What Do We Do With New Members?
Studies indicate that first- and second-year members are the most likely to drop out of membership organizations. Studies also show that new members are very enthusiastic soon after joining and their decision to remain with an association is typically made during this time. What does this tell us? Get members involved early!
Below are tips and ideas to consider that will assist you in new member retention and engagement within your club.
Focus on new members. Your clubneeds to let new members know that they are special and that their membership is appreciated.
- Welcome each new member personally. This can be done by a phone call from a designated club member, mentor, or new member coordinator. It’s also useful if the caller can tell the new member what a good investment membership has been for them and congratulate the new member on making a great decision to join. This helps the new person feel more welcome and it validates membership.
- Special recognition in club newsletter or website (everyone likes to see their name in print).
- Present a membership certificate to hang up so people know they’ve joined. Provides a sense of belonging and recognition.
Contacting new members. Contact new members frequently, but without inundating them with too much information. Tell them from the start that they are special members and that over the next few months they will be receiving information. If they have any questions, provide them with a contact person to get answers. An example of what could be performed in addition to regular communication throughout the year includes:
- Initial contact within the first 30 days of joining.
- Contact them personally twice (why twice? Once is nice, but twice is impressive) within the first two months.
- Send a mini-survey to members six months after they join to see how they rate your club’s service (i.e. six month report card). Questions could include: Is club meeting start time convenient? Is meeting frequency appropriate for our club? How can we improve our club? Club meetings?
Mentors and New Member Coordinators. To assist in contacting and welcoming new members to your club, consider establishing a mentor program. You may even wish to create a new position within your club that’s specifically aimed for new members, and this could be referred to a “New Member Coordinator.” Mentors and New Member Coordinators are very important since they’ll probably have the first contact with new and potential members. As presumed, both need to know the club well and like interacting with people.
- New member orientation. Don’t assume new members will automatically have the skills and experience necessary to fully participate in club meetings or serve on the board. All new members—both young and old—should have the option to receive training or an orientation.
- Utilize mentors or New Member Coordinators (if any).
- Provide new members with a membership kit or brochure highlighting club information, opportunities for involvement and activities.
- Provide new members with the history of the club, previous issues, past actions taken, and other useful information.
- Orient new members to lingo that may be used at club meetings or by the board. New members may also not have previous experience with business meeting etiquette or procedures.
- Be patient! New members may have a steep learning curve and will need time to adjust.
New member involvement. Research tells us two things: 1) people like to be asked to volunteer and be involved, so personally ask them, and 2) when individuals get involved in the activities of your organization, it is less likely that they will drop out because they view their involvement as an additional way to get a return on their dues investment. Be careful not to equate involvement with leadership. It is unlikely that all your members will be involved at that level, therefore think of involvement as participation in activities, as well as leadership in the club.
Invitation to meetings; encourage attendance. Just as with involvement, members like to be asked to attend meetings, particularly early in their membership. New members may need a bit of encouragement to attend a meeting or function since they’re not yet familiar with the club or its membership. Note: This may also be an effective recruitment tool. Extend to non-members or prospective members a special invitation to the next club meeting—come as the club’s guest. The theme…try us for free!
- Give some form of appreciation to those who get involved.
- Every time a person gets involved in your association someone needs to say, “Thank you!”
- Recognition for involvement is an important factor in getting people to come back year after year and be involved again.
- Personally acknowledging individuals during a club meeting is a great way to show appreciation, as is including their names in the club newsletter or website. (Not all seek public recognition, but everyone likes to at least be thanked for their efforts.)
- Don’t wait until the end of the year to give awards and thanks to those who were involved.
Reason for joining? Try to identify as clearly as you can why people are joining. Keep track! Be sure to understand what benefits members want as they are joining and reinforce those benefits early in their first year of membership.
Develop an effective renewal process.
- Prior to renewal, send a cover letter, an annual message from the president, or a list of recent accomplishments because it reminds members how their money has been spent during the previous year and suggest that the association can do this for members again next year if they renew.
- If your club has any new services, programs, or features, introduce them before sending a renewal letter.
Offer incentives to those who help keep members.
Don’t give up on members who don’t renew membership. In the unfortunate even that a new member does not renew after the first or second year, try to find out exactly why. Consider asking them to rejoin, they just might surprise you. As previously discussed, sometimes people just want to be asked; don’t underestimate the power of personal outreach! If nothing else, the information gained can be used to better retain current and future members.
Finally, remember that all clubs, particularly ones involving new members, work best in an atmosphere of respect, communication, investment, and meaningful involvement.