Shari Pash, Membership Strategist for Sigma Phi Gamma International Sorority, delivered her third webinar focused on membership retention and growth on March 23rd. It was an hour packed with great information, strategies, tips, and encouragement. To follow is my recap – if you couldn’t be on the webinar these notes might inspire you to watch the recording on the member side of the SPG website!
Let’s start with Why. Simon Sinek a well-known author, business leader, and motivator helps us understand the WHY of what we do. Everything we are doing to work on our recruiting and membership skills is part of discovering the Why of SPG. It can be membership recruitment, community service, friendship, and so much more.
Next Shari talked about how the International and Province Organizers can help the Chapters they are partnering with. She urged us to adapt the information she was sharing in our own roles – you don’t have to be an Organizer to use this information.
Receiving and Responding to Leads: How do our leads want to be communicated with – text, email, letters, phone calls? How do we as key communicators work with potential members when their communication style may not be our most comfortable way to communicate? We can be brave and try new things, or we can enlist help. Shari stressed that membership development is not just the Organizer’s job. Find that person in your Chapter that loves to text (or email, or write letters) and let her be the key contact with those who like to text (or email, or receive letters). The added benefit of teaming up with a Sister in your Chapter is more interaction between the members, helps grow our friendships.
How do you as a Province or International Organizer help your Chapters? Let’s encourage members to recruit, it is our role to encourage all members to be in recruitment mode. It is a layered process – International encourages AEX Team and Province and Chapter Organizers, Province Organizers encourage Chapter Organizers, Chapter Organizers encourage members. This encouragement includes providing recruitment tools and learning their stories about why SPG is important to each of us. In the coming months, new membership development tools will be produced that will help us all. In the meantime, use the tools we have – membership brochure, Organizers’ handbook, etc.
Building relationships is key. And remember, not all relationship building is in the form of face-to-face engagement. We live in a digital world – maybe building relationships is digital and in-person. What works for each of us and our personal style will allow us to be the most productive, however Shari encouraged us to try new things! And remember, it’s not how WE want things to happen, it’s about that potential new member – how does SHE prefer to engage!
Share your experiences with your SPG Sisters: Let everyone know that in SPG we are all recruiters of members. We need to help all members know that they have the skills to carry out the same activities as International, Province, and Chapter Organizers and AEX Team members. We need to model what others can do. Shari suggests we start with storytelling – a brief story, very succinct. Who are the storytellers in our Chapters and Provinces? Let them help us develop the stories until we get comfortable doing it on our own.
Ratio of numbers: Define our prospects. Do prospects exist in groups you are already exposed to or a member of organizations like the PTA, Chamber of Commerce, Church organizations, etc. Where are the prospects? Do we have membership goals at the Chapter, Province, and International levels for new members? Setting goals helps us reach towards where we want to go … to work hard, and to partner to meet our goals.
Time Blocking – Battle Distractions. It is a commitment of time to do this work for membership growth, it’s not hit or miss or by chance. Whatever the time commitment is to your work as an Organizer you must block time in your calendars so that you are focused and working on membership. Don’t be distracted, make a commitment to Organizer work every week.
Build a bunker around your ‘membership time.’ Set aside time and space to focus on the tasks at hand. When preparing for your membership work time, get all your provisions together (coffee, laptop, list of leads, note pad, ink pen). Next is to focus without interruption by your email dinger, phone, Facebook. Shari described this as ‘sweeping for mines’ getting all of the distractions out of the way. Don’t forget, share what you’re doing with others in your home or the space you’ve set aside for your membership time – ask for support so that you won’t be distracted during your set aside time. Let someone else walk the dog, answer the door, etc. You will be so much more productive when you’re focused.
The SPG strategic plan is a tool for all of us to use and helps us stay focused. Last year the strategic plan was released at convention, it is your tool and guide for how we go and grow. It is key to read, know, and learn about the framework of the strategic plan so that you can discover SPG’s overall framework for the future. Some of the key words Shari found that impressed her were: energy, future, sustainable. The strategic plan is a great tool for Organizers and AEX Team members. She urged everyone to read the plan and find ways to use some of the strategies to do our work as we seek to retain and recruit members. Key goals of the strategic plan are membership, meetings, governance, awards, etc. The strategic plan demonstrates a thought-out process for the future of SPG.
Educate yourself so you can educate members about the SPG mission, vision, and strategic plan.
Shari talked about a SAMPLE DISCOVERY TOOL to use that will be refined based on feedback from the webinar. Relational learning is important, especially for Organizers, AEX Team, and leaders. How do our potential new members spend their time, what causes are they interested in, what are their extra-curricular activities, how do they see family as a priority? What motivates our members and potential members? Knowing these things will help us find the connections we need to be authentically interested in potential members – and the potential members will be more interested in SPG when they realize how sincere we are about getting to know them. When sharing information about SPG, are the individuals you are speaking (or writing) with interested, asking questions, do you see their passion for wanting to be part of something wonderful like SPG? The sample discovery tool can help us organize questions with potential members. No scripts, but getting comfortable with the best way to connect.
We want to make sure the people we are approaching are good fits for our organizational culture, especially at the Chapter level. It is important that people are comfortable with our mission, activities, and ideals or it will result in a lot of recruitment, Pledging, Membership – only to lose that person because we aren’t who they thought we were – and they aren’t who we’d hoped for.
