Saturday, March 1, 2008

News from National: Building a Lasting Membership Base

 Via Carol Eichler, chair:

How do we recruit new members to our Chapter? How can the Chapter play a part in recruiting new members to NARGS National? How can we retain our members?

NARGS National’s Membership Committee met to address these issues and their report was sent to me by Dick Bartlett, NARGS President. The national organization has well-documented statistics that show a steady and significant decline in its membership.

At one time or another, we have implemented virtually every idea that was listed in the report. Our own membership has seen its ups and downs but seems to be holding steady and it is no doubt the synergy of all these membership strategies that makes a difference.

Here are several things that I sense have been key for our chapter. First and foremost we offer great programs on a wide range of topics – often found nowhere else in our community We make sure press releases are sent out about our programs to attract the greater community. This adds to the visibility of the May plant sale which is another strong and dependable recruiting tool.

Additionally, our meetings include time for people to talk to each other. More than any other thing we do, we try to be inclusive and engaging. A few years ago we began our February “members share” meeting to kick-off the program year. Beginning with a few brave people who modestly shared photos or garden stories, it has grown to our fullest program yet this year with several presenters offering some fantastic slide shows. Even more recently we began asking members to make up posters of garden photos (simpler than a slide show and something that can be shared year round). Plus we now have a bulletin board for posting other garden activities such as sales, tours, and programs. We want our members to take some responsibility for “owning” the Chapter.

One last member incentive is that we get people growing rock garden plants. Our plant-of-the-month sale (buy one, get one free for members) has been enormously successful in making rock garden plants more affordable and getting into people’s gardens while expanding their knowledge base and their interest.

I might boldly suggest that more important than looking at “dues paying members” to assess how we are doing, we should examine our attendance numbers at meetings and the number of active, contributing participants. From this perspective our Chapter is looking very strong! Our plant sales, which are dependent on contributors and buyers, have been steadily increasing over time. And this year, 2008, we have more members serving in leadership roles than we’ve had in a long time. We have had to work at both of these accomplishments.

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