January 23, 2017

Here's your chance for a $500 membership incentive

I'm not crazy about this idea; however, it is an incentive being offered by Optimist International and therefore I feel a responsibility to share.

Announced on its Facebook page, Optimist International says when a member recruits a new member into their Optimist Club, the sponsor will be entered into a drawing to win $500. If it is the sponsor's first new member, they will be entered into two drawings for $500 each.

The drawings will be held on a quarterly basis. There will be two winners in the members sponsoring their first new member category each quarter. There will be one winner in the all member category.

So why am I ambivalent? I do not believe that cash awards are an appropriate reward for a membership organization to offer as a recruitment tool. It incentivizes membership for the wrong reason.

One does not join an Optimist Club to make money for themselves. Sure, some may hope to build relationships that may lead to business transactions in the future; but ask any member and they will tell you that they work together with their fellow club members in fundraising and service for a purpose higher than their own pocketbook. They work for the betterment of youth and community.

Creating a monetary recruitment award is rather a disincentive for me. How about that new member? I wonder what they might think of their sponsor receiving $500 for their commitment to join?

Money being a disincentive has been studied by scientists and overwhelmingly, they have concluded that for cognitive tasks that require creativity, money has led to worse performance. Why? Two basic reasons were cited by Dan Pink in his book Drive*:

  1. Once the task is reached, the individual stops the behavior that the incentive is meant to produce. 
  2. The amount of money is not an appropriate exchange for something a motivated person is willing to do for free. 
I don't know about you, but for me, I fall into the second category. I don't care to gamble on whether or not someone wants to join an Optimist Club. Good luck to you, if you do. 


*Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.


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