin’s words, “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”
Victoria Fann is a writer, transformational coach, group facilitator and workshop leader. Her Ben Franklin Circle meets in Weaverville, NC.