At the Orange District summer workshop, Sandy Tessier, 2nd Vice President for membership, shared some tips for building membership. Following are some of Sandy's ideas.
Membership – How to get ‘em & How to keep ‘em
How is your membership going? Is it going or growing? These are difficult times for volunteer organizations such as ours. More women are working and unable to participate. Older long time members are doing less and some are unfortunately dying off.
And yet there are women out there who are looking for just what we have to offer.
Who are they? Where are they? How do we find them and convince them that we are just what they need and have been looking for? And how do they find us?
Who are these women who are looking for us? I venture to say that our target group is not the young mother with children or the career woman still working but the newly retired professional woman. She wants to turn her energies to giving back and she needs a new social group. After all, for quite a good chunk of her life her whole world was work, now she needs new friends and new worthwhile things to do.
What kinds of things do we do that others might like to get involved with? All clubs are different. Most clubs are very social but some may emphasize the arts and encouraging their members with activities such as gardening and crafts. Other clubs enjoy hands on philanthropic efforts while others may look into supporting legislation that supports women and children’s issues. Whatever it is that you do, let people know. Talk it up! Word of mouth is one of the best ways to attract new members
Get your name out there. How about putting your name in the paper, write a letter to the editor about your club and the great things it does. Get the press out to a meeting or to a fundraiser that you are conducting. Get to know your local newspaper people. How about going on local TV and talk about what your club is doing. Advertise that you are looking for new members. Have you ever thought of advertising for members in the want ad section of your local paper?
And then there is the internet. Today’s women may hear about us and then look us up on the internet. Whether you like it or not you need to have a web site, be on Facebook and Linkedin. Your website needs to look good and be kept up to date. If this seems out of your reach there are some helps available. Check in with your local high schools; they may have students who are willing to help you out for community service points. Ask those grandkids.
Keeping the members we recruit is vital to any organization and may be the most difficult part of membership. Why do these people join in the first place and why do they leave? Were they disappointed or did they misunderstand the function of the club? Did they feel that they didn’t fit in? Did they feel isolated or unwelcome?
What kind of attitudes will freeze a club and make it wither? AND - What kind of changes will help your club thrive? Here are a few suggestions.
Does your club have “seat hoarders”? One member comes in early and saves all the seats at several tables. Then as members come in there is no place to sit. We solved that problem by having a new members table with the membership chair person or a board member at that table. As a result, there was always a place for new members to sit with a friendly familiar face.
If someone in the club offers an idea or suggestion, is she met with a barrage of “we tried that before and it didn’t work”? When you say that, you freeze out the person who made the suggestion and you stop all further discussion on that topic. OK, so try it again, a little differently. Maybe you can put all the suggestions on a board without discussion or comment. After all the suggestions, no matter how silly or off the wall, have been set out, then you can discuss them. Explore the possibilities and avenues that may lead to making the suggestions viable.
"But this is the way we have always done it." Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different things done in different ways. Some new ideas may not succeed or might require two or three attempts with modifications. Change is necessary to ensure that clubs and members grow in new directions.
Let someone else do it. Has the same woman been doing the same old thing in the same old way for years and it isn’t working? Well, no wonder. Let someone else try. Growth and change produce new talent, brain power and manpower. And if you can’t get one person to do a job then share it. Have co-chairpersons and or co board member responsibilities. Maybe some of the positions in your club can be streamlined, combined or eliminated. Get your new members involved in something right away. Ask them to join a section or give the new members a job to do buddied up with a seasoned member.
Another killer is “we can’t do that we don’t know how. None of us can use a computer so we can’t use social media and don’t know how to establish a website”. Where is the help for this dilemma? Brainstorm. Ask your grandkids.
Put a flyer the local library or high school looking for a student to help you out in exchange for community service hours.
Some changes may have to be made. Take a poll of the members and ask what changes they would like to see. You may have to change the meeting time or the place that you meet. Take a look at your by-laws. Are they stopping some otherwise very capable and interested members from participating as chairmen or board members?
Change is the natural order of things. Organizations/clubs/members that realize this and alter their courses and adapt to new conditions will profit and progress. Those that refuse to accept the realities of changing conditions and to take appropriate action will stagnate, and eventually whither and disappear. After all the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.