Ten Ideas for Welcoming New Members to Your Organisation

You have put in the time and effort, spent the money, promoted your organisation far and wide … now you are reaping the reward of a growing membership base.

Yet in so many not-for-profit organisations, more members leave after the first year than at any other time. I have conducted surveys in this area and the reasons are numerous and complex – financial and changed circumstances are a couple of reasons; however, other responses relate to things such as a lack of benefits, poor service, lack of opportunity, poor facilities … in other words there is something deeper, particularly with first year members.

Below are ten ideas and suggestions which, if combined properly and worked well, can reverse the ‘first year member drop-out’ syndrome.

Ten Ideas for Welcoming NEW Members to Your Organisation

  1. Send them a ‘Membership Road Map’ – a total package that contains some free ‘goodies’ for them and, more important, a road map that takes them on a tour (virtual if on a PC or in the form of a printed brochure) of your organisation – location(s), people, how to contact, who to contact, events, meetings and all relevant information/timeframes.
  2. Invite them to a new member orientation night. Make it a fun and memorable event (avoid a sleep inducing ‘welcome’ from someone lacking genuine skills in this area) ensure they are made welcome and to feel at home.
  3. Move from free to fee – they get the goodies in the ‘Membership Road Map’ package (it can be a calendar, key ring, personalised membership card, boxer shorts … BOXER SHORTS?!? Hey, no one does boxer shorts, right? Be different!). Also, offer them a discount on an item of merchandise or memorabilia, kind of a ‘new member’s special offer’. It works! However, you should not offer discounts to new members at the expense of your current members – ensure the new members special offer is available to current members also, perhaps under a different promotional banner such as a ‘member loyalty’ offer.
  4. Contact them within 30 days of joining, by telephone if possible, and…
    • welcome them;
    • ask them if they have any specific questions regarding their membership;
    • update them on any events, seminars, functions that are about to happen;
    • ensure they are happy and utilising their membership benefits.
  5. Membership Benefits? Well, why did this new member actually join your organisation? If you don’t know – find out (refer back to #2 or #4, you can ask the question/record the response at either of these early interactions). You see, this person joined the organisation for their reason, not yours. If you know why they joined, you need to focus on that reason in future dealings with the member.Record all feedback on your database.Did they join to gain new friends, save time and effort in studies, improve their social position, build a network, get closer to their team or …? Once you know the reason … you can personalise offers and target them for events and functions that they are interested in.Perhaps they will volunteer their time for a cause that interests them, or utilise their skills to help the organisation or …?This is where a good ‘relational’ data base becomes invaluable.
  6. Appoint a mentor or buddy, which is a good idea for smaller organisations but can be utilised by larger organisations as well. There are people within most organisations who are willing to reach out and help others. Sometimes they will take on more than one person. If your organisation has educational/professional development requirements it would be an excellent idea to appoint your new members with a mentor, who can guide them over the initial hurdles. Retired members are a great recruiting source for this task.
  7. Call them a ‘New Member’ for the first full year of membership. It is absolutely vital that you develop a 12 month retention plan – first year members are your biggest defectors.Ensure you make quality contact (phone, email, social media, post) – yes, post. 37% of members of an organisation prefer their contact via the mail. Who says this? Why, Australia Post, at planned intervals, e.g. seasonal, cyclical or prior to major events, throughout the year.
  8. Commence the Member Renewals process early. Segment first year members within your database and target them. Although you should be trying to renew all of your members early – first year members need to be tracked and monitored.A phone call just before renewals time … a planned contact … won’t hurt either!
  9. Everyone, and I mean everyone, who has contact with members – and here we are talking about that new member – should be trained in delivering superior member service. Your people should be absolutely the best in telephone response, first time contact when a member visits, managing their complaints and concerns and simply making them feel that they are #1 at that point of interaction.An old US corporate study identified that 65% of people did not return to an organisation because of ‘an indifferent attitude from an employee’. Some boffins refer to Service Excellence as a ‘soft skill’. Well … it isn’t  It is an absolute necessity to give your people the skills and knowledge to be the best at what they do.
  10. Your Bonus. You have given the new member a lot of benefits and value throughout the year, now it is your turn to gain some value back, for your organisation:
    • Promote ‘Member-get-Member’. If they are happy with you, do you seriously think they won’t tell others? Well, prompt them!
    • Conduct a new member survey – what did they like, dislike and what changes would they
      recommend from the experiences they had in their first 12 months.
    • Say ‘thank you’ … that will gain you a ton of value!

Kevin Cahalane and Alex Makin will be presenting at Membership Mastery for Professionals on Thursday 14th of March.  The full-day workshop is available for just $595 (GST inclusive).  Visit membershipgrowth.com.au/membership-mastery-for-professionals-2013 for details.

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