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The Alabama Voter 
Winter 2010 Edition
Published February 17, 2010

Attacking the Problem of Declining Membership

by Scarlett Gaddy, LWVAL 2nd VP & Membership Chair

How do we attract, engage, and maintain new members?  This is the most difficult task any volunteer organization has in sustaining itself.  The key to attracting members is to be an active organization and invite new members to join.  There are many potential members out there who just need someone to ask them to become involved.  A simple letter inviting someone to a League meeting or social event may be enough encouragement. When you attend other events where you might meet potential members, describe the League and gauge their interest.  If they appear to be interested, a letter of invitation may be sent by the membership chair of your League with more information about the League and how to join. When new members join, a welcome letter suggests you are aware they have joined and provides some basic information that is important for all in League to know. 

Engaging new members in on-going studies and activities is especially important.  Members who feel like they are making a contribution will be likely to remain in the League and their contributions are vital to the health of the local, state, and national LWV.  A simple questionnaire attached to the welcome letter asking for their areas of interest will aid you in determining where the new member will be able and willing to contribute. Once they have indicated their areas of interest it is important to follow up with an invitation to join an ongoing project or program study.  There are so many areas for members to contribute that the level of contribution is easily tailored to the member's schedule. 

We are all guilty of working the most willing to the point exhaustion instead of asking others to contribute because it easier to call on them for help.  Look at your organization.  Do the same members shuffle the leadership roles among themselves?  How often is someone new added to the Board, or heading up projects or studies?  Once new members are added, mentoring is important so they are not overwhelmed with the language, procedures, and processes of League.  Ask them to join in where they are interested, but don't hand over complete responsibility for large tasks in your relief that help has arrived.  Allow time for them to become acquainted with the way League approaches its work.  Once comfortable, they will be more receptive to a request for a more active role and we will have the means to maintain our Leagues. 

The reality for most of our Leagues is they have an aging and often declining membership. For League to be vital in the years to come, we have to increase our recruitment efforts and utilize our long-term members as mentors for younger members. We have to reach out to young women in the workplace and provide them with information via email and social networking tools like Facebook, wikis, and also through our web sites. Just having a web site or Facebook page is not enough. We must use them to relay information to our members and they must be updated frequently to reflect an active and growing League. These are great responsibilities to assign to younger members who may be online and utilizing these types of Web 2.0 tools often.

So how do we recruit, engage, and maintain our membership? We have to be active in our efforts to attract new members and once they have joined we have to engage them in their areas of interest with mentors guiding them. This may mean we extend our reach by engaging younger members on the Internet, in the workplace, on college campuses, or for that matter, on high school campuses. There are many opportunities for recruitment. We just have to take advantage of them.

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