How to Recruit New Members
Members are the key to our success as AAUW, and every leader can be part of the effort to recruit new members. This resource will help you develop recruitment goals, identify target new member audiences, and know the best tactics to recruit them. Plus, it will teach you how to convert an interested attendee into an AAUW member.
Create a Recruitment Plan
Your recruitment plan is your roadmap for success. Read the three simple steps below, and download the branch recruitment chart to complete your own recruitment plan.
1. Set recruitment goals.
Your goal is to recruit new members. Add the specifics: who your target audiences are and how you will recruit them once you get to the steps below.
Set a specific numeric target (such as 20 percent). Check the member services database to see how many members you currently have and find out how many people you need to recruit for 20 percent growth.
Consider whether your goal is achievable by identifying your resources and support for getting it done. If you engage the 50 people in your branch currently, they can work together to recruit 10 new members. If you get your branch excited about bringing in new members, you might set a higher goal!
Articulate to your current members why recruitment is important. Recruiting new members helps ensure your branch’s longevity and allows you to increase your reach.
Set a date for hitting your goal. You may choose to use the AAUW fiscal calendar, or you may choose a short-term deadline to plan a recruitment drive, which can help your members focus on the goal and maintain excitement.
2. Choose target audiences.
Now that you have a concrete number of people you’d like to recruit, think about where those people are. Recruiting people similar to you may be the low-hanging fruit since you probably know people like you. While it’s great to get those people to join, to really grow your organization and have sustainable membership for years to come, you must also venture outside established networks. Recruiting with the idea of broadening your branch’s diversity can help you tap into new networks. It is also important that our membership reflects the diverse women we serve through our mission.Start by thinking about all the ways that your current membership is homogenous as well as diverse. Then identify perspectives that are missing.
If your members are primarily of retirement age, increasing the diversity of member ages may be one of your diversity goals. If your group members are primarily white, increasing the diversity of race and ethnicity may be a goal. If most or all of your members are heterosexual, of a similar socioeconomic status, or of one religious group, consider reaching out to people who have different identities or backgrounds in these social identifier categories that make up different aspects of diversity. You might be discouraged if the community that your AAUW branch serves does not seem diverse. All communities do have diversity, but in more homogenous communities this diversity might be less visible to dominant groups. Once you begin to seek out more diverse members, you’ll be surprised to see how diverse your community actually is.
In other words, remember that many types of diversity exist, including race, ethnicity, age, ability, sexuality, class, religion, and gender. Your branch may decide to focus on different aspects of diversity based on your unique community.
Make sure that your target audiences are groups who are specific and targetable. For example, if you want to recruit people who care about women’s education, who are those people? You could consider professors, women in underrepresented fields such as STEM fields, or parents.
When choosing target audiences, consider the four main motivations people have for being members of an AAUW branch.
Why Do People Get Involved with AAUW?
There are many reasons why someone might want to get involved in your branch. Before you recruit someone, think about different motivations and focus on how joining your AAUW branch or state will be a good match for the potential member. Here are a few reasons why someone might be interested (and how you can address them in your pitch).
- Belief in the mission
The number one reason people get involved in AAUW is passion for our mission and issues. Strong belief in the mission can motivate members to participate and take on leadership roles, even in the face of challenges or competing commitments. Be prepared to talk specifically about the diverse issues that AAUW works on, from fair pay to the gender gap in science to human trafficking. If potential members can see how being a part of AAUW matches their values and passions, they will be eager to get involved.
- Professional development
Many people who are in, or are looking to enter, the workforce are seeking opportunities that will help their careers. Of course, they also care about the mission. However, when choosing among several organizations, they may choose one that affords them the most personal and professional development.
- A desire to give back to the community
Many people are looking for opportunities to make a difference in their local communities in a tangible way. Luckily, AAUW has great opportunities to just that, from giving scholarships to young women to hosting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs for girls. Make sure you know how someone can get involved in such local opportunities.
- Social interaction
People who are new to your community or are looking for people they can connect with may be excited to learn about AAUW. Time and time again, we’ve heard volunteer leaders say they joined AAUW because they were looking to make friends — so it’s critical to make sure that your branch is welcoming and inclusive for everyone. See Creating Welcoming and Inclusive Organizations for more information.
Keep these four reasons in mind, especially when you are intentionally recruiting more diverse members. Focusing not only on what new members can do for AAUW but also on what AAUW can do for them can help you bring in new people without relying on existing relationships. Remember to explicitly mention what AAUW has to offer them when you talk to potential recruits.
3. Identify recruitment tactics.
Think about the tactics you can use to bring your target audiences into your branch. Because of the cost for joining AAUW, people generally want to engage with your branch in some way before becoming an official member. Utilizing tactics to ask people to come to your programs, events, and meetings is the first step in getting them to join AAUW. You can recruit in two different ways: directly or indirectly.
