Engaging New Members
The excitement and energy that you exhibit to your group will determine whether others want to join, participate, and stay involved. Think about how you will model enthusiasm and engagement as a leader. Research indicates it is not just what you do to be involved that matters, but how you do it. If you put in more time and energy into your leadership, you will learn more, have more engaged members, and a more successful organization.
The first step in engaging new members is to know why you are engaging them!
Establishing a clear purpose for your group will allow potential members the ability to see what they are joining before they come to a meeting. The purpose can be established through a few shared ideas, creating your organization’s vision and mission, goals and values, and articulating what functions your student group will perform.
A vision is the internal idea that the student group has about itself and how it wishes to function as a group. The vision should be a long term picture of where the group should focus its efforts, who it should serve, and its value to the University community.
A mission is an external view of what the group considers its priorities or goals. The mission is extremely important in communicating the importance and the services of the group. The mission may be used in marketing strategies to give details about what your group holds to be its strongest values.
Goals and Values
Before you can engage members, your group needs to have a set of goals and values for which it stands in order to clearly articulate to potential members what the purpose of your group is. Developing long and short term plans helps to keep your group centered and prepared for the entrance of new members. Showing potential members your student group’s goals and values will increase your retention efforts.
Your group does many things, but how does the rest of the campus know what they are? You need to develop a list of your group’s main functions and objectives to communicate to the rest of the University, as well as to all of your potential members.
Marketing is another key component to finding new members. Marketing is important in recruitment and name recognition, however marketing can only catch the eye, the internal goals of the group will keep them interested. When marketing for your group; finding a common theme, logo, or slogan that is used on all materials will help with name recognition. In finding a logo, be sure to do your research. If another group is using something similar, you may confuse the viewer. Be sure to utilize your mission, vision, values, and functions in determining the logo. Being clear and consistent in your communication is the most important part of your marketing strategy.
Make sure you are using your resources! Is your student group profile page up to date? Make sure to include all of your contact information. Include your group-specific email, website, and Twitter and Facebook information. Don’t forget that students are also looking to get in touch with you – both via the student group directory and the University’s Engage! Search. If you need to update your student group profile, an officer of your group can make edits directly.
Mailing or distribution lists, like using an email Listserv, are a free resource for your group to consider. Consider having either electronic options or paper sign-up sheets available at your meetings and events, and also on your group’s website or social media accounts. Think through your messaging type and timeline so that your message is read and your members don’t unsubscribe. If developing a mailing or distribution list, make sure you include information on how to unsubscribe at the bottom of each message.
Offering leadership opportunities is another great way to keep members interested in your group. Offering students the chance to get experience as officers, through internships, or by being active within their chosen field of study, will increase the number of prospective members. Giving people what they are looking for will give your group more credibility, as well as more attention from students looking for involvement opportunities.
Once We Get Them, How Do We Keep Them?
Organization within the group is the first part of keeping members interested. Once a person joins a group, they will want some sort of structure to work within: for example, keeping a president, vice president, and officers are a good start; having those officers keep good records, know what’s going on within the group, and keeping projects and events organized will help eliminate frustration from members. Know who is doing what and when. Utilize your membership for completing projects or tasks (don’t just have them come to a meeting and listen to what the officers are doing this week).
Creat a Friendly and Welcoming Feel
Creating a Friendly and Welcoming Feel for your new members is key in getting them interested and keeping them coming. If a new member does not feel needed or welcome in the group, they will not come back. The key is to get them involved from the get-go. Include them in on social opportunities, event planning, and invite them to help out with some of the important aspects of the group. Do not overwhelm them, but be aware of their need to feel part of the group.
A Shared Vision can make or break a group. If the people within the group believe in the same thing, foresee the possible future of the group, and are all working toward that common goal, your membership is likely to join in the shared vision. They will become more actively involved with the group and help to accomplish your goals. If no one can see what you are focused on or where your group is headed, your members may lack motivation to be involved.
Offer Resources to your membership. People join groups because they are looking for an opportunity to gain something from their membership. Become a resource yourself, by being active within the campus community with a variety of departments, faculty and staff. Provide resources, such as officer binders or manuals, access to the group’s files to create a sense of history, and access to your advisor. Also, offer them the opportunity to become an officer or a key player within the group, so they have the opportunity to gain leadership experience and skills.
We encourage you to review the Guidelines for Accessible Meetings and Events provided by Disability Resource Center. This will help your student group ensure it’s being as inclusive as possible for all members of its audience (and potential members of your student group).
If interested, you can also familiarize yourself with Accessibility Content and Resources, if your group would like to make any updates to ensure its information and services is accessible to the widest possible audience — including users of old, adaptive, alternate, or emerging technologies.
Engaging new members consists mainly of being visible in the campus community via marketing; having a solid purpose, through a vision, mission, and goals; welcoming new members, through inclusiveness; and offering new member resources that are unique to your group. If a group can meet the needs of its members, it should be able to recruit and retain a strong membership that is active within the University community.
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