March 21, 2013

Membership and attendance are not the same thing

At meetings of your service club, you regularly see 20 of your 40 members. Is that a good statistic or a poor statistic?

I believe that if 50% of your membership participates, it is successful. Club meetings suffer from a lot of excuses; they are tough to get to, don't appeal to everyone, the meeting agenda is too busy or not busy enough, and the menu is unappealing are just some of the usual complaints. Lately, I've also heard a lot of this excuse: there is no time for networking. No, you can't appeal to everyone, but that doesn't mean that you and your club leadership shouldn't try. 

During a recent discussion on LinkedIn, Optimist Club members shared some of their ideas for increasing attendance at club meetings. They said that their clubs regularly do the following: 
  • Be sure that the speakers programs have a variety of presentations and that children and students are included in the mix. Invite parents and school officials to attend when students are present
  • Student of the Month program
  • Phone call tree to remind members to attend
  • Prominently feature community members including military, law enforcement and others
  • Serve home-cooked meals; share the responsibility with all members to provide a meal for the group
  • Fellowship meetings where club members spend time getting to know one another
  • Raffle tickets for free meals 
  • Meet at various times, i.e., hold an evening meeting once per month to supplement the regular morning or noon meetings
  • Post the meeting schedule on Facebook and email members to remind them
  • Spotlight a member at least once a month so they can tell about themselves and their business
However, the conversation came to a rather abrupt halt when one participant wrote, "Good attendance starts with the selection of the potential new members. If they are unable or unwilling to attend the regular meetings and the club activities then you have a membership problem, not, an attendance problem!"

Oh my. I couldn't disagree more. People join a group because they have an affinity for the cause or people involved in the cause. That doesn't mean that they will always, or for that matter, ever, participate. It's up to your club, and especially the new member sponsor, to help them become engaged. 

We have to take notice of the new member and treat them with special care because that "meeting stuff" is very likely not on their list of things to do because of the reasons mentioned above. That's an attendance issue.  We have to take equal care with our existing members because at different times in their lives, the reasons mentioned as well as life events will take precedence in their lives. That's an attendance issue.

So put the gimmicks aside, my friends. Make the meeting relevant, transparent, and time conscious and then add in a little fun and you'll find that your members want to attend. In fact, they won't want to miss, but when they do, they will still maintain their membership because they want to be associated with your club even when they can't participate. 

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