Direct recruitment tactics are about building a personal connection with a potential recruit. Building a personal connection is the best way to get someone involved because the person you are recruiting can put a face to the organization. Direct recruitment tactics also give you a firm yes, no, or next-time reply, which will help you anticipate how many people will come to your event.
- Tabling: While you table, engage each person that walks by.
- Flyering: This is similar to tabling but without the table.
- Sending individual e-mails: Even though this conversation doesn’t happen live, if you send an individual e-mail and ask them directly to reply with an answer, this method can also be successful.
- Calling national members: Some branches have been successful with reaching out to national members in the local area and inviting them individually to participate.
- Making announcements at other meetings and events with sign-up sheet: This is a great way to reach a group, but because you’re not speaking one-on-one, the connection to you is lower. You can increase the likelihood that these folks will attend by passing around a sign-up sheet and then calling or e-mailing each person to remind them to attend.
Indirect recruitment tactics get messages about your branch and your programs out to a wider audience. However, these tactics do not allow you to make personal connections, nor does it help you get a yes, no, or next-time reply.
- Hanging posters: Put posters up in local community centers, businesses, and workplaces where your target audience will see them.
- Posting on Facebook: This could include posting on your AAUW branch’s Facebook page, your own Facebook page, or creating a Facebook event specifically for the program.
- E-mailing your branch’s listserv: This only reaches your network but can attract un-engaged members.
- E-mailing other org’s networks or listservs: Ask other groups in your community if they will send out a message about your event to their lists. For ideas on organizations to approach and strategies for collaboration, see the Community Engagement guide.
- Contacting local newspapers and radio/TV stations: Ask them to feature information about your event.
- Submitting blurb to local newsletters: This could be a community or workplace newsletter for a group to which you belong.
Direct and indirect recruitment complement one another, and your recruitment efforts will be most successful if you employ both.
Use these recruitment tips as you carry out your tactics.
Have an elevator pitch.
- Check out our video “AAUW changes the climate for women and girls,” to brainstorm ways you can talk about AAUW to different people or groups.
- Use our worksheet to craft your elevator pitch.
- Prepare flyers for upcoming programs and gather membership brochures, business cards, and AAUW-branded giveaways such as stickers and pens. Read our Principles of Good Marketing to help you craft your materials.
- Prepare a sign-up sheet ahead of time.
Make clear “asks” and track replies.
- Ask a clear question that requires a definitive answer. For example, “Will you join us for our program on equal pay next Monday at 6 p.m.?” Don’t forget to track their reply.
Collect contact information.
- Collect contact information and track which upcoming program or activity they are planning to participate in.
- Even if they can’t attend your upcoming program, follow up with the ask: “Would you like to sign up on our list so we can keep you in the loop about future events?”
Use the rule of halves.
- If you talk to 40 people, 20 people will say yes, and ten people will show up.
- Follow up by e-mail or phone to thank them again for talking with you and remind them to attend. This is an important step to ensure that 50 percent of the people who said “yes” actually show up.
How to Ask People to Join
Once you recruit people to come to your programs, you will want to convert them into members of your branch! The Ask, Inform, Involve, Thank cycle (adapted from the Sierra Club) provides four steps for asking someone to join. Everyone can and should use this cycle to make recruitment asks, though you may want to designate people at each event or program to ask new people to join. Follow the four easy steps of the Ask, Inform, Involve, Thank cycle.
Start by getting to know the person you are talking to. Ask them about what they thought of the meetings and what they enjoyed learning about or contributing to. Learn about the motivations they may have to join or get involved.
- What are their values and passions?
- What are their interests and hobbies?
- How do they spend their time?
- What are their aspirations?
Next, share with them what your AAUW branch or state does but with a tailored focus on the details that are most related to their passions and interests. For example, if they expresses an interest in women’s access to higher education, tell them about your upcoming holiday fundraiser to raise money for AAUW fellowships.
Now it’s time to ask them to join AAUW. This is the hardest part, but remember, you are giving them an opportunity to get involved with something you just learned they care about! You could say something like, “I’d love for you to be a part of our work supporting young women’s education. Will you become a member of our branch?” Answer any questions they have about membership or branch involvement, and help them sign up online or on paper.
Whether they say yes, no, or maybe, always thank them. Thank them when they agree to join your branch. If they say no, thank them for coming to the meeting and taking the time to talk with you, and ask if they would like to be kept in the loop about your branch’s future work.
Repeat the cycle.
While the cycle is a great way to get someone to join your branch, you can apply it over and over again to engage someone over time. They attended your holiday fundraiser? Great! Thank and invite them to attend your next meeting. Build engagement slowly over time to make bigger and bigger asks. Remember, recruiting is all about relationship building!
Getting ready to recruit new members to your branch? We can help! Here are some tips and methods to guide you.
Are you tired of holding the same programs year after year? Are you wondering what programs can invigorate your branch and diversify your membership base? Read this guide for some fresh ideas!
To continue to grow and thrive, we must be responsive to changes in our demographics and include individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Use this tool kit to help you get started.