Thursday, July 9, 2009

What to do with New Community Members

Every year a lot of time, energy and money is put into acquiring new members for associations and member communities. And it usually pays off with growth on the membership rosters. But when all these new members arrive, it is equally important that the organization, and any regional or local outlets, engage these new members and deliver on the promise of value and community that originally attracted the new member.

While retention is important during the entire course of a person’s or company’s membership, here are some suggestions on things you can do to transform new members into champions for your organization within the first three months.

To Begin With:

Make sure your organization has at least one person at the local level whose sole job is to welcome new members. This person should be highly social, love picking up the phone and calling people, and is highly informed and well networked in the community to be able to connect and introduce new members to other like-minded members.

Within 24 hours of acquiring a new member via online channel:

The organization's leading spokesperson (e.g. president, administrator, chief voice, etc) should send a personal email welcoming the individual to the community, outline where to find more information, who to contact with questions, tell them what to expect to happen in the next few weeks, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY give the person something to do to engage with the community right away.

Within one week of notification of acquiring a new member:

If the new member joined through an offline channel, the same process is followed as noted above for an online membership. This can be done via a small card welcoming the new member. Be sure to invite the new member to the next meeting (online or offline), and include the leader's business card in the greeting so the new member can start to develop their own network.

Within one month of acquiring a new member:

A phone call by your membership coordinator is helpful to fully connect the new member to all that your organization has to offer. This is the chance to answer any questions the new member may have, ensure they know about upcoming events, information, the organization's website, etc.

If you hold regular offline meetings:

Make sure to highlight any new members you may have at each meeting. You can do this in two ways:

  1. Have new members wear a special sticker on their name badge or their lapel. This will help identify them to any board members as VIPs who deserve a special welcome and handshake.
  2. Have a board member sit next to a new member and introduce them during the meeting announcements. This allows the spotlight to shine upon them without the new member feeling pressure to talk at their first meeting.
  3. Have the president invite a few new members to sit at his/her meeting table as special guests.
  4. Be sure to have plenty of membership applications at each table for non-members to use as they see how well you treat new members.

Within three months of acquiring a new member:

Call the new member back and see how things are going. Help answer any remaining questions they may have, encourage them to participate in programs, and highlight any volunteer opportunities that may be available. Pass their name on to your volunteer coordinator for follow up (and if you don't have one, just think of what might happen if you did).

Other ways you can help make new members feel welcome:

  1. Host a new member orientation -- this works online as well as offline. Personally invite new members.
  2. Prepare and distribute new member packets that provide reference information, contact information and other important facts about your organization.
  3. Create a buddy system pairing new members to more seasoned members. The more seasoned member is responsible for helping that new member for the year (inviting them to every meeting, introducing them to others, calling for mid-year check ups, getting them plugged into volunteer opportunities).
  4. Give them something to do. Having new members become engaged through short-term, quick volunteer opportunities is an easy way to helping them take ownership in their membership, and the local group.
  5. Highlight new members on your web site. Put a photo up and list their contact information.
  6. Highlight new members in your newsletter with a photo, bio, etc.
  7. Send a recognition or thank you letter to their employer and copy them on it.
  8. Send a press release to local newspapers highlighting new members, copy the new member on it.
  9. Hold special new member meet-and-greet events.
  10. Pay attention if a new member isn’t them and let them know they’re missed.
What else would you add to this list? What has worked for you in the past? What's working for you now?

-- David Kinard, PCM

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