Believing Without Belonging

One of the apparent trends in religion is believing without belonging. 

While the number of individuals identifying themselves as believers in some religion or spirituality might be increasing, that increase has not necessarily resulted in more people joining faith-based institutions. Many reasons for this disconnect exist but one of the most significant appears to be a lack of identification with, or faith in, the institutions (churches, synagogues, etc.) themselves.

Believing without belonging
It speaks to the need to convert belief into action and commitment, a need ever-present in any organizational change effort. But similar conversions occur in a variety of settings:
  • Fundraisers try to convert believers from nominal annual fund contributors to more significant levels of donation, investing them deeper and deeper in the organization's mission. 
  • Salespeople try to turn browsers and window shoppers into purchases. 
  • Going even further, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles talk about turning customers into Raving Fans in their book of the same name. 
  • And way back in high school student council I remember attending a workshop that discussed turning joiners into members, making the point that just because someone joined a committee or organization, doesn't automatically mean they will become an active member.
We need to include more discussions about this conversion process throughout the various departments and functional areas in our organizations. We should determine ways to describe the various levels of commitment or action we might desire from our members and customers and then (1) determine where individuals currently are on that continuum, (2) identify the value propositions that might convert them to a more significant level of activity and action, and (3) determine the best conversion strategies to engage individuals attention and interest.

Similarly, it would be instructive for any organization (nonprofit or otherwise) to spend some time discussing its true believers. These individuals represent a reservoir of trust, interest, and passion that most of us probably are not leveraging to its full potential. It strikes me that the true believers are probably a part of the emerging trend of engaging customers (members) in the cocreation of new products and services.

On the interpersonal level, we should be examining the leadership traits, skills, and attributes that enable individuals to convert others to deeper levels of commitment. At minimum, all of us should be asking ourselves, "Do I model for others the level of believing and belonging I would like to see from them?"

And finally, any strategic thinking in this area would be remiss if it did not focus on the converse: belongers who aren't believers. Who among your ranks has joined, but is not truly engaged by, or committed to, the mission, vision, and products and services you offer?


Thom Singer said...

This is a great analogy for what is going on in associations. There is a lot of talk of the younger generation not being "joiners", but is it that they do not believe?

There seems to be a lot of statements made, but not enough discussions. You are onto something powerful here.... I look forward to seeing where the discussion goes.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

I had not thought about this in specific relation to Millennials, Thom, but it probably makes sense to do so.

I wonder if they believe more in the cause than the institution championing it? If so, we need to engage them in the cause and then try to convert that interest and involvement into association membership perhaps (assuming that's the goal).

Many have suggested (including me) that instead of membership being the gateway to involvement, for some people (Millennials, et al) involvement may be the gateway to membership.

Tony Rossell said...

Very interesting post. We are finding more and more that we are initiating a relationship with a prospective member through free content and then cultivating the relationship that may end up in membership or in a product or service purchase. Tony