How to Successfully Initiate New Members
A welcoming branch is critical for retaining members. New members may not return after attending their first or second event, which can be a symptom of an organizational culture that doesn’t feel welcoming to new people. Current leaders and members should be actively recruiting and welcoming newcomers. Here are some steps to create a welcome program for new members.
Create a welcome packet.
Produce a packet of materials for each new member who joins your branch. Include a branch brochure that lists branch interest groups and topics for branch meetings, a leadership contact list, a new-member survey, and whatever else you think a new member needs to be fully engaged in your branch. Immediately mail it to new members after they join.
Create a new-member survey.
Why guess what new members want when you could just ask? Asking directly will help you manage expectations. Create a short survey, give it to new members, and be sure to ask which issues they care about, which programs they’re interested in, and how they’d like to get involved. You can use this template to get started.
Create and send a welcome e-mail.
Reach out to new members and tell them how excited you are that they’ve joined your branch. Provide the name of someone to contact (like the membership vice president or an assigned buddy) if they have questions. Mention some upcoming events or programs that the branch has planned. If your new-member survey is electronic, include it in the e-mail. Send it to new members within a week of when they join.
Set the Stage for a Welcoming Environment
Engage all your members in welcome efforts.
Encourage new members to sit and connect with people they don’t already know. Discourage cliques. Consider having a greeter to connect new participants with members as they enter. Remember, membership is everyone’s business!
Assign new members a mentor or buddy.
One of the most awkward parts of joining a new group is not knowing anyone. Assigning each new person a mentor or buddy gives them a connection — someone they’ll know in the group. These mentors or buddies should be responsible for talking to new members, introducing them to other members, bringing them to board meetings and interest group events, and making them feel welcome and part of the branch.
Introduce new members at events.
Introducing new members is a simple yet effective way to welcome them to the branch and make them feel included. Plus, it lets other members identify the new members, so they can easily introduce themselves and strike up conversations. You could also create special name tags for new members to wear at their first events. Start meetings with introductions, and ask new members to share their preferred names and gender pronouns. Respect gender pronouns and gently correct others who make mistakes.
Highlight and welcome new members in your newsletter.
This is another great way to introduce new members to current members. Include a picture so that current members can recognize new members at future events, but always remember to ask for the new member’s permission first.
Review the responses to the new-member survey.
Use new members’ responses to engage them in your branch, and encourage them to become involved in activities and pursue leadership opportunities according to their interests. If they’re interested in a particular group, ensure that the proper introductions are made. If they express interest in pursuing leadership, provide them with a clear pathway toward that goal. Consider conducting an orientation session where new members can learn how to start taking on leadership roles in your branch.
Host a welcome event or orientation.
This event could be a new-member mixer where current and new members are encouraged to mingle and meet. It could be an event solely for new members and leadership (branch president, membership vice president, those in charge of special activities, or others) to acquaint new members with leadership and help them explore the various ways to engage with the branch. Or you could host a speed-dating event where all of your branch’s interest groups are represented, and new members can learn about the interest groups. Schedule these events quarterly or monthly based on demand.
Evaluate your efforts.
Follow up with new participants after they attend their first programs to assess their impressions and how welcome they felt. Track whether or not new members are participating in the branch — if they attend meetings, interest groups, or other programs. Hold a yearly new-member focus group where members who have joined in the past year can reflect on their experiences, both with the branch generally and with your orientation program. Use all this feedback to make adjustments where necessary.
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