recruiting-art - 7/13/02
"On the Recruiting and Retention of New Members" by Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
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Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
On the Recruiting and Retention of New Members
By Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote
Having worked as a chatelaine for the past three to four years, IÕve tested a number of ideas and theories on the recruiting and retention of new members. Like Edison, IÕve found more ways ŌnotĶ to invent the light bulb, than I have found ways that work. Here are some things that work in my area. Your mileage may vary.
I have never received a call from any flyer IÕve handed out or hung up. IÕm sure theyÕre not entirely useless, but IÕve had no good luck with them.
Hanging flyers up:
IÕve attempted to put up flyers at colleges, fabric stores, craft stores, libraries, and book stores. Stores have a policy that prohibits the hanging of advertisements other than their own, so even if the manager is consulted, the flyer hangs only for about a day or so. Colleges often have a similar rule, and if the flyer isnÕt from a student group, it gets pulled down. Libraries will leave flyers hanging, but will clear their bulletin boards about once a week, so the flyers need constant replacement.
Passing flyers out:
IÕve passed out flyers at demos, left them with medieval displays at libraries, and mailed them. So far, there has been almost no response to any of this, at least not in our group. WeÕve tried a number of different types of flyers, with contact info, group info, pictures, general SCA descriptions, info on fighting, and even humor. None of these have had a response.
Although people seem interested at the time, very seldom does a recruit come from a demo. School and scouting demos usually involve children who are too young to come out and participate on their own. In general, larger, public demos make us appear more like a version of the Renaissance Festival to many spectators. People expect to be entertained, and they donÕt view us as Ōreal.Ķ
I donÕt think we need to stop doing recruitment demos, however, but we do need to refine them:
1. Identify your target market – the potential SCA member is someone who has an interest in medieval history, and also possibly fantasy, science fiction, or role playing games. Most are interested in more than one of these. Recruitment demos may be more successful at movies such as Lord of the Rings, or at Sci-Fi conventions.
2. Repitition is necessary – a potential recruit may see us at a movie and be intrigued. If he or she sees us at a number of movies, it may be enough to prompt a shy person to inquire (I havenÕt tested this yet, however).
3. Pay attention to the interested – I would have joined the SCA 2-3 years earlier, except for this. I went to a local Renaissance Festival for a number of years. I dressed up and went numerous weekends every year. When I approached the SCA booth, inevitably, the Scadians were always talking among themselves, and would not break their conversation to give out information. As a recruitment tool, this booth was not only useless, but also gave a bad impression of the SCA in general.
Of all the potential recruiting devices, this one has worked the best for our group. My canton was struggling with low membership, as many long-time members either moved away or became inactive. We tried a number of different approaches, but putting up a group web site was the most successful. All of the new members weÕve recruited in the past 2 years, save one, have come from this source, and several visited a number of local group sites, or visited our site a number of times, before coming to a meeting. A web site needs to:
1. Explain – who we are, what we are, what area we cover, and when we meet. Make sure there is a map, times, and newcomer details (such as, donÕt wear garb to the meeting, or bringing a dessert to the revel isnÕt necessary if youÕre new).
2. Give an email contact – most times, newcomers will inquire by email, either once or in a series of emails, before coming to a meeting. There should be a good, friendly, and speedy response to these emails.
3. Follow up – DonÕt be too pushy, but make sure that all contacts are followed up, especially if someone wants to attend, but then is a no show.
4. Guest book – Most of the recruits weÕve had started out as an inquiry in the guest book. Internet sites should include this, as well as assign someone (the chatelaine) to check the entries on a monthly basis.
5. Details – If you can, listing what your members can do or teach is a good idea. If a new recruit is interested in brewing and vintning, but doesnÕt see it listed, they may not recognize it as an SCA interest. Pictures are also important, both to show what your group looks like, and what activities to expect at events.
WORD OF MOUTH:
The other way that it seems we get members is through word of mouth. People mention the SCA to their friends with similar interests, and they join, and then mention it to their friends and family members. I would have to say that this is the second most popular recruitment tool in our group, but may be the most popular overall.
