When not burning the midnight oil as the co-founder of www.WomenForTheWall.org, Leah Aharoni helps small businesses and organizations attract more clients and participants.

Visit www.LoveYour.Biz for more of her tips and tools.

Remember Avraham Fried’s “No Jew Will be Left Behind?” If you run a kiruv organization this is probably your motto in your quest to reach every single Jewish neshama in town.

That’s the way it should be. And you will have a much greater chance of making it happen if you concentrate your efforts on different constituencies, developing them one at a time.

In her 15 years of research, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Saras Sarasvathy discovered that business people do best when they leverage what they already have instead of trying to get what they don’t.

If you have been running an organization for any length of time, chances are that you already have some programs in place and they probably attract a certain following. For example, let’s say your weekly class has five steady attendants, though you would like to bring that number up to 50. The secret to attracting more participants lies in figuring out what has brought the first five to your sessions and then doing more of the same.

As in business, so in the world of organizations, success comes from solving people’s problems. Commenting on the sale of Yosef Hatzaddik, Ohr Hachayim teaches that a merchant is not a man of means, but the person with the knowledge and discernment to lead those with the money to buy as directed. People are constantly on the lookout to overcome their obstacles. If you can show them that you understand what they need and have the answer, they will follow you.

Participants and donors are attracted to your programs not for the sake of the program, but for the sake of the solution that it provides. They wake up in the morning thinking about issues they need to get over. To attract them, you need to join the conversations already going on in their heads.

These conversations can take many forms. Thirst for knowledge, loneliness, fear for children’s Jewish identity, feelings of incompleteness, and the need for nostalgia may be some of the desires that bring community members to your doorstep. Understanding what drives people’s involvement and helping them feel understood can then inform both your programing choices and advertising approaches.

The easiest way to find out what conversations goes on in the heads of people who are already coming to you is simply to ask them. Though it may sound scary at first, seeking participants’ opinions and input will make them feel valued and validated. Done right, it can turn them from passive attendants into active stakeholders and “evangelists.”

Understanding Why They Come

  1. Create a list of 5 to 10 most active and committed participants in a particular program.

  2. You can either reach out to each one of them individually or invite them for a joint “Sounding Board” session (for example over a Sunday brunch). If you choose to talk to each person individually, make sure to schedule a time when they will have the leisure to talk to you.

  3. Your opening line can sound something like this: “I have noticed that you have been active in ____ program/class and have provided positive feedback. I would like to make this program as valuable as possible for you and also to attract other people like you to it. To do that I need to really understand what makes this program appealing and also how we can make it better.”

  4. Ask three sets of questions. The first set will help you understand the problems that existing participants come to solve. You probably already have an idea, but you WILL be surprised by the answers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions for which the answers seem self-evident. Different people will have different outlooks and these are important to you. Don’t let people get away with broad answers (It’s fun/enjoyable/thought-provoking). Ask them why they find it fun. What does fun “look like?”  Ask for examples.

What brought you to this program? What needs did it fill?

Why is it important to fill this need/solve this problem? How did this affect your life?

What bothered you most about the issue? What obstacles did you encounter?

What other possibilities did you have (did you try) to solve this? Were they successful? Yes/no? Why?

Why did you choose this program over all other possibilities?

  1. The second set of questions will help you understand how your program fills these needs. The answers you will hear are the best features and benefits of your program. Use them in your advertising and promotions.

After coming for the first time, why did you stay?

What do you like most about what we do here?

How has this program impacted your life? What’s the best thing about it?

Why is this important?

  1. The third set of questions will help you understand what changes to make in the program so as to make it even more valuable and appealing. Look at this as an opportunity, not criticism. If there is a problem would you rather fix it or have people wander away because they are too scared to share their thoughts? You don’t have to accept all suggestions for improvement, but at least keep them in mind. These questions may also help you uncover an unaddressed area of need that will leads to a breakthrough for your organization.

What else can we do to make this program even better?

What impact would that have on your life? Why is this important?

What would you prefer that we did differently? Why?

What would you do in our place?

Who else can benefit from this program? Why?

  1. Based on the answers, create a profile of possible participants that are most likely to be attracted to your programs. Think what types of people will be most likely to have the same problem or want the same results as the existing participants you interviewed. Can they be grouped by age, gender, demographics, income, geography, occupation, etc?

  2. With this knowledge, think of all the places where you can reach these types of people inexpensively and in large numbers. For more on that, see here.

Have you found certain types of people to be more responsive to your work?

Please share your experiences!

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