Wood in Artistry ShowI recently participated in the Artistry in Wood show sponsored by the Spokane Carvers Association.  It’s an event showcasing the talents of the wood carvers in the Inland Northwest.  This year, the Inland Northwest Woodturners (INWT) participated by having a single table with wood turned objects, mostly bowls, vases, and pens as well as a small lathe where we demonstrated turning spinning tops and honey dippers.  It’s not a large event, but it is a tradition that has a legacy of great work and renewing friendships between participants.

At the end of the show, a few members of INWT’s board was approached by the show manager with the invitation to participate in the next year’s show with actual exhibits and judging of entries.  I will bet that the board will accept this offer.

But once we accept, we must make it happen.

And that’s the rub.  Because, to make it work, we will need people to volunteer to fill the many positions required, for example:

  • Show coordinator
  • Judges (at least 3)
  • Setup team
  • Hosts (at least 2 for each of 5 2 ½ hour shifts – one to demonstrate and one to talk to people)
  • Takedown team
  • Publicity

The total could be 21 or more people.

There are approximately 100 dues-paying members of the Inland Northwest Woodturners.

So, we’re looking at a 20% participation rate.  That’s participation, not attending.

We’ve never had 20% participation for any event in our history.

At best, we’ve had 10%.

The Spokane Carvers Association had about 10% participation of their members in their show.

In other organizations, that I’ve been a member, the usually participation rate was 7%.

Which would lead me to think that the Pareto Principle applies – 10% at best will participate while the remaining 90% will found some reason not to.

Which holds true if you just ask people to volunteer.  If.  Just.

But can the rate be improved?

To do so requires that you approach the issue of volunteers differently – by assuming that people will “volunteer” if they are asked individually to perform specific tasks for a limited duration.

Case in point – this month I’ve been coordinating an effort by my church to provide cleaning services – It’s every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and at least 18 people were required to complete the effort within an hour and a half.  I had a pool of 120 potential people, so, I organized them into 6 teams of 20 each and ask that each person commit to two days.

The result?  I’ve had 70-80% participation.

Now, there was other forces at work – reminders the night before and personal pleas in person, but organization and detailed requests were the biggest factor to success.

The INWT will have to do the same to be successful.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.