How To Retain Members As A Student Organization
Recruitment is a big part of the growth of any organization, but once you get those members it’s just as important to keep those members. Retention is important to strengthening your organization. No organization wants a ton of turnover–it doesn’t matter if you belong to a sorority or a smaller student organization on campus–retention is important.
Retention keeps your organization strong and helps your members get the most out of your organization. If done well, you can retain students from the time they enter your organization to the time they graduate and beyond. Retention builds strong relationships and valuable relationships well.
In this day and age, it’s easy for people to move around–which is great in some ways, but it really means you have to work hard to prove your organizations worth. What makes your organization stand out and become an important part of someone’s life? What do you bring to the table for them so that they can’t get your something anywhere else? You are pitching the value of your organization every single day to all your members. It’s so easy to just stop doing something that isn’t valuable to you–so make sure you are always showing off the value of your organization.
For today's article, I want to share a couple of retention techniques with you to keep your members interested in the organization and excited about it as well.
1. Be Clear About Student Organization Expectations
Depending on the size of your organization, it may require a lot of work. Even if you are a big organization, you may have pretty high expectations for your members. When you aren't clear about those expectations from the start, it can create a ton of turnover.
Think of this as a kind of buyer's remorse. Your member came into the organization expecting one thing from it, and then you gave them a more complicated version of that or one that doesn't look like they sell at all.
Think about this meme about the dancing hotdog for a second. You don't want your organization to be a “when you order something online versus when it arrives” type of organization. You want your organization to live up to the expectations you set, which means you have to be honest.
What kind of commitments should people expect?
- How much time should they expect to spend on the organization?
- What are the monetary expectations like?
- Should they expect a lot of fun events, charity events, etc.?
When you are clear from the start, you won't catch members off-guard, and they feel more compelled to stay.
2. Get To Know New Members
If your organization is getting new members, get to know them. Sororities are a little easier in this regard because of the entire new member process of getting your sisters initiated, but what if you aren't in a sorority? How do you make sure that your new members feel connected to your organization as a whole? You can:
- Assign new members to older members so they have a mentor.
- Do new member socials so older members get to know new members.
- Create a position in your organization whose sole job it is to be a resource to new members (you get to decide how long that new member process lasts.)
Make sure your new members feel included in your organization because if you recruit them and don’t retain them you will be right back at square one.
Sometimes you need to do this even when you don’t have new members. Pairing up your members might be a good way for members to get to know people they wouldn’t normally get to know.
3. Create A Suggestion Survey Or Box
Sometimes it’s much easier for someone to suggest something in an anonymous way.
Open a suggestion box and have your officers go through those suggestions and implement things regularly. Not only should you implement things regularly, though, you should let your members know exactly where you got the idea you are implementing. If you pulled a comment from the suggestions box and decided to implement that activity, let your organization members know. This way, people feel like you are hearing and understanding the information they share with you.
The organization shouldn’t be just a product of the officer team, but a product of your whole organization so you should always take what others say into consideration.
4. Make Events Fun, Not Mandatory
Having an active membership is important, but your members cannot eat sleep and breathe your organization. Things come up, so instead of making every event mandatory–make every event fun.
Too many mandatory events will put a damper in the calendars of your members and they might decide that your organization is too much for them. Instead make events fun and exciting to go to and offer incentives.
- Have a themed meeting (pajama day, costume day for Halloween, Disney, Wild Wild West, you name it!)
- Offer a prize to the person who comes to the most events in a month
- Have fun socials and mixers
Keep things exciting and appreciate those who come to a lot of things, but don’t make your whole calendar mandatory to get participation. Be understanding of people’s lives.
Focus On Quality Not Quantity
When it comes to meetings, you don't have to have all the meetings to be a successful organization. Focus on making sure that all the events you host as an organization are quality events. Don't host an event just because you haven't hosted one in a while. Keep your members posted and wait until you can create a quality event for your organization.
5. Reach Out To Those Who May Be Slipping
Sometimes you have members on the edge of quitting. If you can identify those members–reach out! You never know how much meaning a simple “love you and can’t wait to see you at the next meeting” text will have. Always be ready to spot those who are having a tough time and pull them back to your organization. Instead of letting those who are ready to quit, go, step in and let them know you care and want them in the organization.
Get to the bottom of exactly why they want to leave. You don't have to be forceful, but ask them a few questions. Is it the money? The time commitment? When you get to the bottom of why they want to leave, you may be able to offer remedies to their problems. If not, at least you tried.
6. Be Open To Change And Opportunities
Having a stake in an organization really does increase retention rates. Make sure your members have plenty of opportunities for advancement in your organization in the form of leadership roles and general inclusion in the organization.
Start new positions on the leadership team, make sure everyone feels like they have a say in what your organization does, and be open to learning about new ideas for leadership roles. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with every new leadership role, but if someone sees something your organization is missing hear them out out on implementing it.
I hope these tips have helped you come up with a retention plan for your organization. If your organization wants to succeed and have amazing members working on retention is always an important step to strengthening your organization.