Members Have Needs Too – by Billy Sanderson

Ever since I was in Manager Training about fifteen years ago, I have been interested in the Hierarchy of Needs from Abraham Maslow. If you are not familiar with the concept, here are some bullet points on the topic:

  • The theory establishes that people require the meeting of their needs in a specific order to be interested in fulfilling further needs
  • Maslow believed that all people prioritize their needs and fill most critical first
  • It is possible for people to be motivated to reach “higher level needs” by only achieving and solidifying “lower level needs” 
  • Should the fulfillment of any previously met need be disrupted then their motivation for further needs is taken away
  • Needs are satisfied with people’s own actions or with the help of others…and unfortunately, it is often not their actions that make them “fall down” the hierarchy to start again

The theory has been around since with Maslow’s 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” and it is heavily recited in human resources, psychology and inter-personal training. 

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs | Simply Psychology

Prior to joining Odd Fellows, I realized that I was unhappy with certain parts of my life, and at the time I found hard to articulate what these parts were. When I look at the hierarchy today, I estimate that I was not having my “Belongingness” and “Esteem” needs fulfilled by everyday and work life until I joined. 

So, before you ready any further, I encourage you to look at the hierarchy chart to see which needs you feel are being fulfilled by your membership in the Rebekahs and/or Odd Fellows.

…. I’ll wait… <wink>

The hierarchy easily fits into our daily lives; but maintaining need satisfaction is not easy. For example, if a person has satisfactory “Safety needs” such as employment that is profitable enough to make it through at least the coming year, and their health is strong enough that they are not worrying about it, then it is conceivable that they have the foundation necessary to find productive relationships for their “Love & Belonging needs”. It is also, true that should they not feel safe with their job security, then their boss should not expect them to reach for more responsibility trying to achieve higher recognition to fulfill “Esteem needs”. This is the lesson that I received in Manager training.

 OK, now this is the point in the article when I get trippy by making this more about Odd Fellows than I already have.

I asked you to look at the chart thinking about why you became members, but now I propose a different approach. What about considering a theory on how Maslow’s Hierarchy applies to being a member of our organization, or just about any other volunteer organization. 

Note: For this theory we must assume that as a member in an organization that member has stabilized their everyday “Physiological needs” and “Safety needs”, and their initial decision to join is related to  the needs in the levels above.

I present to you… 

A theory on Hierarchy of Volunteer Member Needs

Starting from the bottom with the foundational needs and working up, here are the needs in bold combined with the way to satisfy them:

Member’s Basic needs fulfilled by: Knowing what is going on through good communication from Executive. Being well connected to meetings or events. Knowing who can answer their questions.

Member’s Security needs fulfilled by: Being recognized at meetings. Being remembered. Comfortable to speak privately. Not being threatened by the established members. Understanding how lodge functions (in both the good and bad ways).

Member’s Belonging needs fulfilled by: Being invited to participate as an attendee for their enjoyment. Being recognized and engaged in public. Showing pride in membership (buying swag).

Member’s Esteem needs fulfilled by: Being asked to contribute to events’ success. Being able to explain “what Odd Fellows is about” to a friend or colleague. Being appointed to an office/position. Earning merit or veteran award.

Member’s Becoming More needs fulfilled by: Being considered for an elected office/position or higher office. Taking the opportunity to lead an event, committee, or initiative. Known for bringing in solid candidates.

As leaders in our lodges, we can easily be aware of Members who are striving for more. They are saying or act like they are “all-in”, or they “can’t get enough”. We can see it in their enthusiastic participation in meetings or events. These members can get our attention for “moving up” to become officers and mentors for new members. 

We also must also be aware of those members who seem like their needs are not being fulfilled. It can take our time to investigate to help such members. This might sound like an inconvenient amount of work considering how precious our time is, but our time to investigate is just as precious as the time a struggling member is investing in this unfulfilling organization.

OF COURSE, not every member is going to be Noble Grand; just like, not every Little League baseball player is going to make the Major Leagues. What I am promoting is the use of this hierarchy to find the gaps in your lodge that are then causing members to feel unfulfilled. These members will not be good promoters of the Order should they step away. 

Getting started is easy. Check in with new or seldom seen members if the first levels of needs are met. Or make an on-line survey from the whole hierarchy to get the picture across the membership of how your lodge is doing in the moment. Act on the gaps for a full year and do the survey again.

To switch to a plant-based metaphor: Unfulfilled members should not be left to wilt or worse be weeded out. They should be fertilized with ways to help them satisfy their growing needs. 

Visit Sovereign Grand Lodge: Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Visit our Facebook page: Heart In Hand

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