This can apply for any organization or association, however, and not just a chapter of SHH at a university.
Hold interest meetings year round. These don't have to be weekly, but perhaps once every other month in order to allow people to come out and learn around your organization. It's important that new members feel welcome, and interest meetings are a great way to obtain this goal. Create conditions that make it easy for people who come to interest meetings to attend your regular meetings. Send out reminder emails three days before a meeting, and also the night before or the day of so that people won't forget. It's easy to forget meeting times, locations and details, especially if you're as busy as I am, so being the head of your group means that it's your responsibility to make sure new members have reminders. You can also distribute flyers, post signs, market your events, and use social networking sites like Facebook.
Once you get some new members, make them feel welcome. Don't scare them away. Involve them in meetings through icebreakers, where both new and old members can introduce themselves and have fun getting to know each other. Also give newcomers simple tasks that make them feel needed, but be sure not to give them too large of a task, or else they will feel overwhelmed and not come back.
Make sure you have an agenda for your meetings. Have an activity planned. Make the meetings fun and enjoyable, so that people desire to return to upcoming meetings. Plan events for fundraising, socials, or whatever it may be. Get people involved & feeling needed.
Make sure you distribute evaluation or suggestion sheets on a fairly regular basis. Allow members to input their own thoughts about what they life or do not like. Members are full of good ideas for how to make your organization stronger and better, so give them the opportunity to voice those opinions in a constructive way.
Make phone calls instead of emailing every once in a while. This gives your organization a more personal tone, and shows your members that you're interested enough in keeping them involved that you go out of your way to individually talk to them. Have socials, as well, because bonding is important for groups. This gives your members the opportunity to form lasting friendships with you and with each other.
Don't let your members get:
1) Burnt-Out - don't give them too much responsibility, because this can overwhelm them and deter them from coming back.
2) Cooled-Out - don't give them too little responsibility either, because this will make them feel unneeded and again, deter them from coming back.
3) Kept-out - make sure new members don't feel alienated from the group. Involve them through icebreakers, activities, and socials. Avoid inside jokes amongst veteran members, as this makes newcomers feel unwelcomed and "outside" of the circle.
4) Pulled-out - Keep your meetings fun! Crack a joke, have a reflection, learn something new, invite a speaker to your meeting. This gives diversity and variety to your meetings and keeps member from drifting away over time, or pulling out of your organization.
Establish challenging and creative goals. Don't set your sights too low, instead set them fairly high so that way you challenge your members to go above and beyond their perceived "limits." Once you achieve your goal, or even if you come up short, show your appreciate for all of the hard work by sending your thanks to your members, or by holding a social in order to celebrate. Perhaps institute a "Hustler of the Week" award so that each week you can honor a member who went above and beyond the expectations. Keep your group focused on the serious issues, but have fun, too!
Make sure you educate new members about the issues you discuss or the topics you cover. If there is any unfamiliar terminology, define it so that new members can understand what you are talking about during meetings. Discuss the mission of your organization often, so that everyone can be familiar with it.
Increase motivation of your members by allowing them to choose the jobs they want to do. Instead of assigning jobs, give them the opportunity to pick. That way you will gain the most out of the work your members do because they are doing the jobs they enjoy. During your meetings, create an enjoyable and comfortable atmosphere, perhaps by playing relevant music, having a slideshow of photos from past events, or allowing a member to talk about their ideas for fundraising or other goals.
There are so many ways to retain your membership, and these are only some.
Do you have any ways that you retain membership for an organization that you are involved in?
Have you ever started an organization?
Leave a comment with your ideas and thoughts!