ASK ALAN: Why your favorite service organization is going out of business? Part 1
What service organizations do you belong to? Are you concerned about their viability? You should be! Service organizations struggle to attract and retain members
Virtually every service organization in the U.S. is struggling to attract and retain members. Scouts, Lions, Kiwanis, Elks, Rotary clubs, and others are experiencing levels of attrition, not seen in years. And the current pandemic is not helping this situation.
Yet, the biggest single obstacle to increasing the number of members in these organizations, are the members themselves! A few years ago, Rotary International sought to discover an answer to this problem. They discovered that in the U.S., more than 90% of existing members had not asked, or sponsored, a new member to join their club, during the past ten years. This statistic is alarming and consistent with most service organizations.
Fellowship, doing good things help overcome tensions of economy
Many club presidents tell me they presume new members would not be interested in joining their clubs. Because of financial or other economic related issues. To me, this negativity is horrifying!
It may hold one of the keys as to why so many organizations are struggling. The economy seems to be the excuse du jour. However, most experts agree that fellowship and doing good things for others are among the best ways to overcome tensions caused by a problematic economy.
Retention is another issue for service organizations. One organization, I am personally familiar with, which had three hundred members at its peak, has been losing 10% of its members per year.
Club leaders ignore the problem
One mistake club leaders make is to avoid the problem. If efforts to attract and retain members are not driven top down, there is no hope. A second mistake is when a club does not have a dedicated “membership chair,” responsible for overseeing the recruitment of new members. In many clubs without such a chair, as quickly as the club leader runs out of prospects they personally know, new membership comes to a halt. While this may work short-term, it is not a reliable long-term strategy.
Surprisingly, when attention is paid to the problem, new members can be recruited and retained. I know because a service organization that I belonged to (with 2,800 members) agreed to use several of my suggestions. The result was the attraction of more than 300 new members in 120 days.
Ideas to recruit new members
New members and selected “key” existing club members be appointed “club ambassadors”
They are responsible for inviting “x number” of guests to a future club meeting. Ideally, some of these people, with welcoming encouragement, will want to become members of the club!
Club leadership should encourage members to strive to induct a minimum number of new members who have been previously associated with their or another service organization.
In my next column, I will provide more suggestions to attract new members. I will also include ideas to retain existing members. Whether it is attracting new or keeping existing members, I refuse to believe that you want to see your favorite service organization go out of business!