One of the things I thought might be a good populace-builder, might be to have the group have one meeting per year, that all members would attempt to invite ŌsomeoneĶ or a group of ŌsomeonesĶ that they think might be interested, and then hold the meeting as a revel or mini-event. The key would be to have as many newcomers attend as possible. Then take names and follow up.
This was a thoroughly vexing problem to my canton. Occasionally, weÕd get someone who would show up to a meeting, and then never come back. We had no idea why. We tried follow up, no follow up, phonecalls, emails, newcomer handouts, movies, and anything else we could think of. The potential recruits usually seemed promising. Here are a few reasons I identified:
1. Not really looking to join – this was the main one. After the Michigan Renaissance Festival ends in September, we usually get a few lookie-looÕs. They usually come to our meetings with an agenda. Sometimes theyÕre getting married and want a Celtic wedding, sometimes theyÕre just interested in one aspect of the middle ages but donÕt actually want to dress in garb, sometimes theyÕre just not sure what they want. We are always nice, and treat them the same way as any other potential recruit, but if they donÕt show up a second time or respond to follow up, we know they werenÕt looking to try us out further.
2. Group logistics – very often, we get a recruit that comes from some other area and doesnÕt realize that there is a group closer to their home. We usually re-direct these people when they come in, but tell them that theyÕre welcome to continue to attend our meetings.
3. Group dynamics – if the group is very small, or all of an age (i.e. thirtysomethings), or type (i.e. all single), then members expecting a different sized group, or one that is more suited to their lifestyles, may not see that the group reflects what theyÕre looking for. Our Barony has 3 cantons, with all three having a slightly different dynamic. One is married families, one is singles or young couples, and the third is long-time members. Many members travel out of their boundaries to attend the one theyÕre most comfortable with. We encourage any newcomer who seems uncomfortable, to try a few of the local groups.
Here are a few of the things weÕve found that have worked in retaining recruits:
1. Thorough knowledge of what to expect – newcomers are extremely sensitive and fear making a mistake. TheyÕre afraid that showing up in garb at a meeting is a serious wrong. TheyÕre afraid that theyÕre bowing, or not bowing, to the wrong hat. TheyÕve seen historical reinactors in perfect costume and they think their shoes arenÕt good enough or that their garb is the wrong material or color. TheyÕre afraid to wear sunglasses, or that they havenÕt developed their persona enough to participate. TheyÕre embarrassed about their feast gear. These are the main things that newcomers need to be reassured about. Once they know that no one is going to play authenticity police with them, theyÕre usually a lot more interested in attending.
2. Give them something to do – that doesnÕt involve doing dishes. Most of the time, newcomers are there to see and try and experiment. ItÕs great to give them a chance to build friendships, but putting them to work right away is often doing them a dis-service. Not everyone belongs in the kitchen. Not everyone should sit troll, and certainly not immediately. Find out what interests them, why they joined, and try to match them up with members who have the same interests.
3. Have loaner equipment and garb, and bring it out, especially at events. A lot of newcomers go straight to an event, without stopping at a meeting. Keep eyes open for newcomers at events, and make an effort to talk to them. Give them something to try, and information to check out later.
4. Check on known newcomers at events, but donÕt push. Making a contact in a new environment seems to dispel their apprehension at being new. But, following them around weirds them out.
5. Make the group interesting – If the same people always show up to a meeting, and do the same things every week, itÕs boring to an observer. Give them a newsletter. Schedule a class, or a revel. Bring in the gold key to try on. But – donÕt tell them not to attend meetings because theyÕre boring. There are some people who are itching to help organize, join a committee or hold office. Explain what goes on at meetings, and make the meetings more fun to attend.
6. DonÕt appear desperate – if we beg them to come to meetings, call and email too much, and jump right in their face when they come in, theyÕll run the other way. See #4.
My estimates are that of every 10 newcomers, we may actually retain 1-2. I also believe that most SCA members have been looking for us all of their lives (or are involved with someone who has), whether they knew about the SCA, or not. And I believe there are many still out there, still looking.
Copyright 2002 Sandy Danielewicz, 27883 Sutherland, Warren MI 48093. <ladymeliora at tir.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.