Using Your Why to Retain Members

By: Austin Arias

It is hard to believe but we are halfway into the fall semester. While we are enjoying the opportunity to take a breath and relax after jammed packed weeks filled with welcome week activities, involvement fairs, trainings and more, this is a crucial time for your student organization. You have just recruited some new members to join your group on campus and maybe held few interest meetings. Now is the time you have to work to retain those individuals so your organization can grow. But the only way to do that is to lead with your why – your organization’s purpose, mission and values.

Your organization’s why is the reason they wrote their name on your interest sheet, came to the meeting or emailed you to get more information. Your why is what you lead with to get them in the door. So how are you going to ensure you keep them throughout the year? How are you going to make sure they not only come back to the next meeting or attend the next event, but become long time members? Every action you take, event you hold or email you send or GroupMe message has to represent you who are and the organization you promised them when they decided to join.

Here are a few tips to retain members by incorporating your why:

  1. Build meaningful relationships – This is more than just knowing their name. This is about taking the time to get to know every new member. Grab dinner together in the dining hall before meeting or coffee between classes and get to know who they really are. What do they care about? What are their goals? Why did they choose your organization? This will help you better connect them to others in the group who can be friends or serve as mentors, gauge the things that resonated with them from start and help connect them to opportunities for them to grow within your organization.
  2. Create committees or events that grow your members – Once you have taken the time to get to know your new members, use that information, their why, combine it with your organization’s why and your goals for the year and create opportunities they can see themselves in; opportunities to utilize their interest and ultimately move your organization forward. Group members with similar interests – new and returning and encourage them to lead an event or create a committee to around one of your goals. Then, personally invite that new member to be a part of the experience. You have no idea how much that will mean. They will not only appreciate the fact you thought of them, but it will make them feel they belong because they will see a link between themselves and your organization. This is key in retaining any member.
  3. Engage in critical dialogue often – Do a pulse check of your organization often. Whether it is monthly or quarterly, take time as a general body to revisit goals, discuss your purpose and honestly ask if you are living up to it. Ask your new members if they feel they are a part of the same organization they joined months before. Are you fulfilling your promise to them? Take this critical feedback, work with your executive board and turn into opportunities for growth. Include the brave first- or second-year member in the debrief and have them be a part of your action plan. This dialogue will not be easy, but it will help you as a leader and your organization so much.

Your organization’s why is important. It keeps you going and motivates for your members to continue. Use it to your advantage in this critical time. Do not let the semester end, and you return in the fall to less members than you had before. Build some relationships, create opportunities, engage in dialogue now. It will pay off in the end with a stronger membership and more purposeful organization.