Helping New Members Feel They Belong

From AEU Membership Workshop, October 1991, Westchester)

People could really listen to them. Get them involved in small ways at first.

Communicate often — phone calls, written materials.

Establish relational/peer groups or new activities:

  • potluck dinners, socials, dances, theater parties, improvizational theater,
  • outreach, ethnic dinners, fall gathering (weekend away in the country),
  • workshops on different topics, fun(d) raiser parties, outdoor activities –
  • hikes, picnics, bike rides, camping, canoeing, sports, softball, volleyball; service
  • projects, clean-up, training programs

Accept people’s choice to be non-involved

Implement the freedom to say “no” to commitments.

Do things on a “human scale”.

Have programs where members share what the Society means to them.

Have ceremonial recognition of new members/ anniversaries of membership.

Explain what membership means to encourage long-term visitors to join.

Have a variety of programs:

  • book discussions
  • discussion groups on current issues
  • social service projects that call for short-term commitments
  • “friends” dinner for non-members
  • active Caring Committee which recruits members to provide help and support  to fellow members in need (driving people to hospital, doctor or for shopping; preparing meals for families with a sick parent; baby-sitting co-op; help with home-improvements or yard-work for the elderly or ill; helping someone move; sending get-well cards)

Involve new members in fun service such as arranging flowers for platform.

Hold a brunch, luncheon or dinner to welcome new members prepared by the previous “class” or group of new members (This is a great way to get newish members involved in a one-time, fun commitment, an opportunity to get to know other new members in their own group and in the groups before and after theirs.)

Pair each new member up with at least one “mentor” or special friend who will teach them the ropes, invite them to Society functions, introduce them to others with whom they have something in common, be a friend (Research shows that new members who make at least seven friends in their first few months are more likely to stick around.)

Start a Newcomer’s group that holds monthly social activities; make sure all new members and newcomers know about it.

Don’t rely on the newsletter to get new members or newcomers involved; many will need a personal or telephoned invitation to feel that they will be really welcome, especially at social functions.

Develop some “hooks” that will help people feel that they belong, to encourage people to join (To get some ideas about what these may be, ask around. What was the “hook” that got you involved?)