Adopt a program designed to welcome newcomers and help them to become actively involved with the group.
By Jay Blumenthal, F230605, National Vice President, International Area
Members are the blood flowing through the arteries and veins of FMCA. We’re constantly replenishing our supply, but we’re losing even more than we gain. This is not healthful. We all need not only to recruit new members, but we must learn how to retain them. We can do this as individuals and as chapters.
Say you’ve talked to one or a number of prospective members who have expressed an interest in FMCA. Maybe they’ve already joined. What kind of members do you want them to be? How are you going to ensure that they will become active, long-term members? Make no mistake; if they do not feel welcome and become active, they will not stay in the organization. It is up to you to show them the benefits and how much fun it is being a member. How do we do that? The answer is mentoring.
What is mentoring, who uses it, how does it work, and how can you do it and even incorporate it into your chapter?
Mentoring can be used to welcome and involve new members, thus ensuring their continued participation. It’s also a way to bring back members who have drifted away or haven’t been active for a while. Through personal contact from a knowledgeable active member, prospective members and new members will be drawn into the group, will become informed and active, will increase their own enjoyment, and eventually will contribute to the group. Inactive members will be drawn in and once again be an integral part of the chapter. Active, happy members of any group will stay with and contribute to that group, while ignored people will soon be gone. You have a small window of time to make those people feel welcomed and get them involved.
Businesses, service groups, social groups, and school systems frequently assign mentors to aid newcomers. Having been an educator for more than 34 years, I frequently saw this in action. A new teacher would be assigned to an experienced one whose task was to introduce him or her to the rest of the staff and explain the policies and procedures of working in the school. Questions about grading, discipline, parent contact, etc. would be explained so the new teacher would feel and become an integral part of the staff “” and not out on a limb alone. Naturally, experienced teachers joining our school did not require as much mentoring, but they still were assigned to a mentor to ease their entry into the environment. The system works!
As an individual, when you recruit members, write down their contact information so you can keep track of them. You’ll receive notice from FMCA when they have joined. If you don’t hear, then call your prospective members and make sure they have sent in the paperwork, or remind them they can join over the phone or online. When you are sure they have joined, call or e-mail them, welcoming them to the FMCA family, and remind them of some upcoming FMCA events, such as chapter rallies, area rallies, and international conventions. Make sure they have received their Family Motor Coaching magazine and tell them how to find listings of chapter rallies in their local area or state. If you’re anywhere near them, meet them personally to do this. Offer to go with them to an FMCA event and do all you can to ensure that they feel welcomed and become involved. Remember, happy, involved members of any group don’t drop out. Many long-term friendships have begun with a personal invitation to join together.
Quite a few FMCA chapters already use some form of mentoring. Why not yours? The first step is to identify active, enthusiastic members of your chapter who would agree to make personal contact with the prospective/new members. Make a list of these mentors and designate someone to organize and oversee them “” perhaps a chapter vice president or membership person. The mentors’ job is to make personal contact by phone, e-mail, and/or regular mail to welcome the new members into the chapter, provide them with information about the chapter, and invite them to the next chapter event.
Whenever possible, mentors who live close enough to get together with the prospective member or new member should offer to meet up with them and travel to the next chapter event together. If possible, the mentors should park near the new recruits. They should escort them to happy hours, seminars, side trips, meals “” whatever activities are planned. Have the mentors learn as much as they can about their contacts and then introduce them to other chapter members at a happy hour, meeting, or meal.
By the end of the event, the mentor should ask the new people to volunteer for some small task right there at the event “” moving chairs or cleanup, for example “” anything to make them feel as though they have contributed and become part of the group. The chapter president or rally master can involve new or prospective members by asking them to count votes, draw raffle tickets, or help distribute prizes. Before or as the event is winding down, the prospective members should be given the opportunity to join. Chances are they will.
First-timers should be given a special badge or ribbon, and all members of the chapter should be urged to make these guests feel welcome. Think of fun ways to encourage the newcomers to take an active role in getting to know your group. One idea might be to ask them to get as many signatures as possible from all the members in attendance, or a similar task. The mentors should give them some help at first, then turn them loose.
The guests should never sit alone. The mentors should be their constant companions, but they should give them some personal space, too. All chapter officers should go out of their way to make them welcome and get to know them, too.
When the event is over, the mentoring is not. Mentors should remain in contact with their charges and get their impression of the event. One or more officers might do a follow-up, too.
The more they feel a part of the chapter, the likelier prospective members are to join it and become active, long-term members. Mentors should make sure their contacts are aware of future chapter activities and urge them to attend. The mentoring process should be repeated, but this time giving more independence to the new members. The mentors may choose to take on some responsibility in planning or running the next event, and they should ask their new friends to assist them. Eventually, through the mentor or some other active member, the new members should be encouraged to broaden their scope in FMCA by attending an area rally or international convention, perhaps with other chapter members.
These same or similar techniques should also be used to bring back chapter members who seem to have faded into the background and rarely participate. Draw them back in through personal contact and help them return to the flow of the chapter.
The time and effort required to recruit and/or retain members is well worth the few hours you will invest. As an individual, you are investing a few hours and are quite possibly establishing a new and lasting friendship. Both you and the new member will have fun and enjoy FMCA activities.
If you are a chapter leader, your job was stated near the beginning of this article: to identify active, enthusiastic members who already exist within the chapter as potential mentors. Since you are concerned with the welfare of your chapter, you already know who these folks are. From then on, you keep track of the organization of this, but others do the contacting. I’m sure you want to further the growth of your chapter and develop new members into leaders so the chapter will continue to flourish.
What are you waiting for? It’s time for all of us as individuals and through our chapters to help strengthen FMCA by keeping the blood pumping through the arteries and veins of our organization. It’s time to adopt a mentoring program. Should you need help or more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (714) 749-5701.