How to be a membership chair?
August 26, 2009 2:19 PM   Subscribe

I have recently been appointed the 'membership chair' for a hobby-related organization of which I have been a member for some years. The club president and I have agreed that my duties will consist largely of:

* Contacting members who have lapsed and inviting them to rejoin

* Devising various means of recruiting new members

I have no experience in this sort of work. I could definitely use pointers, suggestions, and especially referrals to any articles or books that may be relevant.
posted by zainsubani to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
what kind of hobby? Is there some sort of convention, mailing list, related shops in the area?

as you're cold calling lapsed members, you could ask if they know anyone who would be interested in joining
posted by Think_Long at 2:38 PM on August 26, 2009

I assume this hobby requires some supplies, so perhaps you can canvas the local stores to see if they have bulletin boards you could advertise on.

Depending on your organization's budget, creating a forum can often bring a community together around a specific interest. You could make announcements through that medium or otherwise provide some form of communication (eg tips, techniques, tutorials) for people that may not have the means to meet in person. Granted, that may not be what your organization wants, as it seems to rely on actual membership, but there are member-only forums out there.
posted by CancerMan at 2:47 PM on August 26, 2009

Well I'd do it this way.

1) What is our organization good at? What is it bad at?
2) Why do our active members participate?
3) Why did lapsed members leave?

You can answer these questions by having frank conversations with a number of current and former members. Once you've done this, talk to your board (if you have one) or leadership if you don't, to get their feedback on the results. This should be an active, honest conversation.

Finally, you need someone else to focus on the top one or two "bad" items and develop a plan to improve them that your active members can play a role in (this will make them both members and stakeholders).

Meanwhile, you plan the logistics to reach out to recently (last several years) lapsed members, by letter. Remind them of the organizations strengths, tell them about your plans to improve the organization. Tell them what the organization has been up to lately that's interesting.

Close by inviting them to some function that focuses on the organizations strengths.

Then, to the greatest extent possible, include a handwritten statement (just a sentence is fine) from an active member that knows the lapsed member that assumes the lapsed member will participate. Something like, "Hey Susie, I look forward to seeing you at the Expo next month" is good - just make it personal from someone they know and like. Have that person sign the letter.

A couple weeks later, and a couple weeks before the Event, have someone else call the lapsed member with a personal invitation if they haven't RSVP'd, or to thank them for RSVPing if they have. It may be your job to make a lot of these calls, but help is great.

With excellent logistics, you should be to have a good response to this outreach.

As for new members, you may be able to take two steps. First and foremost, encourage your active members to talk about their hobby with friends and family and invite interested people to some semi-regular (or one-off, if necessary) new members "hands-on fun" event where they can actually experience the particular joys of your hobby.

Secondly, to the extent that there is a good place for advertising, you should do so. This depends on the nature of your hobby and your location. A trade magazine could be appropriate, if applicable.
posted by Pants! at 2:54 PM on August 26, 2009

I have done this sort of work for a political party local association and one thing I cannot stress enough - though it's very unglamourous - is the need for good records management on your members. You (or your volunteers, if you organize them) do not want to call the same people twice and do not want to fail to follow up with administering a new or renewed membership. The key to not making those sorts of irritating mistakes is to have an impeccable records system. Many non-profit organizations do not have this. Taking a bit of time to make sure you got the information storage and recording under control can save you a lot of headaches later on.
posted by Kurichina at 3:55 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

When you contact your lapsed members, make sure that you give them reasons that they would want to join up again. Plan some events, or make sure the newsletter or whatever has some good content, or something, but make sure that you're explaining to them what they will get out of becoming active again.

Effort in, members out. Most likely, no one's going to respond to an email (though you should do it anyway). Calls will be a lot more effective.
posted by gurple at 4:07 PM on August 26, 2009

At our organization, this meant having to go through a bunch of old tax receipts, random word documents and file folders, and a computer address book program from 1991. Don't get me started on the Post-It notes. This gave me a list of names and addresses compiled from every source in the office.

Circulated the list of names to our board and they told me who had moved or died that they knew of. Members who had paid their dues in the last two years (and life members and other people and organizations we had been involved with recently) got a copy of our newsletter and an updated membership form. Members who were lapsed got a letter and a copy of the membership form. The letter told them what our organization has been up to this year and what's coming up in the way of events, AGM, advocacy, etc. Printed up labels, bought stamps and envelopes, and did the mailout last week. Many of our members are locals, so there's been a nice few cheques in our mailbox this week. They just needed a reminder.

Three months ago I was making cappuccinos for a living and I had never done anything like this before either. You'll do fine!
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:09 PM on August 26, 2009

Some very excellent suggestions here, and I thank you all. Please keep it coming.

The hobby in question is magic. We meet at one of the few local magic shops; I will have to see if we have membership materials at the other local shops.
posted by zainsubani at 6:05 AM on August 27, 2009

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