IN THIS ISSUE
Time for Whistleblower Protection in Associations?
Look Out! Environmental Scanning for Associations
Building Trust Between Boards and Staff
Customer Service in Member Based Associations
Changing eStrategy Context for Associations
To Make New Members Feel Welcome
Executive Coaches Offer Associations a New Game Plan
A Virtual Success
Change Management with Peter de Jaeger
Customer Relationships with Paul Ward
TOOLS, TIPS AND RESOURCES
ARTICLE - Sue Frogatt
How to Make New Members Feel Welcome
When new members join your association
some will have no problems getting involved. However
others may be unsure about what to do or not very keen to
turn up at an event and walk into a room full of
So what steps can you make to new members
feel welcome and involved?
A strategic approach would be to introduce
an ‘orientation’ objective into your membership
development plan, one that sets out an agreed schedule of
contact which gives new members guidance on how to meet
their initial expectations and achieve a sense of value.
Alternatively you could simply look at a list of welcoming
ideas and try out those you feel would suit your
In this article I will cover both
A strategic approach to orientation
Having a systematic approach to making new
members feel welcome using a schedule of contact will
ensure consistency and momentum. The schedule should be a
carefully planned, timely and relevant flow of materials
and invitations, blended with conversations with staff and
other members to educate and involve them quickly. This
could be managed at national or regional levels. Here is a
sample five step schedule of contact:
Step 1: Acknowledge receipt of
their application form within a day. Send them an email
or thank you note that you have received their
application. Let them know what is happening next and
how long it will take to process. This sets the tone for
your relationship and makes you look highly responsive
Step 2: Send them a welcome pack.
There are many things you could include, so be careful
not to overwhelm them. For a list of 25 different types
of items to include
clickhere. You might want to consider either
staggering despatch, sending parts electronically,
pointing them to your web site for more information or
sending them a list of what is available and ask them to
indicate what they would like sent next on a request for
information form. Alternatively this form could be sent
out in step 1 above, so the pack that arrives contains
exactly what they need.
Step 3: After they have had
chance to look over the pack, have someone telephone
them and personally welcome them. Also:
Check their contact details are
correct because there is nothing more annoying that
having your name and contact details incorrect.
Identify what they expect. Why did
they join? It is important to recognise what type of
member they are in order to understand what they will
value from the association. Extensive research into
100,000 members of associations shows that they will
fall into nine different categories, so it is
important to understand their personal needs.
You also need to check their
perceptions are correct regarding what they expect out
of the association and adjust any misunderstandings
early on. This is also an important step if they
joined by direct mail and have had no personal
Help them understand how to take
advantage of the association. Use the call to help
create awareness for undiscovered services and
Gently encourage them to participate.
For example, connect them with someone with the same
interests or invite them to an event.
One association was very sceptical
about doing this and thought it would be a waste of
resources. But after testing, it proved so successful
they hired someone to do this full time. Their salary
was more than covered by the increase in renewals.
Make sure you set the ground rules.
Schedule a time for the call and let the member know how
long it will take. I would suggest 10 minutes maximum.
Step 4: After a few months send
them a new member satisfaction survey. Call them to
explain its importance and check it has arrived. You
will find a template of a sample questionnaire
Step 5: Call everyone after six
months to check up that they have got value out of their
membership. Reconfirm what they want. Let them know
there opinions and ideas are welcome and tell them about
this months events or launches and if they have not yet
started to engage suggest ways and encourage them to get
involved according to their criteria. Use a coupon with
an expiry date to encourage them to purchase
publications or events.
Identify the five most common thing new
members do in the first six months. After three months
check to see who has done less than one of these items
on the list and then put effort behind encouraging this
group to get involved. You might want to set an
objective to have a certain percentage of new members
engaged in at least two of these activities within six
Encourage networking. Use icebreakers at
the start of each event to give people explicit
permission to talk to a stranger. Introduce a budding or
mentoring system. Train people in how to network.
Networking is an important personal and business skill
that they forgot to teach us at school. Help or train
people in how to remember everyone’s name and put
photographs in members directories
Hold special events for new members.
Have a special new member session before the start of
events so new people can meet other new people and
introduce committee members. If members are
geographically dispersed have a new member
teleconference session. The technology to do this is
very easy. Alternatively set up a special new member
newsgroup on your web site.
Promote them. Send a list of new members
out to local groups and if they haven’t attended the
first few meetings have someone call them to encourage
them to come along. Have a new member column in your
newsletter or on your web site. Use their photograph,
highlight their professional and personal interests and
ask them to put down a sentence of who they would be
interested in connecting with. Put special ribbons or
stickers on their name badges and ask existing members
to go out of their way to make a new member feel
welcome. Have a new member slot at meetings and give new
members a minute to speak and introduce themselves. Some
might not want to do this so, make it optional.
Set up a special ‘Orientation Committee’
to focus on looking after new members. For example, they
could design an information sheet for newcomers
attending a convention on what to bring and wear. Ask
them to focus on people who have joined on a trial
membership because they have a particularly high
attrition rate because they did not make full financial
investment and so are less committed.
Have a ‘Give & Get’ notice board at all
events. This is for people to add post-it notes to
highlight what they have to give to another member and
what they are looking for. It is a great place for
people who don’t know anyone to stand at an event and
helps connect people who can help.
Acknowledge recruiters. Thank people who
introduced new members and reward them with a bonus if
the new member renews. This will encourage them to help
them make sure their contacts are happy with your
New members represent an important group
for two reasons. Their first year is the best opportunity
to lay the foundation for long-term loyalty and the year
that most members are likely to leave because the passive
members will have a perception of little value.
So you need to develop a range of engaging
strategies and tactics to ensure that their expectations
are fulfilled, otherwise you might loose them. Finally do
not leave it for ten months to find out if a new member is
happy because by then it will be too late. They often make
a decision not to renew months before the renewal notice
Sue Froggatt is a UK-based independent
consultant and trainer specializing in membership
development. For more information visit
This article was published in
Manager in September 2003. Reprinted with permission.
To build better
associations and non-profits by
and unparalleled expertise, programs
to their staff and