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The Planet

Why Membership Is Everyone's Business

The Planet, December 1995, Volume 2, number 9

by Sandy Miles Membership Committee Chair

Membership is every member's business -- donor, activist, leader or lobbyist -- and the lifeblood of the Sierra Club. Our strength lies in our grassroots base and nowhere is that more apparent than in our membership statistics. Two-thirds of our members join through mass marketing methods, like direct mail or canvassing, but many don't renew. Those members recruited locally by other members, on the other hand, have more first-hand knowledge of local issues, identify with local members, and are more likely to renew with the Club over the years. It is for this reason that all local outreach efforts should provide recruitment opportunities.

Say your local group has formed a coalition of neighborhood associations, hiking clubs and churches to stop the city from selling a park to build a mall. You've just finished a great meeting. You set clear goals, planned exciting events, assigned jobs. Everyone congratulated the Sierra Club on its great organizing. But if you haven't asked your newfound friends to join the Club, you may have overlooked an important chance to gain members.

Anytime there is a gathering where the Club participates, make sure that membership information is available. Your membership committee will work with you to integrate membership recruitment into your conservation activities, outings and public meetings.

Conservation: One-third of our members say they joined because of our conservation efforts. So carry membership information to all conservation meetings you attend on behalf of the Club, and tell other participants how they can make a difference by joining our organization. Sometimes you can -- with appropriate permission, of course -- use meeting registration forms or membership lists for Club recruitment.

Outings: One of five members say they joined because of outings and social activities. Publicize your outings to non-members through the media and other organizations, and be sure to connect with non-members during the outings. Use sign-in sheets to send membership information or hand it out at the end of the hike. Better yet, add a social event with food after the outing and ask these non-members to join on the spot. (Never underestimate the power of refreshments.) You can also combine conservation and outings by scheduling an outing to a threatened area.

Programs: When you have public meetings, identify non-members or new members with name tags. Urge your chapter or group leaders to make a special effort at general meetings to speak with non-members and new members. Open meetings that consist entirely of Club business have proven to be a turnoff to non-members and new members. Encourage all your committees to include membership outreach in their plans. And budget some money for membership activities. Remember, your chapter or group receives a $5 rebate on locally recruited memberships through the Field Recruitment Incentive Program (FRIP) or $17.50 through SuperFRIP.

Spending a little extra time on membership development can pay big dividends. More members mean more money, more activists and more clout. And we need that today more than ever.

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