Saturday, October 1, 2011

Junior Membership - How to Gain and Maintain

Today was Pennsylvania’s Fall Meeting where everyone in the state is encouraged to attend and learn from educational workshops.  As state Junior Membership Chairman, I was asked to present a session on “Sweet Success with Junior Membership”. 

(Thank you to Becky Osbourn for the title slide.)

The goals of the workshop were simple:
1.      Understand the role that Juniors have in the longevity of our organization.
2.      Describe ways to gain new Juniors into a chapter.
3.      Develop a strategy to make your current Juniors more active members.

1.  The role of Juniors
Having this opportunity to present this workshop supported my belief that this organization needs to grow in order to continue the great work that our ladies do on a daily basis.  This venue afforded me that platform to stress our state Junior Membership motto, “Juniors are the KEY to the future of Pennsylvania DAR.”
It disturbs me to know that there are chapters that have fewer and fewer meetings each year due to a lack of interest while other chapters are thriving.  What is their secret to success?  How can we spread some of this ‘magic’ around to all the chapters?  Well, it isn’t magic, it is just a consistent effort to gain the younger members and to help them become active.

2.  Gaining new Juniors
There are several ways to gain Junior members into your chapter.  Be sure to do the obvious – enroll your daughters, granddaughters, nieces, or family members.  I joined just to honor my grandmother and then look what happened…I fell in love with the great things our organization does for the world around us.  Another opportunity to find Juniors lies in your co-workers, neighbors, or even the friends of other Juniors in your chapter.  Go ahead and tell those around you about the great things we do.  Invite them to a meeting.  You would be surprised how many people have never really understood our organization and want to find out more.  You can also begin by forming a relationship with your local C.A.R. society.  DAR is the next logical step after C.A.R. and too many girls don’t realize they can continue serving their community as women.

3.  Making your Juniors active
This is where we spent the most time in our discussion.  I narrowed it down to a three-fold process:
A.    Make it convenient!
B.     Make it worthwhile!
C.     Make it fun!

A.   Make it convenient! – Juniors lead such busy lives these days with school or work on top of family.  If being a member is not convenient, it places a burden on the member.  So, to make it convenient for a Junior…
·         Offer a ride to the meeting.
·         Have a “$20 off your first year’s dues” offer.   Someone suggested free first year’s dues… but with a very successful chapter, this can be a large investment.  We will have a total of 7-8 new Junior members this year in my chapter, the Jacob Ferree Chapter.  That would be a lot of money.
·         Hold your meetings on Saturdays.  Ladies, no one wants to hear this one since no one likes change.  But having your meetings during the normal work week is like the kiss of death.  No working woman, which most of your Juniors these days are, is going to take a day off of work once a month to attend a DAR meeting.  Those days off are reserved for family and special needs.  Our chapter used to have about 10 members at a meeting with about 70 total members – on Tuesdays.  Now that our meetings are on Saturdays, we have close to 40 at a meeting with a membership approaching 130.  Rip it off like a Band-Aid, ladies, and just make the change.  People hate change, and many members will hate this change, but it is an investment in the future of your chapter.  Trust me.  Just do it.
·         Have a family inclusive event (potluck, picnic, benefit, cemetery clean up…).  If they can bring their kids, they are more likely to come.
·         Arrange for a babysitter.  Perhaps another member has a teenage daughter that would be willing to come and watch all the younger children during the meeting. 
·         Pass a “We love our Juniors” can to help support your pages.  Juniors are usually on the low end of the pay scale in any business.  So, to have that financial support to attend your state conference or Continental Congress will go a long way in encouraging them to take that step and volunteer.
·         Add a line in your chapter’s budget to support your pages.  Many of the pages I meet tell me they never would have paged if their chapter would not have paid part of their way.

B.  Make it worthwhile! – As a Junior once told me, “I feel valued and can add value.”  If your Juniors feel like they are in integral part of your chapter, they will help your chapter flourish.
·         Assign committee leadership aligned with her interests.  Find out what she loves…is it gardening?  Bam!  There’s your new conservation chairman.   Is she descended from an American Indian?  Wham!  There’s your new American Indians chairman.
·         Ask her to help lead a program based on her talents or skills.  Too often we see our Juniors as “young” and inexperienced, but they often have talents and skills we don’t possess and it goes unrealized. 
·         Create programs that are of interest across age boundaries.  Don’t have a program on “Dealing with your retirement.”  How about a great Women’s Issues program.   We are all women.  We all have issues, right? J
·         Mentor your Juniors so they realize the value of their time investment.  This one is huge.  More experienced members need to keep in contact via phone, email, or Facebook with your Juniors.  Share your magazines with them.  Get them an invitation to page and help them complete their paperwork for it.  Sit with the Junior you are mentoring at your meeting.  Introduce her to everyone. 
·         Show them that they are important…value them.  Why not recognize one of your Juniors as your Chapter Outstanding Junior?  Give them a KEY lapel pin to tell them they are the KEY to the future of DAR.  Take them to the next fundraiser in your area as your guest.
·         Foster friendships for them with other Juniors…friendships that last a lifetime.  Encourage them to page at your local state conference and then Continental Congress.  A Junior that pages is a Junior that grows into a leader.

C.  Make it fun! – This applies to maintaining all membership.
·         Plan a “Ladies Night Out”.
·         Connect your Juniors with other Juniors in your chapter or in the state.  Let one of the active pages in your state know about your new or inactive Junior and the connection will be made.   It sometimes takes a Junior to entice a Junior.
·         Talk to your Juniors!  Get to know them and their interests.
·         Be open to new ideas.  We recently marched, in colonial costume, in the local Memorial day parade for the first time in decades.  We had a large Junior turnout.  I am trying to convince my Juniors in my chapter to get the local news to do a story on us skydiving while holding our DAR banner!!!  (I am pretty sure this has never been done before.)

I believe today’s workshop was successful.  The three goals were fulfilled.  Now, having every member in PA support their Juniors is a job for the membership.   I gave everyone a “Commitment Card” with a list of all of these ideas.  I asked the ladies to commit to at least one, if not many, of the concepts presented.  Only time will tell.  Let’s see how we do.