One-on-One Meetings to Recruit New Activists

This is an email sent to the members of the DC One-on-one CCL Recruiting Action Team which formed during a NIPS Climate Action Topic Discussion Group early in 2013. The DC Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby agreed to tape part in a pilot project using One-on-ones for outreach and contains the basics of the approach, some references and my own results to date. It is a good introduction.  “Attraction rather than promotion,” i.e. personal relationships, is the basic approach to outreach in peer support.

May 6, 2013

Dear Member of the One-on-one Outreach Action Group,

It is possible that you did not realize that you were a member of this team 🙂

Anyone who has ever shown any interest in figuring out how to use one-on-one meetings to build the membership of CCL in DC (or any other climate-related organization) belongs.

We had one meeting with Clem, Jeffery, Bruce and myself a couple of months back.

Since then, I have been focusing most of my one-on-one meetings on people of color leading climate justice work here in DC. These one-on-ones have proved to be  an effective tool to expand that work. Just yesterday one such meeting led to the a national staff person going to the USCAN meeting in

Atlanta this weekend to encourage everyone in the session he is leading to use NIPS peer support.

One meeting with a white ally led to the Working Group on Racism at the DC Quaker Meeting co-sponsoring the short class NIPS is offering on Eliminating Racism in the Climate Movement.

Another led to a climate scientist in my Quaker Meeting considering attending the CCL Conference.

In short, my experience since starting to do one-on-one meetings in DC has confirmed everything I believed about them from what I had heard and read during 30 years of activism:

They are the best and probably the only way to build an effective, ongoing, local social change group or a powerful social change movement. For example, 350 includes them in their weekend leadership training which we hosted in Tucson.

They are time-consuming and difficult to keep going. (Paid staff makes them easier, e.g. Obama used them extensively in his two campaigns.) Mine tend to run longer, e.g. yesterday’s was 90 minutes, so I could use better time discipline. I do include teaching my one-on-ones the basics of peer support and do a 5-minute each way listening turn, since that is my top priority.

You can learn more about doing one-on-ones the website at: They ere also included in the 99% Spring Trainings last year. Marshall Ganz  at the Kennedy School at Harvard is the academic most associated with the practice. However, they were mainly developed by Faith-Based Community Organizations like Washington Interfaith Network here in DC, which is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation Network.

The basic idea is to identify potential recruits or allies to the work you are doing, schedule a 30-45 minute, one-on-one meeting and explore the possibility of working together.

There is a fairly specific format:

Tell your story, i.e. why you are interested in CCL, what got you motivated (“The Story of You,”), what the situation is now with respect to climate change and the climate movement (“The Story of Us,”) and what the climate movement and CCL (or whatever the group you are recruiting for is) and why it would make sense for the new person to join CCL or the other group (“The Story of Now.”)

This is a short, practiced, evolving pitch lasting 5-10 minutes.

Then you ask the other person to tell his or her story.

You goal in listening to the other person is to assess their potential as a volunteer: are they sympathetic, motivated, capable, connected to others they might involve.

For the National Institute for Peer Support (“NIPS”), which I founded, we include a short listening turn of five minutes each to demonstrate the potential new recruit the value of peer support and provide support for their decision. I explain that such emotional support is important and that we include at least a little in all of our NIPS meetings and actions. This is optional for CCL outreach.

After taking these turns, you and your partner negotiate a next step. Does the person want to get more active on climate? Will the person come to CCL? Are there other climate organizations more to their liking, e.g. Transition Town (Ecolocity here in DC),  350, Sierra, Eliminating Racism in the Climate Movement, Sustainability/Resilience Discussion Circles or a NIPS Topic Group Discussion to learn more about all of these.

If the person is interested, finish with a specific commitment: time, place, action, how to contact and remind them.

We will only grow a big-enough movement when we recruit people this way and the people we recruit also take on recruiting in a positive pyramid building effort. The math is impressive. If each of us recruited one person a month, and each of the people we recruited recruited one person a month, we would recruit everyone on earth in less than three years. Okay, that’s a little unrealistic, but you get the idea.

Relationships are the strongest glue holding humans together. We do things because people ask us, for those people. In a volunteer organizations, as they say on the New Organizing Institute website (which also has some video training), commitments among people in relationships are the “money in the bank” for volunteer organizing like CCL.

For everyone on this email, the purpose is to recruit new activists for the DC CCL Chapter.

Therefore, I would like to invite you to join me in reaching out to people you know and asking them if they are interested in meeting with you to learn more about climate work. Then invite them to the next CCL meeting and the Conference.

You should begin with the people closest to you: your family, friends, co-workers, co-worshipers, co-hobbyists. This is called “concentric organizing.” You begin close and work out. It is easiest to engage people with whom you already have a relationship.

Since a large majority of the U.S. now believes in climate change and a full 25% is “concerned or alarmed,” you should not waste a moment arguing with anyone. As we learned at last summer’s CCL National Conference, the top priority is identifying that 25% and getting them involved. They can then help mobilize the 50% in the middle who cares, but not as deeply. We will get to the deniers last!

The idea of this Action Team is to provide support and encouragement for a group of us to take this on this recruiting task. To stay in contact and to share our successes and what we have learned.

I would love to talk with each of you over the phone to go over this memo and decide on next steps. I realize some of you are deeply engaged on other projects. However, in some sense, this is the only one that counts.

We all need to be doing at least some of this—and recruiting others who will also help do these recruiting one-on-ones if we are to grow a movement with enough members in solid enough relationships with one another to get the other work done.

Please give me a call or an email to set up a phone meeting. We will do our next face-to-face meeting (or a group picture phone meeting) when I hear from a group of you.

Thanks for all you are already doing.

Best wishes,


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