Why Join Anything?

People are social creatures. Virtually everybody likes to be liked, and in an ultimate sense we can’t survive without the cooperation of other people. We are all born small and helpless, and from infancy we instinctively seek the support and companionship of others.

Thus groups of other human beings play an important role in everybody’s life. We are born into some ready-made groups, like families and clans, and those ready-made groups often determine our membership in other groups, like religions and social classes. But in our complex, postindustrial societies, we all have significant opportunities to choose the groups we join, whether for employment, for personal fulfillment, or just for fun. Social scientists tell us that there are four general reasons why people choose to join one organization over another. This information is important for us here at Our Better Angels, since we want to adopt lots of people into our community, but we recognize that they may prefer lots of other communities instead.

The four reasons why people choose to join particular organizations are 1) their mission and values; 2) their activities; 3) the other people in the organization; and 4) the tangible rewards the organization offers for membership.

That first reason to join – the organization’s mission and values – applies especially to organizations in religion and politics, since people will be attracted to and sustain support for organizations that reflect their own values. People with lots of money and a personal stake in a business, for example, are likely to be attracted to a political party that supports business and people with money. People who believe that women should be accorded greater opportunity and greater authority in the world at large are likely to join a church that reflects those beliefs.

Here at Our Better Angels, we believe in the productive, creative, and altruistic potential of most people most of the time, and we base our belief on verifiable evidence and scientific analysis. We also believe that we are all in the same boat here on the planet earth, that we are all ultimately responsible for each other, and that we are all better off when we are all better off. Thus we hope that people who share those beliefs will consider joining the Better Angels Community.

The second general reason for joining any organization is the activities members participate in. Young people join clubs and teams largely because they have fun doing what the clubs and teams do, which is usually about playing games and having fun in the first place. Adults who can choose their careers and jobs will be much more effective and much more happy when they naturally enjoy their work. Social groups of all sorts are mostly about relationships, not so much about achieving goals or completing tasks.

Here at Our Better Angels, we hope that prospective new Angels will be attracted to the activities we offer and sponsor, which are mostly educational and philanthropic. As an infant organization, we don’t yet offer an extensive slate of activities, but over time we hope to develop a range of participative games that member Angels can play with each other. Member Angels, in fact, will be our primary source of ideas for new games and activities.

The third general reason for joining is the people in the organization. This one often trumps the first two. People looking for a church or a political party to join, for example, might well choose the one where they know and like the most people, regardless of the details of mission and values. Here at Our Better Angels, we rely heavily on the person-to-person credibility, integrity, and trust of individual Angels to adopt new Angels for membership, and we will do whatever we can to support the interaction of individual people in small groups of personal Angel Communities.

The fourth and final reason why people choose to join one organization over another is the tangible rewards the organization provides for membership. The most obvious example here is in the job and career field. If one is able to choose among job offers, the deciding factor may well be the financial rewards – the pay. And even if one loves the values, the activities, and the people in a given workplace, one is not likely to take a job without pay. In the absence of a big-time inherited fortune, we all need an income to keep body and soul together.

The presence of tangible rewards for membership in the Better Angels Community is paradoxical but positive. Our mission and our values are about giving money away to good causes, good works, and good people. Yet we recognize that one can’t give money away unless one has enough money in the first place. Thus we reward members of the Better Angels Community by returning a fraction of the membership fees of new Angels they recruit. Because we do this, Our Better Angels is different from a standard nonprofit organization; ion fact, we are not a nonprofit organization at all. We don’t ask for four-figure donations and then offer tax deductions in return; instead, we ask for an annual $20 subscription fee and offer the opportunity to earn it back many times over by helping us grow the OBA Community. As we like to say, when you pay it forward, we pay you right back.

If an organization offers you all four reasons to join – compatible mission and values, enjoyable activities, positive relationships with other people, and sufficient tangible rewards – you should seriously consider joining. Here at OBA, we will do whatever we can to address those four reasons to the satisfaction of our current and prospective Angels.