Chapters run on a special fuel: member energy and participation. But sometimes that fuel runs low and it’s difficult to keep members, especially seniors, engaged. We’ve identified three valid and understandable reasons why chapter members don’t participate plus several solutions for overcoming those obstacles.
#1: Chapter participation doesn’t fit into their busy schedule.
More and more chapter members are unable or unwilling to commit the amount of time traditionally required to be an active and engaged member of their chapter. As a busy college student, their plate may already be full with classes, jobs, internships, or a multitude of other requirements and demands on their time.
Seniors, and even some juniors, may already be looking ahead to what comes next. So, how do you make being an engaged chapter member easier?
Multipurpose programming is the solution to addressing a packed calendar that’s laden with too many meetings, programs, or activities.
- Count a university program or event as a chapter program or event. In other words, if both the university and your chapter/organization require similar programming around a topic, and it meets your requirements, take advantage of the university’s event, and count it as a chapter event.
- Members will thank you for not making them attend two separate events.
- You may save resources (time, money) by not having to plan a separate event.
- Use it as a great PR opportunity by asking members to wear their letters to the event!
- Make chapter meetings more productive and fun. Take a critical look at your agenda. Is your business meeting nothing but announcements and reports? If so, consider doing a “paper meeting” to take care of the business and use that valuable time to do a fun chapter event, team building activity, or work session (i.e. recruitment prep).
#2: Their chapter experience doesn’t provide enough return on investment.
Members might have time to participate, but they just don’t think the experience is worth their time or their money. They aren’t seeing the value in their membership and start to lose interest. So, how do you answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
Consider programs that re-engage your members. Get back to basics and remind them of all of the reasons they joined your organization.
It’s all about relationships! Take a look around. Are your members getting to know each other? Are older members given an opportunity to interact with new members in a meaningful way? Are you utilizing your local alumni(ae), so members understand the benefits of lifetime membership? If the answer to any or all of these questions is “no”, consider programs that are more interactive and require more social engagement and conversation. When appropriate, invite local alumni(ae) to participate and share their experiences.
Both informal and formal rituals help reconnect members to the values and ideals of your organization. Rituals are particularly helpful when chapter morale is down, or when a special occasion or event should be celebrated or remembered.
Provide opportunities for members to volunteer for your designated philanthropy or a local charity. The more we give or do for others, the happier we feel. Studies show that volunteering increases a person’s self-confidence and provides a natural sense of accomplishment. The better we feel about ourselves, the more likely we are to have a positive view of the world around us. Don’t forget, volunteering as a group is even more fun and offers a natural opportunity to bond over a shared experience!
#3: Members aren’t feeling appreciated for going “above and beyond” expectations.
Don’t let members who are doing great things go unnoticed, unappreciated, or uncelebrated! Even though many people do what they do simply for the satisfaction of doing a great job, it never hurts to give them an unexpected pat on the back.
If you don’t have one, create a robust recognition program. If you already have one, use it, and use it often!
- A simple thank you goes a long way. Write a quick note that acknowledges their good deed or accomplishment, give them a call to let them know you recognize and appreciate their success, or give them a shout out with well-deserved accolades at one of your meetings.
- Offer a small gift or a token of appreciation. Gift cards, certificates, sweets, or something with your organizations symbol or name on it makes a nice little surprise. Remember, tokens of appreciation don’t have to be large and expensive, they just need to be sincere and from-the-heart.
- Consider meaningful and fun chapter awards to acknowledge members on a regular basis. Take some time at each meeting to celebrate the accomplishments, both big and small, of your members.
As with any programming, take a minute to evaluate its effectiveness and success. If something isn’t working, don’t keep doing it because “we’ve always done it”. Don’t be afraid to survey your members to ascertain their thoughts and opinions. Members who feel like they have some ownership in the decisions that are being made are more likely to engage and participate.