Chapter 2 – Attracting and Recruiting New Members:
- Developing a Strategic Plan:
A strategic plan is a plan, or mission statement, that defines an organisation’s reason for existence and how it will achieve its goals, eg., “The Society for Creative Anachronism is an international, non-profit, educational organisation dedicated to researching and re-creating pre 17th Century, European History.” One of our broad goals is to attract, educate and retain new members.
So . . . . . how is your group going to accomplish that goal at the local level?
There are several ways to attract new members . . . . . personal contact, demos, flyers in libraries and shopping centres, advertising through printed and electronic media, or simply by chance.
- Brainstorm: At Council, ask for suggestions for demos, advertising, etc. At this point, the feasibility of the idea should not be discussed. Simply record all suggestions for discussion later. If possible, use “flip chart pages” and brightly coloured marking pens to record the ideas. Blue-tac each page on a wall (or board) if possible, to help participants stay on tract and avoid duplication.
- Discuss and Refine your ideas: Once everyone has had a chance to make suggestions, discuss each idea as a group. In your discussions be sure to consider what resources your group will need, (people, time, money, materials, equipment, site, etc.) to go forward with a recruitment activity. Once you have discussed all the suggestions, come to a consensus on a few activities that are reasonably within your group’s scope to implement. If you pick too many, you may find that your ideas will not be met with too much enthusiasm, or your group will get burned-out try to conduct too many demos
- Develop a plan: Now that you have determined what activities you want to pursue, it is time to determine how you are going to implement them. To be sure that your group “stays on track”, develop a written plan. For each major activity, your plan should include the various tasks required, the target completion dates for those tasks and the name of the person who agreed to complete the various tasks.
- Solicit Support: Before you start to implement your plan, it is a good idea to ensure that you have the support of the general populace. If you don’t, you won’t have many volunteers to help you put your plan into effect. Therefore, discuss the plan at a Council meeting, publish your plan in your newsletter and on your web-page, send out to your group’s email list. Make sure you provide an opportunity for members to give you some feedback. Review the feedback you receive and revise your plan if necessary.
- Implement the Plan: Find volunteers to organise the demo or an activity and / or develop flyers and articles for publication or posting etc. You may find that you will need to revise the plan during the implementation process, due to unforeseen circumstances. It’s good to be flexible, just be sure that you don’t radically change “the plan”, or its intent, without discussing it with your group first.
- Measure your Group’s Success: Your success is not necessarily measured by how many new members you were able to retain. As a group, discuss what worked well, what didn’t work well and why. If possible, get some feedback from newcomers who attended the activity, or saw your “ad” in the paper / publication. If you conducted a demo, ask for feedback from the site owners. Review the feedback that you have gathered, analyse it and learn from it.
2. Spreading the word: You have several tools available to help publicise the SCA and attract new members . . . . .
- personal contact
- electronic media
- print media
Personal contact . . . . .
The most effective method for attracting newcomers is to actively talk about your positive SCA experiences to friends, co-workers and anyone else who is willing to listen.
Remember, enthusiasm is infectious!
Most people are introduced to the SCA by a friend. Most come back because they were treated kindly and made to feel welcome by the members they were introduced to.
There are many people who do not feel comfortable conversing with people they don’t know because they are shy, or don’t know what to talk about. In many instances, long-time members unintentionally ignore newcomers because they are too busy “catching-up” with friends, or are involved in their own interests.
Whilst you cannot control how people behave, you can certainly encourage and remind them, (on a regular basis) to be courteous and friendly.
Here is an example of some useful suggestions for you and members of your local populace on how to ensure that newcomers feel welcome . . . . .
Electronic Media . . . . .
We may re-create pre17th century European history but we live in the 21st century. take advantage of available technology. Web pages, mailing lists and instant messaging are useful tools for attracting newcomers and maintaining contact.
Web pages should be interesting, informative, quick to download and easy to navigate. Your web page should, at minimum, contain local contact information, an activities calendar and some general information on the SCA and your local group. Also consider adding a picture gallery, “how to” articles, colourful graphics and any pertinent information you think would be useful to newcomers.
If you don’t know how to develop a web page, there are probably members of your local populace who have the technical skills and are willing to establish a web page and periodically revise it to keep it up-to-date. Most groups now have a “Web Minister” whose sole purpose is to keep your group “alive” on the web.
Print Media . . . . .
Posters, flyers, business cards, bookmarks, newspaper ads and articles are all examples of “printed media” that can be used to publicise the SCA.You can choose how you go about creating and printing cards and flyers; if you, or someone in your group, is creative and has the printer capability to do so, then a do-it-yourself angle is to be considered. If your group has the funds to get your cards and / or flyers professionally printed, then that is also an option.
Your local library, bookstores, university, shopping centre bulletin boards can all be used to display and distribute SCA information. Be sure to obtain permission from the appropriate authorities before displaying any information, or leaving items for distribution. Also make sure that any contact names and numbers / email addresses etc. have the permission of the people involved before you publish.
The Lochac Seneschal is currently the PR and Media Officer, so if you have any queries in regard to printed media, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Following up on Contacts:
Once you have been contacted by an interested, potential member, it is crucial that you maintain contact. If someone has left you a voice mail message, or sent you an email message, be sure to respond within 5 days if possible. Failure to do so will almost certainly result in the potential newcomer feeling frustrated and / or unwelcome and will ultimately discourage them from joining the SCA.
On occasion, you may be contacted by individuals who at first seem very interested in the SCA. To the best of your knowledge, they have been made to feel welcome and have been provided with all the information they need to get started. They come to one or two events and you never see them again! Don’t take it personally! Chances are their modern lives were already very full, or complicated, and they have decided that it just wasn’t the right time to get involved in another group activity. It is possible that in time, they may become an active member of your group. You may want to consider waiting six months to a year after your last contact with that individual and sending a post card or email using the text below. If you don’t’ get a response, let it go. Never try to pressure someone into joining the SCA. They will contact you again if they are truly interested in the SCA and the time is right for them.