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Mission possible

Your assignment: Grow your club

By Shanna Mooney

You can recruit all the new members you want to your club, but it isn’t going to help if your meetings are boring and you aren’t doing valuable service, says Laura Zabel, area director for Kiwanis International Service Leadership Programs, growth.

“If your club is bad, members aren’t going to stay. So in order to grow your club, you first have to have a good ‘product,’” Zabel says.

Your club is a product. Sell it.

“There are two sides of growth: retention and recruitment. It’s easier to retain than recruit,” Zabel says. So before going out at the beginning of the year to get a bunch of new members, evaluate your club and make sure membership is meaningful.

“Anyone can do service,” Zabel says. “Sell the membership experience. After all, why recruit if your club isn’t working?”

If after your evaluation you find you have a club full of happy, fun members, by all means, commence recruitment. If, however, you find you need some help, fix the club first and membership recruitment—and retention—will be much more successful.

Follow these three steps to grow your club.

Step 1: Know your club’s rep

Survey Monkey
Sometimes people don’t want to hurt your feelings with bad news. It might be easier to get honest answers on a club evaluation from a survey. Survey Monkey does the trick, and it’s free: www.surveymonkey.com.

Club Excellence Tool
This online Kiwanis tool helps you measure the satisfaction of club members with a simple, 25-question survey that can identify areas for improvement and offer ideas and resources for making changes. Available at www.KiwanisOne.org/clubexcellencetoolonline.

Brainstorm for brilliance
Club excellence is about delivering a meaningful and fulfilling club experience to all members—so it is everyone’s responsibility! One helpful activity for an early-in-the-year meeting is to write on the board (or on large sheets of paper taped to a wall) the following three headlines: “Stop doing,” “Start doing” and “Keep doing.”

Next, have each member come up with suggestions for each category. Evaluate these ideas, keeping community needs and club resources in mind. For help prioritizing, go to the community analysis chapter of the Kiwanis International Membership Development Manual at www.KiwanisOne.org/membership.

Step 2: Improve it and your club

Build a better meeting
Use these ideas occasionally to keep things fresh and fun: 

Keep hands busy.
Once a month, have members complete a hands-on service project during the meeting. Try making greeting cards for a retirement home.

Schedule some outright fun.
Fellowship is part of the attraction to being a member. Plan an occasional icebreaker or social event outside the club meeting.

Sweat the small stuff.
Recognizing members for the good that they do—even the small things—will give them reason to keep doing it. Don’t wait for a formal banquet to honor an effort. Show your appreciation often and in creative ways. For more ideas, check out the member recognition chapter of the Membership Development Manual at www.KiwanisOne.org/membership.

Sharpen their skills.
Personal development, like improving communication skills, will give an added benefit to club membership. Think of areas where members can use a little help, and bring in a speaker to educate the club.

Give committee work some attention.
Maybe every other month have committees work on upcoming projects/tasks in place of a typical meeting.

Pique their interest.
They won’t show up at a service project if they’re not sure what it’s all about. Show a video or ask a speaker from the organization you’re helping to come and talk for five minutes about why/how Key Club can help.

Celebrate successes.
At the project’s end, have a member who participated tell everyone what was accomplished, spreading the positive vibe so even more people will want to take part in the next service project.

Think before you serve
Meaningful service is a positive experience for all those involved: Your club discovers a need in your community, you’re able to help improve the lives of others and your members walk away knowing they made a difference. They feel good and as a result, they want to stay in the club.

Is your service meaningful?
Evaluate your community’s needs and see where your club’s members can make the biggest impact. Check out the community analysis chapter of the Membership Development Manual for guidance at www.KiwanisOne.org/membership.

Build a Builders Club
One of the best long-term recruitment methods is to co-sponsor a Builders Club. Key Clubs can help their sponsoring Kiwanis club charter one, and you’ll have a consistent flow of new members each year as Builders move from middle school to high school. (Plus, think of all those extra hands to help at your joint service projects!)
Information on club building is online at www.KiwanisOne.org/charter.

Step 3: Recruit new members

Recruitment reminders & tips:

Recruit year-round.
If you only have one drive at the beginning of the year, you’re going to miss out on students who were too overwhelmed by this hectic time to attend your event and possibly join.

Get the word out.
Prior to a membership drive, flood your school with advertising. Use all avenues available—announcements, school newspaper, social media sites and good, old-fashioned fliers. Be sure to post some fliers on the backs of the bathroom stall doors and the bathroom mirrors!

Be prepared for guests.
You never know when someone new might show up. Select someone to be a club greeter and make it his or her job is to welcome guests, sit with them to explain what’s going on and see what their interest level is. Make sure they know to get that student’s contact info and have an officer follow up to invite them back.

Treat them well.
Yes, it’s nice to include snacks or treats at meetings—especially membership recruitment events—but keep in mind, a box of Twinkies isn’t going to make your club better by itself.

Focus on friends.
Host a VIP-only recruitment event where the VIPs are friends of current members. Ask each member to bring a friend so they can learn about Key Club. Make it fun. Try to include a service activity to make it meaningful.

Give it away.
Consider holding a drawing for a free membership fee. Add other prizes to your drawing if you can by soliciting donations. Award it to someone who joins your club during your recruitment drive.

Make connections.
Establish a “big brother/big sister” program that pairs incoming freshmen with established club members. This will personalize your club by getting everyone involved and feeling accepted.

Talk about benefits.
Realize that prospective members will be thinking “what’s in it for me?” Tell them specifically how membership will benefit them. Include points like, “It looks good to colleges,” and “Get another picture in the yearbook,” in addition to changing the world through service. Remember, enthusiasm is contagious, so speak with excitement and pride.

The hallway speech

Inviting someone to join your Key Club starts with telling them the Key Club story. But what if you only have a minute or two in between classes to introduce your club to someone new? No worries! Here are five tips to mastering your hallway speech:

Practice: Write down your speech. Edit it, too. Practice in front of the mirror or with friends. Take it slow. Develop different versions for different situations. 

Be yourself: Your description of Key Club should sound effortless, conversational and natural. Adapt it to your personality.

Listen: Allow the other person to ask questions and keep the conversation going. Make sure your speech is relevant to the other person.

Engage: Incorporate examples to illustrate your point and engage your listener. Be warm, friendly and confident. Maintain eye contact. Smile.

Take action: End by inviting the person to attend a meeting or participate in a project. Be prepared with a club flier.