change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ― Roy T. Bennett
While working with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), we employed a simple philosophy that led to phenomenal membership growth in the organization! The philosophy is summed up in the following statement: You can’t grow membership from the seat in your office. The seat in your office represents your comfort zone, the place or situation where you feel safe, at ease, without stress. This can be your physical office, or your association’s current state of operations. Prospects also have a comfort zone, and someone must abandon their comfort zone in order for the potential members to meet the opportunities that your association provides. It’s not going to be them, it has to be you! So get ready to leave your comfort zone behind!
We left our comfort zone and ventured to theirs, visiting chapters of our organization all over the US. This benefited the society in 3 main ways.
It sensitized us more to how our chapters, the front line in servicing our members, were affected by our decisions, and forced us to include that impact in future decision making.
It taught us about the challenges that our chapters faced and helped build a database of solutions to share with other chapters having the same challenges.
It inspired our chapters and members by helping them make the connection with local and national efforts to fulfill the mission, and helped them understand what they can realistically do to help fulfill the mission.
We found promoting the philosophy amongst our chapters to be extremely beneficial as well. One of our collegiate chapters had a hard time recruiting freshmen and sophomores as members. The chapter held its meetings at the engineering building (which was conveniently located in a remote part of campus) where students did not venture to until their junior year. We suggested that they move their meetings to the main campus, at the student center, or even a dorm - a place where freshmen and sophomores frequent. The chapter employed this advice for the rest of the year and saw the chapter’s membership rise from 80 to 120 members with the bulk of the growth coming from freshmen and sophomores!
In the spirit of the quote that opens this blog, I’ve witnessed great change because NSBE and I were able to leave our comfort zone. After years of membership stagnation, we grew the membership of NSBE from 15,000 to over 30,000 members! I implore you to adopt this philosophy. Put money in your budget to visit your chapters/local entities. You will be amazed how this experience will help move the needle towards mission fulfillment.