March 12, 2015

$$$ - Are You Treating the Symptoms or the Cause?

Anybody who has had back pain or a headache will tell you that a good dose of Advil will do the trick. But there comes a time when you have constant flare ups and Advil is becoming more of a mask than a solution to help with the actual cause. What follows, if left neglected, could be potential escalation of the ailment to a point of serious consequence.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), from the national level to the grass roots of our local home builders associations (HBA), is having, within varying degrees, a "symptom v cause" moment in time. The symptoms are in the form of fundraising events and the reasons why we have them. My thoughts go to a particular type of fundraising and it is political fundraising that causes me to be concerned. The symptoms are quite clear; small percentage of members investing in PAC. Let me rephrase; too many members not understanding that political action committees (PAC) are not a type of a reverse ATM machine. Most members have this idea that all the HBAs are doing is trying to pry cold hard cash from their wallets and bank accounts.
The symptoms exposed to a volunteer, when asking for a PAC contribution, are quite clear; stiffness in the arm limiting access to the wallet, a cringing of facial muscles, tightness in chest, hot flush on skin and a mild aggravation in the throat when they say "I would love to, but..."
And what do we keep doing? We keep treating the symptoms with Advil, AKA as fundraisers. Golf outings, business card trades, networking events, a cocktail reception at a well known builders home, maybe a "meet the builder" type of pay for play event. That's right, all treatments designed to help the aching backs of our PAC's perception in the real world of politics. Eventually, treating the symptoms will catch up on any PAC if you don't understand what is actually causing the symptoms. The actual cause is lack of awareness of what the PAC truly does for you, the member, and more importantly for you, the building industry professional. 

Do not read into my opinions and deduce a hatred for fundraisers. I personally love a good fundraiser, having chaired many and hopefully will again. I especially love them when the emphasis is on FUNdraiser. However, and maybe it's just me, but I sense that it's the same people coming to these events, and more importantly, when the same people attend, they leave enjoying the evening but not understanding the purpose. The cause of the ailment is not the lack of new members at a fundraiser or lack of substantial contributions coming from others that are in leadership. Those are the symptoms. The cause, again? Lack of awareness and understanding. In a perfect world, members, all members, will enthusiastically invest in PAC. There wouldn't be a need for PAC fundraisers and life would be so much easier for our volunteers. 

How do you treat the cause? You have to have purpose of PAC discussions, all the time. Not just once or twice but always. You have to make sure that when you have a fundraiser a letter is sent to the attendee explaining the importance of the event and their role in helping to work towards a healthy building industry. Conversations at the general membership meetings can not be en masse; selected well spoken members must have small group discussions while networking, whether at the dinner table or in small groups. It has to be persistent, but not over bearing. 

Video messaging is another great way.

Think about it; videos from YouTube (as an example) go viral. When's the last time you heard of an email going viral or a newsletter?

My advice to start would be to pick up your smart phone and hit the reverse icon so you can see yourself. Press record and talk to yourself about the true value of PAC. Play it back then tweak the message until you can say "nice job." Download and send to maybe four or five members asking them to play video. They will hear you, see you, feel you (if passionate enough) and they will, more importantly, understand you.

My point to all of this? Fundraisers should be utilized as a luxury, not as a primary source of PAC investments. Give a man a fish and it will feed him for that day. Teach a man to fish and he will feed himself and his family for many days and years after. A fundraiser is like receiving a fish. You'll have to keep asking time and time again because no lessons are being learned. To teach a member will help them feed themselves by understanding that paying a little to PAC today will feed them constantly. They will also know that it's not a one and done scenario. Because you have taught them that politics is never one and done. The symptoms of
stiffness the arm limiting access to the wallet, a cringing of facial muscles, tightness in chest, hot flush and a mild aggravation in the throat when they say "I would love to, but..." will slowly go away because the cause has been treated. 

One member at a time. It requires patience, persistence and commitment. 

There was once a stream, that turned into a river that cut through rock and sand to eventually form the Grand Canyon. Time and patience can eventually lead to magnificent accomplishments.

submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP

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