How Can We Reactivate Past Members and “Wow” Our Current Members to Retain Them?

Our focus call was on a topic that is of interest to chapters in all affiliates: “How can we reactivate past members and ‘wow’ our current members to retain them?” We first discussed how to reactivate past members. Participants on the call suggested that the best way to reactivate past members is to make personal contact with members who haven’t been attending meetings recently. Ask them why they haven’t been attending. Perhaps, they’ve been extremely busy and didn’t think the meetings were addressing their needs. You could then find out what would entice them into coming back again.
 
Another reason suggested was a lack of camaraderie between members. As you are building chapters, you should be building friendships. If members continue to talk only with their closest friends, others may feel like no one cares if they keep attending. A monthly greeter may help each participant feel welcome.
 
Once you start calling those that haven’t been participating, you may find that transportation is a barrier. It was suggested that you should talk about this difficulty in transportation and give possible options. Members could contact local service clubs, suggest applying for Parra transit, find out closest bus lines, or arrange to use Skype or a speaker phone. If in a restaurant, it would need to be a cell phone with speaker capability.
 
Communicating regularly with members may help keep them in the loop. Many participants on the call said their chapters had phone trees which routinely called members to remind them of chapter meetings and social events. They would also call if important legislation needed to be acted on immediately. Other chapters and affiliates had email lists for members to keep in touch while others had announce email lists where an officer sent out notices of relevant information for members.
 
When the discussion turned to “wowing” current members, there were lots of suggestions. Ask members what they want the chapter or affiliate to do. For example, find out what programs would be of interest for members. Some said their members liked giving ideas for chapter speakers, events, and extra activities. Some ideas given were to have Audio Description movie nights and Go out every few months to participate in the local community by bowling, riding bumper cars, or visiting interesting places such as museums. In this way, others see members integrating into the community. Examples were given about chapters that negotiated for significant discounts in bowling and Playhouse tickets.
 
Other suggestions were to have a book club once a month, supper club get together in other parts of town, sports outings, retreats or summer camps, and a picnic each year. Others suggested having more members involved in committees or in mentoring newer members.
 
Another participant mentioned looking at fun things in other areas. Trips could be fundraisers or just social events. Buses and vans could drive members and friends to new places like casinos, ski resorts, or Boat rides or cruises. Charter buses could be arranged. Reservations would need to be made in advance and payments received. Advertise & news releases could be used to get extra participants.
 
Other events that might garner visitors to your chapter would be Diabetes seminars, workshops on special issues like employment or technology, workshop for parents of blind children, and student/parent forums with guest speakers. Other activities that might get publicity for your chapter or affiliate would be a White cane walk, a visit from a local legislator, or getting the Mayor to participate. Other ways to get known in your local community would be speaking to service groups, speaking to retirement centers, joining transportation assistance program boards, county transportation advisory boards, and advisory boards relating to accessibility, voting, or emergency preparedness.
 
The discussion also centered on getting new members to attend. It was suggested that when contacting colleges and Disabled Student Services, we can offer our chapters as resources for students with visual impairments. If your chapter meets in a restaurant, you could offer to pay for the First meal. You could also offer one year free membership to students.
 
It was suggested that chapters should conduct a membership project involving the whole chapter. A prize could be given to the member who brought the most visitors. You could involve other chapters in your state or special interest affiliate by having a contest between chapters. Some chapters have a problem with members leaving early. Incentives could be given to those who stay for the whole meeting. Perhaps, a raffle of a free Christmas dinner or other monetary gift at the end of the year for those who didn’t leave any meeting early.
 
Publicity was discussed for finding new members. Most felt that chapters and affiliates should have a good website with chapter information including contact information for those looking for peer support, resources, and other relevant information. The website should also have link to local sites of interest to people with visual impairments. If a website is needed, you could contact local colleges and ask about students taking courses in website design. Art schools could be contacted to have good photos taken. They could have a byline on website and by photos. Links could be shown for TV or radio news websites. Profiles of members could be highlighted as well. Articles could be added on issues of interest such as Guide dog issues. Other publicity could be handled through psas & local news releases. Outreach with professional groups would be another way to get known. You should also use the NFB newsline to share about your meetings and when they occur.
 
Please plan to attend the next “Membership Focus” call. If you have membership concerns, contact the ACB Membership Committee: Chair, Ardis Bazyn. Phone: 818-238-9321 or email abazyn@bazyncommunications.com.