When I was four we moved from the outskirts of a big city to a town with one stop light. It was past the ‘burbs and, to me, felt like the middle of nowhere. But there’s one thing that made a huge impression. Shortly after we moved in, a station wagon filled with women drove up our driveway. The ladies were there to “welcome” my mother to town. Over three decades later, I still remember this quaint observance.
Today the big city has spread to that same tiny “artists’ haven” of a town and driving between the two one can not tell when the city ends and the other begins. Those women could no longer drop by the house of every new resident just to say “hey.” But as our world gets larger and more populated, it also gets smaller in ways those ladies couldn’t have possibly imagined in the mid-seventies. Now, with social media, we can “welcome” people who live on the other side of the planet.
Which brings me to the question, what are you doing to make your members feel welcome? I joined a group once where upon paying my dues, I was presented with a refrigerator magnet and a pen. Without additional value, I realized even a meager $35 for yearly dues was way too much to pay for a pen and a magnet. Plus those were welcome gifts, which meant when I renewed my membership, I wouldn’t even be getting that. See where value, or perceived value, plays a big role?
Maybe you have a great program for new members. Maybe you have existing members reach out in a buddy system to take newbies under their wing. Maybe you have a great gift basket and welcome lunch. But ask yourself what do you do when they are no longer new members? Is there anything in place for them after their first year?
Just as I was impressed by the station wagon-driving ladies, your members are less likely to leave when there is a personal connection holding them there. Help them put a face to your organization; it can be yours or someone you’ve selected for outreach. Making members feel welcome is important, necessary and time consuming; but ultimately it will set you apart from other groups. Make time to get connected and stay connected. The return on your actions will be the difference between your organization remaining a one-light group or blossoming into a bustling metropolis.