Monday, April 28, 2014

Wanted: New Members and Volunteers

During my first week on the job I got a chance to review 79 leader surveys, discuss the results with 30 some leaders and visit leaders at three member meetings to better understand HLAA Chapter opportunities and needs first-hand. I thank everyone for his or her feedback and am planning to address all the major results in future blogs as well as at the All-Leaders Workshop on Wednesday, June 25 from 2 to 5 pm in Austin at the HLAA Convention 2014.

One of the most commonly raised issues is the need to attract new members and more volunteers. There are many factors that contribute to this, but for now, let’s focus at the critical factor of first impressions, the foundation of an effective member building effort. All chapters report they get first-time visitors at meetings, but only a few chapters seem able to consistently encourage many of their visitors to return to future meetings, and even fewer have success in nurturing newcomers to become active members or volunteers. Not surprisingly, the successful chapters share several best practices in how they welcome visitors, which include a:

Warm Greeting                         
A smiling, friendly receptionist can set the tone for a supportive and welcoming environment. 

Welcoming Receptionist
Simple Sign-in
The successful chapters focus at getting the visitors to provide the information they need: a name and e-mail address so they can send them meeting notices. Studies show many people avoid giving their e-address if a sign-in asks for too much information, so don’t request a home address, phone number or anything else unless you plan to use it immediately at this stage of developing a relationship.

Explanation of Why an E-mail Address is Helpful 
Some people are resistant to give their e-mail address but most will consent if the sign-in sheet simply says that “chapter updates on future meetings are only sent via e-mail”.

HLAA Information
The reception table should provide an introduction to HLAA and the chapter. The most persuasive tools are Hearing Loss Magazine and a flyer that introduces the chapter’s HLAA mission, meeting schedule and contact info.

A Welcome Kit 
Successful chapters do not leave the discovery of the introductory materials to chance for visitors. They hand them a packet, which can be as simple as a one-page letter of welcome with the chapter’s mission, meeting schedule and contact information.

A Newcomer Name Tag
Everyone at the meetings should have a name tag, but visitors need one that easily identifies them as a guest, such as a color-coded tag.

A Personal Welcome from a Leader
The toughest moment for a first-timer visitor is when they walk into a room full of strangers, often alone. A friendly welcome by one of the leaders who highlights what to expect in the meeting can set them and their expectations at ease. Another very helpful upfront practice is for a leader to tell the visitor that they would like to hear how the meeting went for them after the meeting ends.

Volunteer Job Title List 
It helps to make a call for volunteers at every meeting and refer all interested candidates to a written list of the job titles that you are looking to fill.

E-mail follow-up
A very effective technique is an e-mail from the chapter leader within a few days of the meeting to a personally welcome the visitor again, briefly remind them of the mission, upcoming schedule and encourage them to contact you personally if they have any questions.

I would love to hear from each of you on what is working and where you need more support.  

Director of Chapter Development

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