by Chris Stockton, Associate Executive Director
January is a good time to check up on your organization’s Membership recruitment and retention efforts!
Who is Responsible for Recruitment?
First on the list is reminding yourself that that Membership recruitment is everyone’s concern. The responsibility of recruiting and retaining Members should not just be left for the Membership Chair and Membership Committee to handle. Recruiters can be found in every level of your organization. Therefore as a leader it might be a good time to gently remind all Members of the key role they play in Member recruitment and retention. Every Member, in his or her day to day activities, can serve as advocates and encourage new Members to join and enhance the image of the organization.
Why Don’t More Members Recruit Others to Join?
This seems obvious, so why don’t more people get involved in Membership recruitment? The fact is many people are uncomfortable and may fear the possible rejection that comes from being turned down. This is a normal and understandable but one that can be overcome with ongoing and consistent encouragement and training. A small reward or recognition for recruitments doesn’t hurt either! Successful Membership recruitment is all about asking the right people.
What Defines a Good Prospect?
Good prospects are those that are more likely to join because of some specific reason or relationship. In the organization, the reasons will be either their connection to the goals of the organization, perceived benefits or their connection to a certain Member. Of course organizations can use other prospecting methods using phone, email, fax, or direct mail but the most successful method consistently remains having existing Members inviting a contact to a meeting and afterward personally asking them to join.
When chatting with someone about joining your organization it is important to remember that the focus of the discussion should not be simply on what the organization does but, more importantly on how the prospect can fit in with the Organization. The key needed to recruit a new Member isn’t the ability to talk, it’s the ability to listen. An effective recruiter will try to find out what the prospect’s interest is and then respond by highlighting ways that the organization meets or can meet that interest. This is how you target that person’s "what’s-in-it-for me" spot.
Keep a List and Don’t Give Up!
Whenever possible it is really helpful if the organization maintains a list of Non-Members and prospects and regularly includes these individuals in future meeting and event communications as it may take several interactions with one or more Members to encourage the prospect to join.
So They Have Joined as a Member, Now What?
After having spent so much time and effort getting Members to join the organization, it just makes good sense to do everything possible to make sure that they renew their Membership annually! Just adding them to the roster will not ensure that they will participate and renew. The way to keep Members is to create a true Membership experience for them. The organization needs to strive to make each Member feel they are special and that there is a unique value to be derived from Membership. Part of this value is the way the Members are treated so here are some ideas to enhance the enjoyment of one’s Membership experience:
- Understand why Members join and welcome them properly – Retention begins the day the Member joins. The best way to keep Members after the initial year is to make certain that they feel that in addition to the programs of the organization there is a place for them for input and participation. Send a welcome letter to each Member or better yet have your Membership Chair or the full committee make personal phone calls to these Members letting them know you are thrilled they have joined or renewed their Membership in the organization.
- Get members involved in activities – It seems obvious that if Members will take the time and effort to get involved in monthly programs and activities, then they will renew their Membership. This is true. The best way to show Members they count is to ask their opinion on what types of programs and activities they would like to see in the future and check in with them as to whether the perceived value measures up with their actual experience. Then work to have your programs committee implement the ideas that come up from the majority of Members
- Remember to "pay" Members for their time through recognition – The key to an effective recognition program is to remember that recognition can’t be reserved for only those in the organization who do the big jobs. Regardless of the level of a Member’s involvement, he/she deserves some form of recognition. After all, the recognition volunteers receive for their efforts is their "paycheck." The recognition needs to be meaningful and sincere, but should also be reasonable and reflective of the service given. Ideas like lists of Members who have either joined or renewed that are visible at monthly meetings, included in Member newsletters. Small honors or notices for Members who have hit Membership milestones such as 5, 10, 15 years.
Recruiting and retaining Members in our organizations is everyone’s job. A warm greeting at a Member meeting or inviting a new Member to sit at your table can go a long way to making each new and existing Member feel as though they matter, have a voice, and make them feel recognized. In return, they will be more likely to do the recruiting for you. Membership is about serving their needs. A successful organization gives to its Members, community, professional development and legislative support to promote the profession. There is no organization without its Members so focus on Membership is ground zero in any non-profit Membership organization.