Asking uncomfortable questions and causing awkward silences With Marilyn A. Hudson

Bang or Fizzle: How Can A Group Solicit More Members?

It is a problem facing a wide range of groups that depend on membership to support and sustain ongoing programs. How do you attract and then keep members?

There will be in any section of members the segment that initially thought, “Hey, this is cool. I want to join!” There will be the diehard committed who will stick around “just because”. Then, there will be the segment that never joins or drifts away, despite ongoing activity or interest in the subject of the group.

It is easy to wave a hand and say, “just did not fit in”, or “must not like joining things”, or something similar. Excuses such as never getting around to renewing or the shake of the head about joining initially, may reflect something far more basic to human nature.

What is the “bang” they are getting for their buck?

Some will hurry to say that they should join for noble causes, for simply being a part of something bigger than themselves and so on.

The truth is simply that people have needs as human beings: they want to be a part of something active, they want recognition, and they want support for what they themselves value.

Active: What is the group doing? Is it inward looking or outward looking? What activities provide the positive reinforcements that say, “Wow, I want to be with this group!!” There is clear mission, purpose, and long range planning.

Recognition: This is the ego factor and can not be ignored. People want to be noticed, thanked, applauded, highlighted, showcased, honored, and made to feel that they like this group because recognize their sterling qualities. People want to be slapped on the back, made to feel important, and a part of something that they enrich with their presence.

Support: If a professional group there are directory listings, mentions in literature, on web pages, and in publications. The membership is surveyed frequently to see where they want the organization to go and to grow. Continuing education, training, and mentoring are made available to members. Go the step beyond simple subscriptions to periodicals but add links to them (their companies, etc.) as part of the membership package, regular profiles of members, and other simple actions can help support the members who make a group strong.

Crass, manipulative, ego-centric: yep, that’s human nature. Humans make up the membership. So if numbers are slumping take a look at the incentives being dangled in front of potential members eyes – are they giving the member a big bang for their buck or a mere fizzle?

Some samples of incentives :

Discount on conferences
Employment referrals
Networking opportunities
Free listings on websites or in publications
Free or discounted training
Apprenticeship opportunities
Mentoring Opportunities
Recognition via annual awards, contests, displays, programs, etc.
Free shirts, pens, etc.
Special interest groups

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