Very often when we reflect on ourselves as an Organization, we are tempted to focus on and highlight the many things that may not be working or areas that we can improve. While that is extremely important in order to help us progress and move forward, it is equally important that we celebrate the many things that we have been doing exceedingly well! After all we’ve been at this for the last 100 years so we have to be doing something right!
As we do our preparations for the upcoming Conference I was forced into a very reflective mode thinking of this. This was further heightened as I did my preparations for the Membership Presentations to be shown at this year’s conference. While over the last year I have visited many regions to share and encourage them as they struggle with membership and recruitment, I have also been so inspired and encouraged by the regions who have dug deep, tapped into their creativity and have been able to thrive despite the circumstances. While each region and each club is unique there are some shared features that have helped clubs to attract members:
- The use of media. Note that I didn’t say SOCIAL MEDIA! That was intentional, because while social media is great, I think we often ignore or forget the value of traditional media in getting the word out there. Things like writing articles in local magazines or newspapers, speaking on local radio or tv segments, having newspaper supplements featuring your program work; these are simple but extremely effective and target a balanced range of ages. Therefore, we should not focus only on one form of media at the expense of another.
- Having targeted membership events. This can be as simple as hosting a speaker meeting on a topic that is relevant to the issues facing women and girls, or why not host a fun games evening and invite potential members? There are many ways that even in the virtual space, we can make these quite fun and interactive. Having a targeted membership event doesn’t have to mean that we do a formal presentation on Soroptimism only, it can simply be a fun enjoyable evening with a group of women. The key thing is following up after and keeping them interested.
- Assigning potential members to a “mentor”. Oftentimes there are women who may attend a meeting or even a couple meetings and then they just disappear. I am sure we can all relate to this having happened within our own clubs and while there may be a variety of explanations, it is sometimes related to them not feeling included. One way we can guard against this is by assigning potential members to a club mentor. This doesn’t have to be anything too difficult or onerous, but simply taking the time to check in on the person, remind them of meetings, explain things in more detail, and overall to provide motivation and encouragement. Having had this experience myself when I was a new member, I can attest to it going a very long way in encouraging potential members.
- Focusing on quality program action work. Again this is nothing new, but I recently interviewed a very young member, only 21 years old and she became a Soroptimist at the tender age of 17. When asked what motivated her to join, her answer focused on the program work which we do. The truth is that our work is the lifeblood of our Organization, and this is also what draws people to us. Women want to feel a part of a group that is truly making a difference to the lives of women and girls. As such, every time we meet in our clubs and discuss programme action, we must always ask ourselves, “How is this going to make a difference?”
That being said, I think we all deserve a pat on the back, because we have surely shown resilience and adaptability and continued to rethink, reframe and rebuild. Looking forward to continuing the great work as we Build Back Better!