SHARING INFORMATION STORYTELLING: Going back to the why, storytelling is key in the recruitment efforts, making it real. Sharing what’s in it for a member is so important. Sharing stories across Chapters and Provinces – encouraging the heart and motivation for member recruitment and retention will help everyone feel encouraged and responsible for membership growth. And, my best guess is that it will make all of us more engaged members.
SPG BENEFIT STATEMENTS: Shari shared that there is going to be a tool we’ll create – with benefit statements. The document will help us better articulate our sisterhood, and the positive difference we are making in our communities – all while staying focused on the SPG mission. Maybe there is a lady in your Chapter who is more reserved and may need some encouragement – and maybe having the SPG benefit statements available might help her feel more comfortable in the effort to recruit her friends and associates.
OBJECTIONS: We know there are ladies who throw up objections when we approach them about SPG. Shari asked the group what objections they get from the ladies we approach? What prevents ladies that have an interest, resist becoming a Pledge? Once they are interested, what stops them from becoming a member?
Objections: time, work, family obligations, children/child care, transportation, etc.
Shari is developing responses to these common objections so that we are able to have intentional recruitment strategies that also address objections.
FOLLOW UP: The Social Secretary is a great right-hand worker with the Organizer. This can become a mentorship role – how can the Organizers and AEX Team work with the Social Secretaries in our Chapters? How can the Social Secretary help with follow-up to leads – notes, drop off a small SPG token, etc? Remember, this is a way for Organizers to engage with other ladies in the Chapter to help.
Shari reminded all of us involved in follow up to block time for the tasks we need to do. Good intentions often get lost and before you know it days, weeks, and even months slip by.
Timeliness is key. If we aren’t on top of follow up with the ladies we are approaching they may become less interested or feel like we’re not really interested in them if we don’t stay in contact.
Continuing conversations and documenting information so that everyone’s on the same page is important – we don’t want to be walking all over each other’s efforts. And we want to be organized. Next steps must always be confirmed, remember to block time.
RELEVANT VOICE MAILS and EMAILS: Our communications must be short and sweet. Long drawn out emails are a turn off. Remember our messaging must be succinct. A potential member may be reading information on their phone and tablet – too much is just too much.
Persuasive language is key. Shari will be working with the Advisory Committee to introduce some persuasive language that can be used to stay on message and show potential members the value of SPG.
Shari suggests when calling on a potential member we do so as a peer to make it more comfortable than wearing an ‘official hat’ for SPG – being yourself and being natural is best.
We must be committed to helping potential members experience a strong value for their new commitment/membership in SPG.
Connectivity, introductions, events, and engagement are key to engaging potential members. Remember sharing your personal story and benefits from being a part of SPG will go a long way. Take on the role of a hostess, for instance you might say to someone you’ve invited to an SPG meeting or event: “At our upcoming meeting/social, I’ll meet you at the door.” You become the SPG welcome-wagon.
AEX/ORGANIZER: AEX Team members were encouraged to look at their structure and schedule time with organizers in their assigned area – what does this look like now, are you even doing it? How are AEX Team members working to stay connected with Province Organizers? Information sharing is important. Monthly phone meetings or Zoom meetings will be beneficial to staying focused on the work to be done in each AEX Team member’s area. Remember having membership goals is important – something to strive for. Make it fun.
Staying connected by email, social media, or whatever means that works is very important. Sharing information that is timely and relevant keeps people engaged. All the ways we communicate must be timely.
Help each other be accountable for goals – determine your goals together as the AEX Team, Organizers, International Council – start with the strategic plan. Then hold each other accountable. A support system for growth is key to stay energized and motivated.
I’VE JOINED NOW WHAT? How are we doing with why a lady joined? Now what? How do we help them engage? We can develop a plan – 30, 60, 90 days – that includes small bite-size activities (ex. In the first 30 days: attend a business meeting, participate in a social, read the Chapter bylaws, read the SPG strategic plan). A tool is being developed around a framework that will give new members a road map to learning and growing in sorority. The tool can be printed on paper, a PDF that is emailable, online, etc. Input is welcome for key points in the development of on-boarding new members.
MEMBER TO MEMBER ENGAGEMENT: A sample document was shared that can be used to develop a profile for each potential member. It can help us stay organized and work together to get to know a potential member, it is also an accountability measure among those ladies sharing the responsibility of communication and encouraging someone to join SPG. Creating a hospitable culture of member recruitment is important.
SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT: There is so much we can do with social media. And, there are Chapters who do not want to use social media, of course they won’t or don’t have to use it. Shari strongly suggested that every Chapter consider adding social media as one element of your recruitment efforts. How do you use Facebook, Instagram, etc. as your friend? We do need to help one another identify at least one person who is good at using social media in every Chapter to join in the recruitment efforts.
International Council and others are already working in the social media arena and we can do more. Think of social media as digital networking. How do we stay “front of mind” with folks using digital tools available to all of us?
How do we use our new database program, Membee, to capture information about our members and their skills – this is another way we can find the ladies who would like to help with social media in our Chapters and Provinces. We can create a ‘skills’ check off in Membee that will capture this information when ladies update their profiles.
Future generations are our future … we need to stay focused on new things so that we don’t miss opportunities.
Shari wrapped up the webinar by saying she looks forward to seeing us all in Wichita!
There were 58 Sisters registered for the webinar with 30 actually participating. One group sent a message that they had a group of 5 together in one place to participate. Shari asked for any ideas we have to be sent to her by email at Shari@sharipash.com
It was another great webinar to help us grow membership in SPG.
Donna Collins for the SPG Advisory Committee
Deb Juracich, Chair; Liz Cochrane, Donna Collins, and Cindy Stath